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Rare Book Collection
arrow graphicState Law
Property Law
Married Women's Property Laws
Slavery and Indentured Servants
Women Lawyers and State Bar Admission
State Suffrage Laws
Protective Legislation
Federal Law




State Law
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“The real question is whether the statute was intended to include persons who have, by law, no wills of their own. . . . Infants, insane, femes-covert, all of whom the law considers as having no will, cannot act freely. Martin vs. Commonwealth et al. in Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Supreme Judicial Court, of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (Boston, 1816; KFM2445.A19 1804). Law Library of Congress.

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State materials are diverse. Each state has different laws, follows precedents set by different court cases, uses different terminology, and publishes legal materials according to its own dictates.

The scope, complexity, and richness of the Law Library's holdings become apparent by examining six distinct areas of state law with important historical ramifications for women. Click on the links below or at left for a description of each section:

  • Property Law and specifically Married Women's Property Laws and laws relating to Slavery and Indentured Servants. These sections explore the meaning of property (it consists of both realty, or land, and personalty, or possessions, such as jewelry, money, furniture, and slaves) and trace how various state laws have affected women by regulating who may purchase property, who may own it, and how it will be distributed upon the death of the owner or owners.
  • Women Lawyers and State Bar Admission describes some of the legal challenges women overcame in order to gain admittance to law schools and state bar associations, thereby gaining the right to practice law before state courts.
  • State Suffrage Laws controlled women's voting rights before passage of the Nineteenth Amendment.
  • Protective Legislation designed to limit the number of hours women worked and to set legal minimums for the age and wage of workers created unintentional equities that were later contested in both state and federal courts throughout the twentieth century.

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