Event—Public Programming

'They Receive So Little Protection from the Laws of Their Country': Ninteenth-Century Women's Property Rights and Antiremoval Literature

In 1839, Mississippi became the first state to pass its Married Women's Property Law as a direct effect of the Fisher v. Allen lawsuit, in which a half-Chickasaw woman, Betsy Love Allen, fought to defend her property (a slave named Toney) from her husband's creditors. Allen won her lawsuit based on Chickasaw marriage customs that held that each spouse separately owned their own property, managed their own finances and contracts, and acquired and managed their own debts in marriage. This presentation juxtaposes the legislation of the Fisher v. Allen lawsuit with the Married Women's Property Act of 1839, the Indian Removal Act of 1830, and the figure of the mother in antiremoval protest literature. Focusing on Lydia Maria Child's genre-bending text The First Settlers of New-England; Or, the Conquest of the Pequods, Narragansets, and Pokanokets as Related by a Mother to her Children, Meaghan Fritz will examine the figure of the mother in antiremoval protest literature as a figure of social, economic, and legal critique of the American justice system by Native and white women writers alike.