More Than Money
Issue #5

Money and Couples

Table of Contents

“From Whence We Came”

Historical notes from the 1992 Encyclopedia Britannica

The comparative legal history of marital property, viewed in broad perspective, consists of a period stretching back for about 4,000 years, during which a husband was generally regarded as a quasi-guardian of his wife, who was dependent upon him economically and legally.

In Babylonian law, one characteristic of a "legal wife" was that she brought property to the marriage....The Germanic law provided the bridegroom...responsibility for, and power over, the woman [in exchange for a payment to the bride's parents].

The English common law removed the separate legal personality of a woman when she married and merged it into that of her husband.... [He] acquired extensive rights to the administration and ownership of her property, including full ownership (with no obligation even to give an accounting) of any moneys she received from employment or business....

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