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Women and debt litigation
Teresa Phipps

their ability to act as litigants alongside their husbands. As a result, the comparisons drawn between the application of coverture in debt pleas across the different towns in the later section of this chapter demonstrate the intrinsically local interpretation of this broad but flexible principle. Credit and debt in borough courts Distinct from the modern culture of litigation, taking action to recover debt in the medieval period should not be seen as an indication of financial crisis or complete breakdown in

in Medieval women and urban justice
Commerce, crime and community in England, 1300–1500
Author: Teresa Phipps

This book explores the legal actions of women living in three English towns – Nottingham, Chester and Winchester – during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. For the first time, it brings together women’s involvement in a wide range of litigation, including pleas of debt and trespass, as well as the actions for which they were punished under local policing and regulations. The book details the multiple reasons that women engaged with the law in their local communities, all arising from their interpersonal relationships and everyday work and trade. Through the examination of thousands of original court cases, it reveals the identities of hundreds of ordinary urban women and the wide range of legal actions that they participated in. This wide-ranging, comparative study examines the differing ways that women’s legal status was defined in multiple towns, and according to different situations and pleas. It pays close attention to the experiences of married women and the complex and malleable nature of coverture, which did not always make them completely invisible. The book offers new perspectives on women’s legal position and engagement with the law, their work and commercial roles, the gendering of violence and honour, and the practical implications of coverture and marital status, highlighting the importance of examining the legal roles and experiences of individual women. Its basis in the records of medieval town courts also offers a valuable insight into the workings of these courts and the lives and identities of those that used them.

Property, patriarchy and women’s legal status in England and America
Lindsay R. Moore

of their colonial counterparts. While married women were limited in common law courts by the doctrine of coverture, other legal jurisdictions provided women with alternative avenues for legal redress. The two most important jurisdictions for English women were equity law and ecclesiastical law, which both provided some remedy for the common law’s severity towards women. Equity law recognised the ability of married women to own property independently of their husbands, and allowed them to pursue litigation to protect that property if necessary.10 The ecclesiastical

in Women before the court
Deborah Wilson

, a married woman’s income may have been affected by particular family circumstances such as family wealth, relationships and the presence or absence of male heirs. Under the English common law doctrine of coverture the legal identity of a married woman was merged with that of her husband. Husband and wife were one person in law, and that person was the husband. A married woman could not acquire, hold or alienate property, either real or chattel, or enter into contracts. Her husband acquired a freehold interest in her estates of inheritance and life interest. Money

in Women, marriage and property in wealthy landed families in Ireland, 1750–1850
Hilary Golder and Diane Kirkby

and speculative subdividers alike. Yet the market in land for settlers was hampered by the limitations the law imposed on married women’s economic agency, on a married woman’s capacity to buy and sell property. The complications of coverture The Australian colonies had inherited the common-law doctrine of coverture, which could only

in Law, history, colonialism
Lindsay R. Moore

ideals of wifely dependence and submission, embodied in the doctrine of coverture, constricted the purchasing power of women and placed women’s property into the hands of squandering or neglectful husbands. Women who were financially capable of maintaining their own households might choose not to marry, and could more easily seek to separate from  134  ECONOMIC EXPANSION AND THE EROSION OF PATRIARCHY their spouses. In cases of marital separation, equity courts could compel husbands to abide by the terms of separation agreements that gave wives the right to

in Women before the court
The common law, equity and ecclesiastical jurisdictions
Lindsay R. Moore

2 Women as plaintiffs and defendants: the common law, equity and ecclesiastical jurisdictions A lthough women acted as plaintiffs and defendants in common law, equity and ecclesiastical courts, their levels of participation were not at all uniform across these jurisdictions. Coverture imposed major restrictions on women’s ability to pursue legal redress in common law courts, a fact that is reflected in the low percentage of women acting as plaintiffs and defendants in this jurisdiction. However, the greater percentage of women appearing as litigants in the

in Women before the court
Deborah Wilson

favoured the patriarchal family, a similar patriarchal political elite was already in place in Ireland.4 English common law was established in Ireland by the sixteenth century in a process which culminated in Henry VIII declaring himself King of Ireland in 1541.5 English marriage law reflected ‘deeply held views on the role of women in society’.6 Women’s experience of property was determined to a large extent by the common law doctrine of coverture, by which the legal identity of a wife was ‘literally covered’ by that of her husband and her property passed into her

in Women, marriage and property in wealthy landed families in Ireland, 1750–1850
The legal power of elite women
Lindsay R. Moore

as her dower right.8 While jointure benefits could fall to a husband or to a wife, jointure agreements were particularly important for women. Men were, of course, never bound by the doctrine of coverture; their relationship to property  107  THE FAMILY AND SOCIETY did not change when they married, and the land they owned prior to marriage was still theirs once they entered wedlock. With women, this was not the case. Women of the elite were well aware of the dangers that could befall them if they failed to ensure and protect the property that would sustain them

in Women before the court
Teresa Phipps

London show that she was independently responsible for her brewing activity, but that in the detinue case of the same year (in which she was a defendant), her coverture required her to plead jointly with her husband, clearly identifying the differing impact of coverture across legal contexts. In 1433, two Winchester women were named as brewers, while more sold ale, all recorded with no marital descriptor. In the 1454–5 and 1495–6 samples, no married women were named for any trading offences. The proportions of women named as

in Medieval women and urban justice