Ladies in Red: Learning from America's First Female Bankrupts

American Journal of Legal History, Vol. 40, 1996

40 Pages Posted: 10 Mar 2009  

Karen Gross

New York Law School

Marie Stefanini Newman

Pace University School of Law

Denise Campbell

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: 1996

Abstract

Several years ago, the Honorable Joyce Bihary, a bankruptcy judge in Atlanta, Georgia, asked me why our country's first bankruptcy law specifically referred to debtors using "he" or "she" rather than a gender neutral noun (such as "bankrupts") or the male possessive pronoun "he." Implicitly, she was also asking whether there were any women debtors under our early bankruptcy laws. Although I had read the Bankruptcy Act of 1800 more than once, I did not recollect its use of these gender-inclusive pronouns. Nor did I know why the Act employed them. Despite having given considerable thought to contemporary women in debt, I too had no inkling as to whether there were women debtors under the Bankruptcy Act of 1800. And so I set out, with the help of my co-authors, to find the answers to Judge Bihary's two questions. Those answers led us to new questions and concerns, most particularly questions about how bankruptcy history has been told to date.

Suggested Citation

Gross, Karen and Newman, Marie Stefanini and Campbell, Denise, Ladies in Red: Learning from America's First Female Bankrupts (1996). American Journal of Legal History, Vol. 40, 1996. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1356163

Karen Gross

New York Law School ( email )

185 West Broadway
New York, NY 10013
United States

Marie Stefanini Newman (Contact Author)

Pace University School of Law ( email )

78 North Broadway
White Plains, NY 10603
United States

Denise Campbell

affiliation not provided to SSRN

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