BY MIKE MAGEE
All eyes were on Wisconsin – not last week, but in 1847. That’s when the Wisconsin journalist and editor of the newspaper Racine Argus, Strong Marshall Mason, loosened up in a speech about the disturbing trend that gives women the power to buy and sell property. It looks like the state has caught fault from their neighbor, Michigan, which is considering relaxing its cover-up law.
“Cover” is a word you may not know, but should. It is a series of laws derived from English Common Law that “supposes that no woman has a legitimate identity.” As a legal historian Lawrence Friedman explains: “Basically husband and wife are one flesh; but man is the owner of that flesh. From birth to death, women are economically controlled. By law, a female child is associated with the rights of the father. If she is lucky enough to get married, she will live off her husband’s legitimate generosity. They are one by marriage, but that person is the husband, indicated by taking his last name.
The practice is rooted in English law. Women were held in slavery in England with the help of ecclesiastical courts and the formal presence and supervision of an Episcopalian cleric. This means controlling marriage as well as the ability to get out of a marriage ruined by abuse or neglect. Not that there are many calls for divorce. England is one non-divorce society. The wealthy can sometimes be freed by a special act of Congress. But this is extremely rare. Between 1800 and 1836, there were less than 10 divorces issued each year in the UK. For the unhappy rest, it’s adultery or desertion.
Non-divorce societies were maintained during the first half of the 19th century in most states below the Mason-Dixon line, with South Carolina is the most restrictive. But every state in New England has a general Divorce law before 1800as well as New York, New Jersey and Tennessee. “Base” (varies from state to state) was brought in an ordinary lawsuit by an innocent party.
The need for divorce increased as America grew in the first half of the 19th century. With the move came difficulty and “disgusting abuse”, and increase recognition that “a nation without divorce is not necessarily a nation without adultery, prostitution, and fornication. It’s certainly not a place without drunk, abusive husbands.” And then there’s the issue of property rights and its link to economic growth in this still young nation.
America was rich in land, which quickly turned into a rapidly expanding nation small master middle class. Relationships can change quickly, leading to property disputes and threats to the legitimacy of one’s children and heirs. The number of landowners, driven by the westward expansion, was enormous, and each had a stake in society. In times of trouble, economics triumphed over Puritan instincts—but not without a fight.
There are many voices like the President of Yale, Timothy Dwight, who in 1816, labeled ready divorces as “a lurking, naked contamination… a vast brothel; a great province of the Perishing World.” However, in a male-dominated world where there is neglect, abuse and confusion about the welfare and legitimacy of children, property rights and protection from debt collectors missing husband, “the act of appropriating property of a married woman” started to appear.
The first surprise was in 1839 at Mississippi, that is, until you learn that the process of liberalization involved married women’s right to “own and dispose of slaves”. In 1844, Michigan narrowly considered by protecting a woman’s inherited or earned assets from her husband’s posthumous debts.
Three years later, Marshall Strong could not contain himself, and from his parking spot in Racine, Wisconsin, Editor that the “domestic sector” is under attack and the consequences will be dire. “Better sensibilities” are being cut, and “every feature of cuteness is erased.” In short, the collapse of an entire family – men are “degrading, wives have no sex and children are not taken care of”. These new property laws for married women, he writes, have been applied elsewhere. “It exists in France, and… more than a quarter of the children born every year in Paris are illegitimate.”
And yet, three years after Strong’s lament, seventeen states, including Wisconsin, have adopted their own versions of gender-equal property laws. Why?
Based on Friedman“The real fulcrum of change is outside the family and outside the women’s movement…The number of women with a stake in the economy has increased dramatically.”
Nor has there been a major uproar in this mid-century legal shift. EQUAL Friedman seeing it, “There was a bit of excitement going on before them; great silence followed them. It is the silence of a the job is done.” But historically, about the face is not uncommon, and “free walk” can flow in both directions.
Consider the past decade in Marshall Strong’s home state. In 2010, Scott Walker, the son of a Baptist preacher, assumed the state governorship and quickly rose to national prominence by actively opposing abortion rights and igniting unions’ collective bargaining power in the United States. state. In 2016, he placed his sites on the presidency, but failed and withdrew within two months in the face of devastating attacks from Donald Trump.
However, one of Walker’s last acts, before losing his bid for a third gubernatorial term, was to appoint conservative attorney, Dan Kelly, to a vacant Wisconsin Supreme Court seat. by retired Justice David Prosser. Kelly’s conservative radicalism on women’s autonomy and comparing affirmative action to slavery is clearly a “bridge going too far”, and he lost seat in the 2020 reelection for freedom Judge Jill Karofsky. This is only the second time a sitting judge has lost an election in Wisconsin in half a century.
Undeterred, Kelly ran for re-election last week, and once again dropped to double digits, this time in front of a liberal court judge Janet Protasiewicz. As a result, Kelly single-handedly (with the assistance of Scott Walker) shifted control of the Court from a conservative 5-2 to a liberal 4-3.
But Kelly did not leave quietly. EQUAL he say in his concession speech, “I think this doesn’t end well.” He plans to return to his former passion, providing legal cover for Republicans to redraw the statewide electoral map. For Protaciewicz, she seems to know full well that Marshall Strong’s ghost still lives in Wisconsin, simply saying, “There’s still work to be done.”
Mike Magee MD is a medical historian and author of CODE BLUE: Inside the Medical-Industrial Complex.