American Colonization Society

In North America’s early republic the rights of women were governed by the states law instead of federal law. The state law’s authority implied that a lot depended on exactly where a woman was living more so her region’s social circumstances. During this time, women were greatly discriminated against, and they were also denied so many rights that made them look like second-class citizens in a country that they called home (Foner, VOF, 42). This essay is seeks to look into the treatment and experience of women in North America between 1607 – 1783.

During this time, the difference in standard between women of different races can be dramatically seen in the treatment and experience of African American women. During this time slavery was still being practiced in North America, and this meant that the black women had no right to marry, to own property, or even have custody of their children. Even on paper, black women had no rights as those of the white women (Foner, VOF, 49).  Women were also denied the right of their children custody. Men were always favored by courts in cases of child custody. In most of the times, the courts placed the custody of daughters and young children under the care of their mothers. Sons were placed under the care of their fathers.

In all the states, the marital status free woman is what their legal status depended upon. Unmarried women and widows were referred to as “women alone,” or “femes soles.” Free women were legally allowed to live anywhere liked and to do any work that could make them independent and that did not need a college degree or a license restricted to males. Single women were allowed to enter into contracts, accumulate property, or purchase or sell real estate. This consisted of everything that be moved; stocks and bonds, cash, and livestock (Foner, VOF, 54). Women who were single could be sued and sue, serve as guardians, write wills, and even act as estates’ executors. These were just colonial legal tradition. State lawmakers in all the places encouraged primogeniture and also the double shares tradition of the estate of a parent, and customs of inheritance that favored the eldest son. Women were disadvantaged as they could just get a small portion of total inheritance.

Once a woman got married, she continued to have her legal rights but could no longer enjoy autonomy. A woman found herself in a position in which she greatly depended on her husband and this was referred to a coverture by law. In coverture, it was assumed that families worked best when the male who are the head of households were in control of the assets. Consequently, it was not possible for a married woman to personally own property unless married settlement, which is a special contract, was signed between her and the husband. These contracts were not common, and even the laws of some areas in the country did not allow it. Without a separate estate, every personality that a woman had earned at the time of her marriage or brought to her marriage became her husband’s by default (Foner, VOF, 62). The husband was allowed to manage it or even give it away too someone else without consulting her.

Land and buildings were among the things that were most valuable during this time. It was not possible for a husband to mortgage or sell the realty that was bought by his wife at the time of their marriage without the consent of the wife. He could just use it but not convey it since the real estate of a woman that was inherited from her father was supposed to stay with her family and passed to her children(Foner, VOF, 67). Women also had a very important right to a real property that was brought by their husbands to the marriage or bought afterwards. The husband could not sell or mortgage it without signed statement stating her free consent that was recorded together with the deed. Whenever a widow passed on, the dower lands that belonged to her automatically descended to the creditors or heirs of her husband.

During this time, men used their political rights as a function of control over property as gender was the only thing that was used to disqualify women from holding office or voting. In other words, men who ha property were the ones who were legally allowed to vote while women, regardless of their wealth, had no right to vote even though they paid same taxes as their counterparts. This discrimination was rested on the belief that married women obliged to coercion by their husbands. It viewed by the legislators that in the event a woman vote, it implies that a male voted twice. It was believed that a woman will do as the husband wishes her to do. Unfortunately, single women also denied the voting right, and this was a clear indication that the thing that was at stake was more than the influence a husband on the choice of his on the polls.

Lawmakers used discriminatory attitudes in keeping women away from the vote. They did not feel like sharing the political power that they had with their mothers, wives, and daughters, the same way they didn’t want to share it with immigrants and freed black men this trend can well be seen in New Jersey, which was the only state where people with property were given the right to vote following the Revolution (Foner, VOF, 142). This right was later taken away; not only from the women but also from the aliens and black men. It turned out that discrimination against women in franchise’s area lasted for the longest time than in the other disadvantaged groups.

Women had a little freedom from their husbands since they were neglectful, abusive, or adulterous. During this time, under the English precedent, divorce was almost impossible. However, many states acknowledged the importance of ending unhappy marriages (Foner, VOF, 221). It was not an easy thing for the lawmakers to provide women with absolute divorce due to the adulterous relationships of their husbands with slaves.

It is evident from this essay that women in North America between 1607 – 1783 were greatly discriminated against as they were denied a lot of basic human rights. We see women at this time living like second class citizens as in most of the things that they are not treated the same as men, and they also need permission from their husband to do certain things. The fact that women are denied the right to vote since it is viewed as giving the men two votes is a clear demonstration that women are thought of not being able of making their decisions.

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