His, Hers, and Theirs: Domestic Relations and Marital Property Law in Texas to 1850

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Texas law regarding the legal status of women and their property rights developed from the mingling of Spanish and English laws. Spanish laws regarding the protection of women's rights developed during the centuries-long Reconquest, when the Spanish Christians slowly took back the Iberian Peninsula from the Moorish conquerors. Women were of special importance to the expansion of Spanish civilization. Later, when Spain conquered and colonized the New World, these rights for women came, too. In the New World, women's rights under Spanish law remained the same as in Spain. Again, the Spanish were spreading their civilization across frontiers and women ... continued below

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Stuntz, Jean A. May 2000.

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  • Stuntz, Jean A.

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Texas law regarding the legal status of women and their property rights developed from the mingling of Spanish and English laws. Spanish laws regarding the protection of women's rights developed during the centuries-long Reconquest, when the Spanish Christians slowly took back the Iberian Peninsula from the Moorish conquerors. Women were of special importance to the expansion of Spanish civilization. Later, when Spain conquered and colonized the New World, these rights for women came, too.

In the New World, women's rights under Spanish law remained the same as in Spain. Again, the Spanish were spreading their civilization across frontiers and women needed protection. When the Spanish moved into Texas, they brought their laws with them yet again. Archival evidence demonstrates that Spanish laws in early Texas remained essentially unchanged with regard to the status of women.

Events in the history of England caused its legal system to develop in a different manner from Spain's. In England, the protection of property was the law's most important goal. With the growth of English common law, husbands gained the right to control their wives's lives in that married women lost all legal identity.

When the English legal system crossed the Atlantic and took root in the United States, little changed, especially in the southern states, when migrants from there entered Texas. When these Anglo-American colonists came into contact with Spanish/Mexican laws, they tended to prefer the legal system they knew best. Accordingly, with the creation of the Republic of Texas, and later the state of Texas, most laws derived from English common law. From Spanish laws, legislators adopted only those that dealt with the protection of women, developed on the Spanish frontier, because they were so much more suitable to life in Texas. Later lawmakers and judges used these same laws to protect the family's property from creditors, as well as to advance the legal status of women in Texas.

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  • May 2000

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  • Sept. 24, 2007, 10:21 p.m.

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  • April 26, 2016, 6:45 p.m.

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Stuntz, Jean A. His, Hers, and Theirs: Domestic Relations and Marital Property Law in Texas to 1850, dissertation, May 2000; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc2495/: accessed January 21, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .