Legal Status of Women in Vermont
For much of Vermont's history, the legal status of women was defined in relationship to their male relations, according to the old English legal concept of coverture. Women were considered to be represented by their husbands, or their fathers if unmarried, in all legal instances, including:
- at election polls,
- in property ownership and transfer,
- in suits and grievances,
- in rights to their children.
In practice, this system of representation left much to be desired in terms of protecting the rights of all women in Vermont. Widows, single women, women in abusive relationships, and impoverished women had few legal avenues of redress against injustices suffered.
It was not until the mid-1800s that reforms to coverture laws regarding women's rights began to be fought for and won in a gradual process that continues to this day.
To read a detailed treatment of this subject by a Vermont historian, click here.