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Related to coverture: feme covert


An archaic term that refers to the legal status of a married woman.

At Common Law, coverture was the protection and control of a woman by her husband that gave rise to various rights and obligations. Upon marriage, a Husband and Wife were said to have acquired unity of person that resulted in the husband having numerous rights over the property of his wife and in the wife being deprived of her power to enter into contracts or to bring lawsuits as an independent person. These restrictions were abolished by various statutes.

During coverture means within the duration of the marriage.


noun condition of a married woman, conjugality, legal status of a married woman, living as man and wife, marriage lines, married state, married tie, matronage, matronhood, matronship, nuptial bond, state of a married woman, state of matrimony, union, wedded state, wifedom
See also: cohabitation, cover, protection, refuge, shelter, shield


formerly, the condition or status of a married woman considered as being under the protection and influence of her husband.

COVERTURE. The state or condition of a married woman.
     2. During coverture, the being of the wife is civilly merged, for many purposes, into that of her husband; she can, therefore, in general, make no contracts without his consent, express or implied. Com. Dig. Baron and Feme, W; Pleader, 2 A 1; 1 Ch. Pl. 19, 45; Litt. s. 28; Chit. Contr. 39; 1 Bouv. Inst. n. 276.
     3. To this rule there are some exceptions: she may contract, when it is for her benefit, as to save her from starvation. Chit. Contr. 40.
     4. In some cases, when coercion has been used by the husband to induce her to commit crime, she is exempted from punishment. 1 Ha1e, P. C. 516; 1 Russ. Cr. 16.

References in periodicals archive ?
Women's Property Act, (219) by which coverture was abolished.
The Court justified her expatriation using the language of coverture.
It is obviously apparent that, under scrutiny, the bright-line theory no longer works with these instruments, and the courts instead tend to revert back to the marital foundation theory by using coverture fractions because the property is earned with a foundation of efforts (and because it simplifies the measurement).
When a retirement benefit contains a mix of premarital and marital portions, the coverture fraction is used to determine the portion of benefits earned during the marriage.
Despite the elimination of coverture, this Article argues that marriages between a man and a woman (32) often continue to retain the traditional elements of a relationship between "a dominant male" and "subordinate female.
What's more, my research suggests that this same status quo does not seem to represent a steady linear progression of ever-increasing rights for women, but rather evinces some significant tumbles backwards at certain historical periods; principles of coverture and female legal impotence may have in some ways actually become more rigid and restrictive, rather than less, through the years.
Opposing coverture laws (where women's ownership of property was covered by her husband) and advocating woman's suffrage, Mill found it necessary to argue that husbands and wives cannot join together in a tight community of interest so that one person could represent the whole.
49) Under the principle of coverture the woman's status was inseparable from but unequal to that of her husband; the oneness of the couple did not comprise a marriage of halves but rather the envelopment and effacement of a smaller part by a greater one.
If it is going too far to say that R v Jackson rejected by implication the validity of the husbands rape immunity, it is certainly fair to say that it rubbed out the fairy tales of unity of person and coverture that underpinned the immunity.
common law doctrine of coverture, (38) which treated married women as
However incremental some of these reforms, allowing married women even a modest claim to a separate estate created a chink in the "singular identity" that coverture inscribed.