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Women Before the CourtLaw and Patriarchy in the Anglo-American World, 1600-1800$
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Lindsay R. Moore

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781526136336

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.7765/9781526136343

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Economic expansion and the erosion of patriarchy

Economic expansion and the erosion of patriarchy

(p.133) 6 Economic expansion and the erosion of patriarchy
Women Before the Court

Lindsay R. Moore

Manchester University Press

This chapter examines the expansion of the economy and how the development of equity law posed an increasing challenge to coverture and patriarchy in the eighteenth century. The legal regimes of England and the southern colonies gave women wide latitude to pursue investment and trade, and allowed married women greater financial independence than ever before. In urban areas of England and colonial America, married women were increasingly allowed to make contracts in their own names as feme sole traders. Equity law also expanded married women’s ability to retain control of their own property during marriage through the creation of new legal devices such as the simple agreement, equity to a settlement and restraint upon anticipation. Because of these economic and legal changes in the eighteenth century, family relationships came to be more defined by legal notions of contract rather than the mutual obligations that underpinned the patriarchal family.

Keywords:   women, economy, patriarchy, eighteenth century, England, equity law, coverture, feme sole traders, colonial America, contracts

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