Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Woman's Right to Own Property...

Happy Tid-bit Tuesday! 

Michele Morris here on this lovely spring day! 

I wonder how many of our female readers presently own real estate. In the past, have you held a land deed in your name? Do you think in the future you might own a home in which the title will be listed in your name alone? Can I see a show of hands? Umm, well . . . We know who we are.

Did you know that until the mid-nineteenth century, it was illegal for a woman to own any type of real estate? If a woman’s husband died, his oldest son would inherit the land. If there were no son, then a brother, his father, or even an uncle would receive the deed to the property. This left his widow to hope for a kind relative who would allow her live with them, or she would be left alone to fend for herself and her children.
Can you imagine if you were a young woman whose father arranged a marriage to a man who you had only met a few times? Imagine if after the marriage ceremony he turned out to be a cad. Then he sells every bit of property your father left to you without you even knowing. Now, your husband disappears, leaving you with a huge amount of debt and no assets. As a woman, you would be powerless.  

In 1771, New York State became the first to demand the consent of the wife to allow her husband to sell property she brought into the marriage. Did you hear that? Property SHE brought into the marriage. This was the first step in women becoming individuals.  

The Married Woman’s Property Act passed into law in New York in 1848. This act was used as an example for other states, all of which pass their own versions by 1900. After the Married Woman’s Property Act, for the first time in history, a woman wasn’t automatically liable for her husband’s debts. She could enter contracts on her own, collect rents or receive an inheritance.

Finally, in 1862, the US Homestead Act made it easier for single, widowed and divorced women to claim land in their own names. This opened up a new era for women.

Think of the new possibilities. Women could now own businesses, open bank accounts, and actually save money without fear of it being taken. If by some tragedy she became a widow, she could now live in her own home and care for her children. 

I love nineteenth century history. Though I realize it’s been highly romanticized in books and on the television, this time period was one of transitioning into our modern culture. Exciting growth and new developments set the United States on the road to becoming the greatest nation in the world for men and women. 

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Have a wonderful, blessed week!



  1. Great post. I know I would have struggled to live during a time period where I didn't have rights such as owning property. Think about the open minded men who passed these laws since women certainly weren't part of the legislature!

    1. Thank you for the comment, Linda. You brought up a very good point!

  2. Yea for NY. Did you know that until the mid 80s, even if a woman kept her maiden name, she had to have her husband's last name as hers on a RI drivers liscense?

    1. Andrea, I din't know that. How interesting! Thank you for sharing! :)

  3. Certainly glad women have more rights. I bet there was a lot of women who were happy about the US Homestead Act... interesting post today :)

  4. With all the talk about equality, it's often overlooked that women's rights are relatively new in this country, as well. And worldwide, they still don't exist. Great post! I enjoyed reading it.