Married Women's Property Act 1882

The Married Women's Property Act 1882 was a significant piece of legislation for women in 19th century England. Previous to this act, marriage was seen as the man and woman becoming one. As this was a time where men were seen as dominant, the property of a woman was automatically transferred to her husband after marriage. This held true for all forms of property: wealth, land, even legal documents. EVERYTHING went to the husband. However, women were able to inherit "necessary" property for personal use, such as clothing or jewelry. This is what is known as feme covert, meaning a woman's legal identity was annihilated when she married. Thankfully, with the Married Women's Property Act 1882, the entirety of marriage was flipped upside down. Courts were forced to see a marriage as a man and a woman, not just a man. This gave women in this time period some of the freedoms men had. Women were now able to purchase and sell, not just inherit, their own property. The legal identity of women returned, and they gained the right to sue and be sued. Women were even allowed to keep their own surnames. All of these privileges are what is known as feme sole, but with a twist. Typically, feme sole refers to unmarried women who had the rights that married women now aquired. 

Can it be? Is this a reality? Women of a married status have the ability now to keep their privileges? What a blessing. For so long, the pressures of marriage have been for naught except for chasing me away from such a vile fate. Why shall I allow a man to absorb what is rightfully mine? Why should I submit myself completely to a man when I am able to submit myself to my work? That is what I never understood about Dorothea. To submit herself to an cruel, cranky old man simply because of his knowledge? And what became of Dorothea? She went through emotional and spiritual pain that would've been avoided had she stayed true to her cottages! Life has taken a different path for us modern women, gratefully. Now that I am able to retain my identity, not just legally but mentally, perhaps I shall marry a man of great position. It wouldn't be all too bad to use him as a means for increasing my reputation throughout England. Secondary income wouldn't be a negative addition to my life, neither. And a family. I wonder if these are thoughts Dorothea kept, but we never saw this deep, emotional side of her. Am I becoming a Dorothea?

“Married Women's Property Act 1882.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 14 July 2020,'s_Property_Act_1882.

Associated Place(s)

Event date:

circa. 1882

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