The Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony


ECS to the Editor, Seneca County Courier

Dear Mr. Fuller:[1]

The bill securing to married women their property and earnings, has passed both branches of the Legislature,[2] and only waits the signature of the Governor[3] to become law. Every friend of humanity will rejoice at the success of this beneficent measure. The old ideas handed down to us from feudal times through the common law of England, in regard to the rights of married women, are gradually giving way to more enlightened views. The experiments that have been tried towards giving increased power of self-protection to this class, have so far worked admirably, and the tendency is towards a still farther recognition of their claims. It is but a few years since, even in this state, the legal existence of a married woman was absorbed in that of her husband. No matter how worthless, tyrannical, abusive, drunken, or wasteful he might be, he was still the absolute master of his wife and all her earnings. The present law will enable her to save her own and her children's earnings from the grasp of a profligate husband. If the Governor shall see fit to approve the law, which let us hope he will, you should publish it fully in your next.[4] Very truly yours,

Typed transcript, ECS Papers, DLC. Another transcript, ECS Papers, NjR, Film, 9:543. The dates differ on the two transcripts— March 19 and 21. The later date may be the date of publication. Though evidently transcribed from a newspaper clipping, none survives, and issues of the Courier for March are missing.
    [1.] Isaac Fuller, founder of the Seneca County Courier in 1837, was both owner and editor from 1851 to 1865. (Chamberlain, "Seneca Falls Press," 2-3, 15.)
    [2.] The senate passed the more comprehensive bill introduced by Andrew Colvin on February 29 and sent it to the assembly, where it underwent considerable revision before passage on March 15. The Married Women's Property Act of 1860 greatly expanded a woman's economic autonomy. In addition to gaining control of "her sole and separate property" in wages, trade, or business, she could enter into contracts, carry on business, and sue and be sued in her own name. The assembly's revisions added that she could be "the joint guardian of her children . . . with equal powers, rights and duties in regard to them, with the husband." Further it made equal the rights of surviving spouses to a life interest in one-third of the family's property, and it ensured that if no will specified otherwise, the surviving spouse with minor children would possess all real estate during the children's minority. ECS did not arrive address the legislature until after the bill had passed. (Journal of the New York Assembly, 29 February, 15 March 1860, pp. 454-55, 661-64; Journal of the New York Senate, 24, 27, 28 February, 16 March 1860, pp. 270, 282, 300-301, 446-47; Albany Atlas and Argus, 25, 28, 29 February, 1, 16, 17, 19 March 1860; Basch, In the Eyes of the Law, 164-65, 194-99; History, 1:686-88.)
    [3.] Edwin Denison Morgan (1811-1883) was a founder of the Republican party and governor of New York from 1859 to 1862. He signed the bill into law on 20 March 1860. (Biographical Dictionary of the American Congress; Laws of New York, 1860, chap. 90.)
    [4.] Emended on typescript to read "in the next issue of the Courier."