Throughout the centuries, women were largely confined to the care of family members and home. During the Victorian era, marriage was the only career considered for women by accepted reasoning. From the time she was young, a gentle-woman was groomed for this role in life-dutiful wife and mother. Her coming out meant a young woman completed her education and was officially available on the marriage mart. "Bank accounts were studied and ancestral lineages inspected, if both were met with approval, then the engagement was formalized. After the parents were satisfied that their daughter was marrying into money or lineage, usually trading one for the other, a wedding date would be set."
"Now, no one will deny that a woman in taking to herself a husband is quite as likely to find that she has taken him for worse as for better. Whereas she was happy as a girl, she may spend her wife-hood in tears and tribulations. She may find that every ideal attribute with which she endowed her husband before marriage has flown, or, rather, never existed, except in her imagination. Fondly believing him to be generous, he may turn out to be close-fisted and mean: temperate, he may lean to drunkenness: considerate, he may turn a deaf ear to her entreaties; believing him all that she admired, she may find him full of weaknesses and unlovable traits." (1)
Prior to 1848 and other "Married Women's Property Acts" that were passed, when a woman married, she would lose the right to control property that was hers prior to the marriage, nor was she able to acquire property during marriage. The status of a married woman during that time was that she was not able to make contracts, keep or control her own wages or any rents, transfer property, sell property or bring any lawsuit. Although Mississippi adopted the first married women's property act in 1839, New York passed a much better known statute in 1848. To View NYS Act of 1848.
The passing of the 1893 Married Women's Property Act completed this process. Married women now had full legal control of all the property of every kind which they owned at marriage or which they acquired after marriage either by inheritance or by their own earnings.
However, since then, women have come a long way in asserting their rights to freedom of speech, freedom of conscience , as well as resisting oppression in their struggle for economic independence. In seeking to remain independent, women have progressed remarkably in their endeavor to bring about dramatic changes to their position in society, establishing new degrees of freedom, which have found their way over the years into Legislation.
As a result of their bold efforts against all odds, the world has richly benefited from these women who have served in their capacity as civil rights crusaders, scientists, artists, writers, doctors, politicians, entertainers and other areas of creativity and leadership.
Today my choice for Distinguished Women of New York State is Emily Post. Read all about her life and magnificent accomplishments in Laura Claridge's recently published biography of "Emily Post: Daughter of the Gilded Age, Mistress of American Manners."
For more details on this biography, please visit the website of Laura Claridge.
Azra Raza has also written a great review : 3 Quarks Daily.
(1) Excerpt from The New York Times September 16, 1906 p. SM4 (1 page)