The New International Encyclopædia/Coverture

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Edition of 1905. See also Coverture on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

COVERTURE (OF. coverture, Fr. couverture, covering, from ML. cooptura, from Lat. cooperire, to cover, from co-, together + operire, to cover, for opverire, Lith. uzh-veriù, I shut). Under the common law, the legal condition or status of a married woman. By that law, an unmarried woman, whether spinster or widow, is a ‘complete juristic person,’ having the same standing before the law as a man. Upon marrying, however, i.e. coming under the protection of a man, her legal position is radically altered, and, in many respects, completely merged in that of her husband. This is especially true of her property rights. Her goods and chattels at once become his property. He acquires custody of her claims against others (choses in action), and may collect them for his own benefit. Her land passes under his control, and he acquires a joint seisin with her therein and may take the rents and profits to his own use during the continuance of the marriage relation. On the other hand, he becomes liable to pay her debts, those contracted before as well as those contracted after marriage, and under some circumstances he is responsible for her torts and crimes. The modern legislation which has almost restored to the married woman her lost personality will be described under the titles Husband and Wife and Married Woman. Consult the authorities referred to under these titles, and also those under Common Law.