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The Movement Comes of Age

The Legal Status of Women in Texas, 1909

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Texas suffragists were interested in equal rights for women beyond the voting booth. As Mrs. W.B. Wynne wrote in a pamphlet published in 1909, marriage brought great legal disabilities to a woman. A single woman (feme sole) could enter into contracts, sue or be sued in court, choose her own home, own and control her own property, and, if widowed, have custody of her children. A married woman (feme couvert) had more limited rights. A married woman could not take a job without her husband's permission, and she had to allow her husband to manage her property, although she was allowed to own property, unlike women in many other states.

Many of these laws made sense for frontier families in which husband and wife shared virtually identical economic interests. But by 1910, thousands of married women were working in a variety of businesses, and their inability to make legal contacts and control their own property was a huge handicap.

Change came slowly for the women of Texas. In 1911, the Texas Legislature passed a law that let married women apply for the status of a "feme sole" for the purposes of doing business. A 1913 law gave women control of the income from her own real estate, stocks and bonds, and bank accounts. But it was not until 1967 that the Marital Property Act gave married women the same control of their property and contractual powers as men.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | Portrait of Mrs. W.B. Wynne | Back to exhibit

The Legal Status of Women in Texas, 1909

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | Back to exhibit

The Legal Status of Women in Texas, 1909, Erminia Thompson Folsom Collection, Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Page last modified: June 17, 2011