[LMB] Women's status in old British law OT:

J Selin harimad2001 at yahoo.com
Fri May 5 21:23:31 BST 2006

"Coverture" was the legal covering of a married woman by her husband.
 By law, the husband represented the family vis-a-vis the outside
world.  Whatever the earlier implementation by the 19th century even
the best legal minds in Britain couldn't find ways to leave wealth
and property to their daughters in a way that their SILs couldn't
leave said daughters destitute.  Which is what led to the legal
change in status.

In Britain at the time women, children and idiots were generally
subject to the same set of laws.  Under coverture, it was legally
impossible for a man to rape his wife.  Note the word "legally."  We
got into quite a row in my Women's Law class when a student said "a
man couldn't rape his wife," some realized the student meant as a
matter of law, others though the student meant as a matter of fact. 
Very ugly few minutes.

Wikipedia's entry is reasonably good:

The US temperance movement (which began in the 1830s) has its roots
in coverture.  Women who earned wages would have to hand them over to
their husbands - assuming the husbands weren't paid directly - many
of whom would drink (and gamble) away the family resources, leaving
his wife and kids destitute and without recourse.  


PS - "They're all about duty."

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