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National and state constitutions included little mention of women. Even though Hoosier women were enumerated in the census which paved the way for statehood and had to share the burden of taxation, they were not allowed to vote or hold office.
Rights for which a revolution was fomented were denied women — as they were to slaves, "lunatics," and "idiots. Further exacerbating the situation, rights normally enjoyed by women were often withdrawn when she married. Indeed, a woman gave up so many civil and property rights upon crossing the threshold that she was said to be entering a state of "civil death.
Predicated on "precedent and fixed principles," common law had dictated a subordinate position for women. Married women generally were not allowed to make contracts, devise wills, take part in other legal transactions, or control any wages they might earn. One of the few legal advantages of marriage for a woman was that her husband was obligated to support her and be responsible for her debts.
It is highly doubtful that these latter provisions outweighed the lack of other rights, particularly in the area women faced the most severe restriction, property rights. Indiana drew upon the common law tradition that "considered women almost as perpetual juveniles" in deing its statutes. Under them, a single woman had few special strictures placed upon her property rights. Her married sisters, however, found themselves subordinate to and bound by the decisions of their husbands. Under the common law doctrine of coverture, a woman's property usually went to her husband with the whispering of the "I do.
He also gained control Are you a lady with middle Indianapolis background any wages or other income accrued by his spouse. Technically, this meant that a man could do anything he wished with his wife's material possessions. He could sell them, give them away, or simply destroy them as was his wont. Married women were also forbidden to convey sell, give, or will any property. How strictly this was adhered to depended upon the couple. Each was different and, like today, decision-making was shared to varying degrees. Legally, however, the husband had the final say — if he chose to exercise it. Common law principles were generally accepted throughout Indiana, with the noted exception of utopian New Harmony, where Robert Owen's followers espoused beliefs in the true equality of women.
There was some solace for married women under common law besides charging the husband to support his wife. The law of dower not to be confused with dowry was also a part of its tenets.
Dower stipulated that one-third of the husband's estate one-half if the couple was childless was reserved for the wife. Although this might seem a small share for a lifetime's efforts, considering the small concern shown for women in other ares of common law, it seems almost enlightened by the day's standards.
Dower also furnished the wife a weapon to protect herself while her husband was alive. As she was entitled to her share of the estate, no real estate transaction could be take place without her approval. This offered a means of asserting some control over her husbands actions.
Indiana law recognized both dower and approval of conveyance rights. Married women had another legal ally, equity law. Equity law, as usually practiced in chancery courts, was adjudicated on the "inherent justice" of each case and acted as a counterbalance on the scales of justice to the more restrictive common law doctrines.
When adopted, the tenets of equity law could help loosen some of the strictures placed on married women — if the state and courts allowed their use. One such feature was the separate estate, in which property could be set aside under the wife's control.
Such property could have been willed to the wife, brought into the marriage, or been given to her by her husband. This afforded the wife some freedom of action and protection. Indiana's law which permitted wives control of land willed to them is an example of equity law. Indiana must also be credited for several changes, mainly through the efforts of Robert Dale Owen, which somewhat bettered the condition of married women.
During the legislative session Owen pushed through a bill over the vehement protests of a fellow lawmaker who thought it a subversion of society that replaced dower with a provision guaranteeing women two-thirds of her husband's estate.
Unfortunately, it was repealed in when some legislators still angry about the law took advantage of Owen's move to the U. Congress to strike his measure from the books. Ironically, during that same session lawmakers gave married women the power to devise wills. Indiana also afforded some protection for married women by excluding property brought into the marriage from being used to ameliorate debts against the husband's estate.
By the same token, it also awarded an adulterous wife's property to the aggrieved husband forever.
An aggrieved wife, however, was only entitled to her one-third share of her husband's estate. Hoosier women, then, lived under legal restrictions no worse — and in some cases better — than other American women. Again, much depended upon the couple's relationship and many wives enjoyed freedoms above those accorded by the law books.
A survey of early Hamilton County [IN] probate records showed most wives received at least their legal share. Trader and businessman John Conner allotted his wife only her minimum portion, while others were more generous. William Dyer gave his wife land and personal property exceeding one-third of his estate and Robert Colborn and S.
Walls gave their wives their entire estate. Walls, though, attached an addendum typical of the time which stated in the event of his wife's remarriage, all of the estate would pass to his sons. Divorce was neither prevalent nor particularly acceptable during the first half of the nineteenth century.
There were strong social and religious objections to the sundering of what many viewed as a sacred commitment. The whole "concept of divorce" was anathema to many and was usually applied only as a least resort. This does not mean it was virtually unknown in Indiana and the midwest.
The Hoosier state, like others, viewed marriage as a civil contract and used its "legal Sovereignty However, by the s, Indiana was to become renowned for having among the most liberal divorce laws and acquiescent court systems in the nation. So liberal were they that Indiana might be called the Reno of the nineteenth century and a movement grew after the Civil War to reform the Hoosier state's pliant divorce statutes.
Indiana was such a divorce mecca that famous archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann, discoverer of Troy, moved to Indianapolis for a period in specifically to obtain a divorce. This liberalization of Indiana's divorce laws, probably an outgrowth of the "New Harmony influence," evolved gradually, however.
Indiana early on recognized that it was an "interested third party" in the marriage contract. In territorial law allowed the General and Circuit Courts to grant absolute divorce in cases of "bigamy, impotency, and adultery. During the territorial period more than half of the approved petitions 12 of 20 were instigated by women. Such was the case of Jane Richardson of Harrison County ironic, as the county was named after the governor who disliked divorce who sought a divorce after her husband "connected himself with a banditti of horse thieves" and subsequently abandoned her and their two children.
In legislators added to the reasons thought proper to entail divorce by allowing the granting of petitions based on abandonment and conviction of a felony. Absolute divorce was also acceptable in cases of cruel treatment by the husband which might endanger the wife.
This last provision indicates that the lawmakers did not think "that the of men dominated by their wives" was numerous enough to justify legislation for their [the husband's] protection. The governing body also sought to reinforce the gravity of divorce by stating that "minor grievances were not cause for divorce," no matter how "inconvenient the marriage might become.
It was not a provision that simply lay unheeded on the book. The first divorce petition filed in Hamilton County was disallowed by the court and prosecutor as being without just cause. After attaining statehood inIndiana made further additions and refinements to its divorce code. By habitual drunkenness for two years or more by the husband became justification for divorce.
And, in an important move, it gave the courts increased discretionary powers. In addition to the specific reasons spelled out in the law, it allowed judges to grant decrees "in any other case where the court, in the exercise of sound discretion, shall deem it reasonable. With the Revised Statutes of the state sought to "integrate all matters of domestic relations into one comprehensive law.
It also maintained the important discretionary powers of the courts. Other provisions of the laws included protections for women. One section provided for restraints against a violent husband while the divorce was pending a sort of 19th-century restraining order and the provision for alimony and child support. If the divorce was precipitated by the husband's misconduct, the wife was entitled to immediate possession of her share of her real estate as if widowed, and was to receive the property dowry she brought into the marriage. Conversely, if the wife were the adulterer, her husband could hold her personal estate forever.
The one major change was the elimination of the menso et thoro decree, which was tantamount to a permanent legal separation, but these were seldom used in Indiana, this was not a particularly important action. The net result of Indiana's softer divorce laws is difficult to judge. Indiana women certainly lived in a state that made escape from a particularly troubled marriage easier, but divorce was still seldom used as a recourse to a less than blissful marriage.
No reliable figures exist, but it is certain that societal constraints worked to hold divorce to a minimum. Even during the period of increasing divorce rates after mid century, Indiana's rate never Are you a lady with middle Indianapolis background two divorces per thousand marriages — despite the notoriety attached to its lenient laws. Undoubtedly, the rate was even lower during the first half of the nineteenth century.
There were occasional advertisements announcing an impending divorce action, but it was hardly a common, ubiquitous phenomenon. In the early nineteenth century abortion simply did not elicit as much comment or controversy as today. Though not openly encouraged — and condemned in some circles — it was not necessarily dismissed out of hand if done early enough into the pregnancy.
Abortion before "quickening," the first s of fetal movement, usually during the second trimester, was generally considered acceptable. Not until the did laws concerning abortion begin to appear in the statute books.Are you a lady with middle Indianapolis background
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