As hard as it is to imagine today, at one time married women could not own property or make money. It took over 100 years of lobbying during the 1800’s for this to change.
Did Women Used to Not be Able to Own Money or Property?
What are the Married Women’s Property Acts?
The Married Women’s Property Acts are a series of laws, passed mostly in the 1800’s and notably in America and England, that gave married women more rights in regard to real and personal property.
Before these laws, married women forfeited many rights to their husbands upon marriage, including the right to own property, to own money, or to make money.history of Married Women’s Property Acts in America and voting rights.
The History of the Married Women’s Property Acts in America
A number of state-based Married Women’s Property Acts were passed in the U.S. from 1809 – 1850s. Notable Acts included the first in 1809 in Connecticut which allowed married women to write wills, and a series of state based acts that started in Mississippi during 1839.
The Acts took many twists and turns on a state-by-state basis, by the end of the Civil War in 1865, 29 states had passed some version of a Married Women’s Property Act. States continued to work piecemeal to enact similar legislation throughout the rest of the 1800s, with 1/3rd of U.S. states still not allowing women to control their earnings as of 1887.
The History of the Married Women’s Property Acts in England
In England the process began with the Married Women’s Property Act of 1870, and went through revised versions until 1893. It was applied to England, Wales, and Northern Ireland in 1922. In England married women could own property, but not money before the Act. Later Property Acts were passed other places including Australia.
- “Married Women’s Property Laws“. Memory.loc.gov. Retrieved Oct 10, 2015.
- “Married Women’s Property Act“. Wikipedia.org. Retrieved Oct 10, 2015.
- Warren, Joyce W. (2005). Women, Money, and the Law: Nineteenth-Century Fiction, Gender, and the Courts. University of Iowa Press. pp. 51–3. (found on Married Women’s Property Act.)