Monday, 7 March 2011
"More Power by Tears" - women's rites within marriage.
I am an independent woman of the 21st century; a veterinarian by day and author of historical romance by night. I married for love and carried on working, except for a short break when my two sons were born. But in Georgian England, until well into the Victorian era, things were very different and when a woman married she became her husband’s property. Any money or property she owned became her husband’s.
“…on marriage the husband and wife are one person in law….the very legal existence of the woman is suspended.” Sir William Blackstone.
If they had children and the husband abused her such as the marriage broke up, it was the husband who had custody of the children. In law, a married woman was in the same legal category as wards, lunatics, idiots and outlaws!
Celeste Armitage, the heroine of my debut novel ‘A Dead Man’s Debt’ is determined not to marry for these very reasons. She longs to travel and determine her own future, which is impossible within the bonds of marriage; especially when it was the attitude of the day that parents decide on an advantageous husband for their daughter. Love had little, if anything to do with it as illustrated in Lord Halifax’s advice to his daughter:
“Marriage is too sacred to admit a liberty of objecting to it. You are therefore to make the best of what is settled by law and custom and not vainly imagine that it will be changed for your sake.”
Lord Halifax’s book ‘Advice to a Daughter’ first published in 1688, was so popular it ran to 25 editions, featuring other such gems as:
“Men…who are the law-givers…because they have the larger share of reason bestowed upon them.”
“Women…have more strength in your looks than we have in our laws, and more power by tears, than we have in our arguments.”
Is your blood boiling yet?