Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts




Virginia's Supreme Court of Appeals, between 1900 and the conclusion of this thesis in 1942, consistently narrowed Virginia's Sunday closing law, enacted in 1786 to prevent Sunday labor. While paying lip service to the statute's purpose, the court almost unhesitatingly chose statutory interpretations encouraging more Sunday labor, particularly by expanding its ''necessity" and "charity" exceptions. The legislature also granted additional statutory closing law exceptions. This reflected the preferences of the public as well, which increasingly depended on the services of others laboring on Sunday. These results were also due, in part, to inherent confusions and contradictions in the law itself, as traced back through colonial Virginia, to Tudor England, and finally to the biblical origins of sabbath work bans. The relatively few closing law prosecutions undertaken as the midcentury approached, appeared largely motivated by business competitors, rather than by any concern for preventing Sunday labor.

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