Women and the Law of Property in Early America

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University of North Carolina Press, 1986 - History - 267 pages
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In this first comprehensive study of women's property rights in early America, Marylynn Salmon discusses the effect of formal rules of law on women's lives. By focusing on such areas such as conveyancing, contracts, divorce, separate estates, and widows' provisions, Salmon presents a full picture of women's legal rights from 1750 to 1830.

Salmon shows that the law assumes women would remain dependent and subservient after marriage. She documents the legal rights of women prior to the Revolution and traces a gradual but steady extension of the ability of wives to own and control property during the decades following the Revolution. The forces of change in colonial and early national law were various, but Salmon believes ideological considerations were just as important as economic ones.

Women did not all fare equally under the law. In this illuminating survey of the jurisdictions of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and South Carolina, Salmon shows regional variations in the law that affected women's autonomous control over property. She demonstrates the importance of understanding the effects of formal law on women' s lives in order to analyze the wider social context of women's experience.

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User Review  - mas0315 - LibraryThing

This is a great book but it deals specifically with married women. There is one page (xv in Preface) which says "Single women functioned on a legal par with men in property rights (although they did not enjoyed political rights associated with property ownership in early American society." Read full review

About the author (1986)

Marylynn Salmon is coauthor of Inheritance and the Evolution of Capitalism and the Family in America.

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