Wednesday, July 20, 2011

New Acquisition--The Law of Married Women in Massachusetts

This volume was published in Boston in 1878 and written by two members of the Suffolk County Bar Association, Charles Almy and Horace Fuller. In this book, Almy and Fuller dissect the contemporary state of the law as it pertains to married women in the areas of contractual powers, real estate, criminal liability, divorce, child custody, wills and intestacy and many others. The photo to the left captures the first page of the chapter on criminal liability, in which the authors discuss the legal presumption that a married woman's criminal act is not of her own will but rather is a result of her husband's coercion.

The introduction challenges Blackstone's statement that "[e]ven the disabilities which the wife lies under are for the most part intended for her protection and benefit; so great a favorite is the female sex of the law of England." In the introduction, the authors trace the development of Massachusetts law with regard to the rights of women, from a 1787 statute that allowed for conveyances of real estate and contracts of married women when their husbands had absented themselves from the state, to an attempt by the General Court in 1877 and 1878 to pass a bill legalizing contracts between husbands and wives.

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