1/28/16

widowhood way back when: dower power


We came across this interesting article about the beginnings of one of the earliest rights for widows.

According to a Harvard Law Review article by George L. Haskins, “From very early times, English law assured to a wife certain rights in her husband’s property if she survived him. For centuries those rights have been known as dower.”

Professor Haskins goes on to say, “The origins of downer take us back to a period in Teutonic (Germanic) history when the bridegroom made a payment to the kinsmen of the bride, in return for the rights over her which he acquired by the marriage, and gave to her a morning gift for her support if she outlived him.”

The author describes how in Anglo-Saxon times, a betrothal was marked by a covenant which stipulated what (the groom) would give (his future wife) if she ‘chose his will’, and named the dower she would have if she lived longer than he.

According to Haskins, "The dower in the earliest days seems usually to have been a right to remain after his death in his house along with the other heirs – a right to a seat by the hearth.”

Hope your seat by the hearth has central heating.

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