Half a Century eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 294 pages of information about Half a Century.

Such schoolmasters must have imparted a flavor of savagery to my Mexican war letters, which attracted readers as they did visitors.

CHAPTER XX.

RIGHTS OF MARRIED WOMEN.

After mother’s death, I prosecuted to a successful issue a suit for the recovery of the house in which I was born.  It stood on Water street, near Market, and our lawyer, Walter Lowrie, afterwards supreme judge, was to have given us possession of the property on the 1st of July, 1845, which would add eight hundred dollars a year to the income of my sister and myself.  But on the 10th of April, the great fire swept away the building and left a lot bearing ground rent.  Property rose and we had a good offer for the lease.  Every one was willing to sell, but the purchasers concluded that both our husbands must sign the deed.  To this no objection was made, and we met, in William Shinn’s office, when my husband refused to sign unless my share of the purchase money were paid to him.

Mother’s will was sacred to me.  The money he proposed to put in improvements on the Swissvale mills.  These, in case of his death before his mother, would go to his brothers.  I had not even a dower right in the estate, and already the proceeds of my labor and income from my separate estate were put upon it.  I refused to give him the money, and on my way alone from the lawyer’s office it occurred to me that all the advances made by humanity had been through the pressure of injustice, and that the screws had been turned on me that I might do something to right the great wrong which forbade a married woman to own property.  So, instead of spending my strength quarreling with the hand, I would strike for the heart of that great tyranny.

I borrowed books from Judge Wilkins, took legal advice from Colonel Black, studied the laws under which I lived, and began a series of letters in the Journal on the subject of a married woman’s right to hold property.  I said nothing of my own affairs and confined myself to general principles, until a man in East Liberty furnished me an illustration, and with it I made the cheeks of men burn with anger and shame.

The case was that of a young German merchant who married the daughter of a wealthy farmer.  Her father gave her a handsome outfit in clothes and furniture.  She became ill soon after marriage, her sister took her place as housekeeper and nursed her till she died, after bequeathing the clothes and furniture to the sister; but the sorrowing husband held fast to the property and proposed to turn it into money.  The father wanted it as souvenirs of his lost child, and tried to purchase of him, but the husband raised the price until purchase was impossible, when he advertised the goods for sale at vendue.  The father was an old citizen, highly respected, and so great contempt and indignation was felt, that at the vendue no one would bid against him, so the husband’s father came forward and ran up the price of the articles.  When her riding dress, hat and whip were held up, there was a general cry of shame.  The incident came just in time for my purpose, so I turned every man’s scorn against himself, said to them: 

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Half a Century from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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