A Short History of the United States

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By the 20th century, women in the U.

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American colonies generally followed the same laws of their mother countries, usually England, France, or Spain. According to British law, husbands controlled women's property. Some colonies or states, however, gradually gave women limited property rights. This law required a married man to have his wife's signature on any deed to her property before he sold or transferred it. Moreover, it required that a judge meet privately with the wife to confirm her approval.

Three years later, Maryland passed a similar law. It required a private interview between a judge and a married woman to confirm her approval of any trade or sale by her husband of her property. So, while a woman may not have technically been allowed to own property, she was allowed to prevent her husband from using hers in a way she found objectionable. This law was put to the test in the case Flannagan's Lessee v. It was used to invalidate a property transfer because no one had verified if the woman involved actually wanted the deal to go through. Massachusetts also took women into consideration regarding its property rights laws.

In , it passed a law allowing married women, in limited circumstances, to act as femme sole traders. This term refers to women who were allowed to conduct business on their own, especially when their husbands were out to sea or away from home for another reason. If such a man was a merchant, for example, his wife could make transactions during his absence to keep the coffers full. It's important to note that this review of women's property rights mostly means "white women.

The government also trampled on the property rights of the indigenous men and women in the U. As the s began, people of color did not have property rights in any meaningful sense of the word, though matters were improving for white women. In , Connecticut passed a law permitting married women to execute wills, and various courts enforced provisions of prenuptial and marriage agreements.

This allowed a man other than a woman's husband to manage the assets she brought to the marriage in a trust.

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Although such arrangements still deprived women of agency, they likely prevented a man from exercising total control of his wife's property. In , a Mississippi law passed giving white women very limited property rights, largely involving slavery.

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Three years later, Maryland passed a similar law. It required a private interview between a judge and a married woman to confirm her approval of any trade or sale by her husband of her property. So, while a woman may not have technically been allowed to own property, she was allowed to prevent her husband from using hers in a way she found objectionable.

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This law was put to the test in the case Flannagan's Lessee v. It was used to invalidate a property transfer because no one had verified if the woman involved actually wanted the deal to go through. Massachusetts also took women into consideration regarding its property rights laws. In , it passed a law allowing married women, in limited circumstances, to act as femme sole traders.

This term refers to women who were allowed to conduct business on their own, especially when their husbands were out to sea or away from home for another reason. If such a man was a merchant, for example, his wife could make transactions during his absence to keep the coffers full. It's important to note that this review of women's property rights mostly means "white women.

The government also trampled on the property rights of the indigenous men and women in the U.

As the s began, people of color did not have property rights in any meaningful sense of the word, though matters were improving for white women. In , Connecticut passed a law permitting married women to execute wills, and various courts enforced provisions of prenuptial and marriage agreements. This allowed a man other than a woman's husband to manage the assets she brought to the marriage in a trust.

Although such arrangements still deprived women of agency, they likely prevented a man from exercising total control of his wife's property.

In , a Mississippi law passed giving white women very limited property rights, largely involving slavery. For the first time, they were allowed to own enslaved Africans, just as white men were. Both of these laws expanded the property rights of married women and became a model for other states throughout the century. Under this set of laws, women could conduct business on their own, have sole ownership of gifts they received, and file lawsuits.

A short history of the United States

The Act Concerning the Rights and Liabilities of Husband and Wife also acknowledged " mothers as joint guardians of their children " along with fathers. This allowed married women to finally have legal authority over their own sons and daughters. By , every state had given married women substantial control over their property.