1 Tex. J. Women & L. 315 (1992)
Common Law Metaphors of Coverture: Conceptions of Women and Children as Property in Legal and Literary Contexts

handle is hein.journals/tjwl1 and id is 323 raw text is: Texas Journal of Women and the Law
Volume I
Common Law Metaphors of Coverture:
Conceptions of Women and Children as
Property in Legal and Literary Contexts
William Coyle*
The common-law concept of coverture, which suspended a
married woman's legal existence, also functioned as a powerful
social construct, subordinating women by restricting their right to
own real and personal property. This paper begins by tracing and
analyzing some of the reasons this concept became entrenched within
the legal, social, and political landscapes of England and the United
States after its canonization into law by William Blackstone. While
other legal fictions were created out of convenience, the fiction of
coverture originated as propaganda to subjugate women, and was
perpetuated by unquestioning adherence to tradition. Although
Blackstone's common-law metaphor of coverture is not singularly
responsible for the continuing social, legal, and economic obstacles
women face, certain vestiges of the long-lived legal fiction have
managed to survive its formal dissolution.
Coverture, which is premised on the unity of husband and wife,
is arguably the supreme example of a legal fiction having profound
effects upon the lives of married women and their families. This
paper will trace the sociocultural responses to the negative legal
treatment of women in the common law in other linguistic contexts,
including nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature. Also, the
traditional use of surnames will be examined as a device for claiming
children as property and for rendering women invisible.
SB.A., 1986 from the State University of New York at Binghamton; J.D., 1991 from the State University
of New York at Buffalo School of Law; M.A. in English, 1992 from the State University of New Yosk at Buffalo.


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