Married Women Bankrupts in the Age of Coverture

72 Pages Posted: 8 Feb 2013

See all articles by Karen Pearlston

Karen Pearlston

University of New Brunswick - Fredericton - Faculty of Law

Date Written: August 8, 2009


Many married women with separate property held their property as stock-in-trade and traded independently from their husbands. However, if the business failed, a married woman trader’s ability to take advantage of bankruptcy process depended on the exception to coverture according to which she held her separate property. This article is the first to examine reported bankruptcy cases involving married women in their doctrinal context and in relation to other exceptions to coverture. It analyses the issues arising in the eighteenth century and argues that they should be understood in relation to the larger picture of married women’s law, especially the law of private separation. The article also considers the oblique relationship between private separation jurisprudence and married women’s bankruptcy in the nineteenth century, a relationship that was bridged by a line of cases which, on the surface, would seem to be unrelated.

Suggested Citation

Pearlston, Karen, Married Women Bankrupts in the Age of Coverture (August 8, 2009). Law and Social Inquiry, Vol. 34, No. 2, 2009. Available at SSRN:

Karen Pearlston (Contact Author)

University of New Brunswick - Fredericton - Faculty of Law ( email )

Bailey Drive
P.O. Box 4400
Fredericton, E3B 5A3

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