Arkansas was one of the first states to recognize a married woman’s right to own property, but it took a half century. Common law held that a married woman’s property would pass to her husband, which concerned fathers who feared their daughters’ bequests could be squandered by worthless husbands. The Territorial Legislature recognized women’s rights to own property in 1835, but the law did not pass into statehood. Governor Archibald Yell vetoed a property law in 1840, fearing that giving women rights would destroy the family.
A state law did pass in 1846, leading John Seldon Roane to proclaim: “our wives and mothers are more elevated in the scale of being, and stand now in the eye of the law, upon a higher platform than our slaves and horses.” The state Supreme Court gutted the law in 1854 and it would not be until 1873 that a law guaranteeing women property rights passed, confirmed in 1892 by hanging Judge Isaac Parker.
To learn more, visit Encyclopedia of Arkansas.net