Married women and property

Deborah Wilson

in Women, Marriage and Property in Wealthy Landed Families in Ireland, 1750-1850

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print February 2009 | ISBN: 9780719077982
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781703328 | DOI:
Married women and property

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This chapter discusses the role of married woman in the family property distribution and formal–informal powers available to elite woman. Under the English common law doctrine of coverture the legal identity of a married woman was merged with that of her husband. Husband and wife were one person in law, and that person was the husband. A married woman could not acquire, hold or alienate property, either real or chattel, or enter into contracts. Her husband acquired a freehold interest in her estates of inheritance and life interest. Money and personal chattels used by a woman during her marriage legally belonged to her husband. It was however possible to circumvent the legal disabilities inherent in coverture by the use of trusts in equity. Separate property arrangements could be made guaranteeing a married woman access to an income, independent of her husband. Such settlements were a common feature in Irish wealthy landed families, and provide another perspective on family property interests.

Keywords: married women; property; family property; English common law; legal identity; estates of inheritance

Chapter.  11872 words. 

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

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