Maura Jane Autry and Darcie Gipson win second place in Grand Slam Classic in Jonesboro, Ark.
Walker and Heather Cupp and children, Lexi and Cade, were the Saturday night guests of Becky Cupp.
Cameron Abel and Buddy Hendrix of Oxford, attended the wedding of Bea McCrosky and Drew Tolsdorf on Saturday evening.
Ann and Chuck Pringle and Caroline Brooks of Biloxi, Rives and Shelley Pringle and daughters, Cecilia and Elizabeth of Gulfport, Ann and Charles Pringle and children, Caroline, William and Charles, and Ann and Ben Seale Jr., of Jackson, Hamilton Seale of Memphis, Tenn., Andy Seale and Katy and Chris Barbour of Nashville, Tenn., Cathryn and Bradley Douglas of Starkville, and Ann Yager Hamlin of Lexington, Ky., were all in town over the weekend for the wedding festivities of Bea McCrosky and Drew Tolsdorf.
Wesley Webb of Starkville, spent Father’s Day with Walter and Vicki Webb.
The Mississippi Shockers 10U -- Maura Jane Autry and Darcie Gibson, who play for the 10U Mississippi Shockers competitive fastpitch softball team, travelled to Jonesboro, Ark. for the weekend to play in the 27th annual Grand Slam Classic. The girls and their team brought home second place out of 13 teams. Congratulations!
(To put your news in City Personals, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; mail to City Personals, The South Reporter, P.O. Box 278, Holly Springs, MS 38635 or call 662-252-4261. You may also e-mail your City Personal news to email@example.com).
Betsy Love and the Mississippi Married Women’s Property Act of 1839
While other American Indian women such as Pocahontas and Sacajawea have been afforded mythic stature in the annals of American history because they were seen as the benefactors of men, Chickasaw Indian Betsy Love was benefactor of women, and she remains largely unknown, even in the state of Mississippi and she was from Holly Springs.
Love played the formative role in establishing the principle that married women could own their own property and that it could not be seized by their husbands or their husbands’ creditors. The landmark Married Women’s Property Act of 1839 in Mississippi can, thus, be traced directly to her and the lawsuit, Fisher vs. Allen, in which her rights to keep her property after marriage were defended. The “property” in question was an African-American slave named Toney, who Betsy Love had given to her infant daughter as a gift.
Elizabeth “Betsy” Love was born sometime in the late 1780s in a section of the Chickasaw Nation in what is now the state of Mississippi. She was a daughter of Thomas Love and Sally Colbert. Both the Love and the Colbert families were bi-cultural Chickasaw families who owned slaves. Betsy Love married the white man James Allen, a native of North Carolina, in a Chickasaw ceremony in 1797. She was his second wife, and the mother of eleven children. They all resided on the Love family’s Chickasaw land.
Love’s life took a significant turn when a lawyer named John Fisher sued her husband in March 1831 in Monroe County Circuit Court for two hundred dollars in a default judgment. Fisher had represented James Allen in an earlier lawsuit and Allen had failed to pay for that work. To recover the debt, Fisher ordered the county sheriff to seize any of James Allen’s property and to sell it at public auction to satisfy Allen’s debt to Fisher. The sheriff seized the slave Toney. Fisher and the sheriff thought that Toney belonged to James Allen because at that time of his marriage to Love she owned many slaves. Under English law and later American and Mississippi law, any property belonging to a woman prior to her marriage became her husband’s at the time of marriage, a concept called coverture.
The Fisher vs. Allen lawsuit apparently changed all that. The attorney for the Allens argued in the appeal that, contrary to American and Mississippi law, usage and customs of the Chickasaw Indians were such that a husband and wife held property separatly and that each contracted debts on their own. Among many American Indian tribes in the southeast, including the Chickasaws and Choctaws of Mississippi, a woman retained ownership of all property that she brought into a marriage, whether it was land, slaves, or personal items, and each spouse entered into business contracts and debts on their own.
Unfortunately, Love left no diaries and the transcripts of the original trial, before it was appealed, are misplaced or lost. All the direct evidence that accounts for Betsy Love’s life are the words of two white justices, William L. Sharkey and Cotesworth P. Smith, who ruled on Fisher vs. Allen: the case of her husband being sued by John Fisher.
In 1944 one scholar, Elizabeth Gasper Brown, wrote about the Mississippi Women’s Property Act of 1839, but managed to place the credit for championing women’s property rights squarely on the shoulders of a woman named Mrs. T.B.J. Hadley, who owned a boarding house in Jackson. Her article in the Michigan Law Review stated that Mrs. Hadley (formerly Piety Smith) must have envied Louisiana civil law and decided to move to Mississippi sometime before 1839, marry a state senator, and open a boarding house and begin serving coffee to pliable?
Tradition says that sometime prior to 1839 a Mississippi woman, living in Louisiana and while there noted with considerable envy the position of married women under civil law. She was not only envious but impressed and made up her mind to see what she could do about remedying the situation under common law which deprived married women of any rights in their property. Subsequently returning to Mississippi, she opened a boarding house in Jackson near the state capital.”
Brown did conclude her article with: “At the least, it is a hypothesis worthy of consideration that from Chickasaw custom was derived the first law giving a married woman in a common law state any rights in her own property, and in many ways this hypothesis has more foundation in fact than Mrs. Hadley’s alleged Louisiana experience.”
There is no evidence that Mrs. Hadley pushed for women’s property rights in Mississippi in 1839, as Brown thought. Where are the petitions she could have had signed by her peers? Where are the advertisements Mrs. Hadley could have taken out in the newspaper calling for equality of married women’s property rights? They do not exist. There is one cartoon in a newspaper about her serving short rations if legislators didn’t vote as she wanted, but that proves nothing about this specific legislation.
What is factual is that her husband, Mississippi Senator T.B.J. Hadley, introduced two bills in 1839, one for the protection and preservation of the rights and property of married women, and the other for his own protection from his creditors. The latter was passed without a hitch, but the Married Women’s Property Bill was voted down several times before it was finally passed on February 15, 1839, and signed by Governor McNutt the following day.
What is also true is that Senator Hadley would have known about the 1837 Fisher vs. Allen case and the precedent it established in the Mississippi High Court of Errors and Appeals. Any Mississippi lawmaker could have reasoned that if an Indian woman could circumvent her husband’s creditors by claiming that property belonging to the wife under Indian customs is not liable to the debts of her husband, white women ought to be able to do the same. Moreover, according to some sources, Mrs. Hadly’s brother was Benjamin Fort Smith, a U.S. Agent to the Chickasaws from 1823 to 1829; so even if Senator Hadley’s wife did push for the Married Women’s Property Act, she may have done so based on what she had learned of Chickasaw customs about the rights of women.
Most states followed Mississippi’s example of women’s property rights. Michigan and Maine passed similar laws in 1844. Texas passed its law in 1846, New York in 1848.
And England recognized women’s property rights by an Act of Parliament in 1870. As Mississippi historian J.F.H. Claiborne observed: “It is singular that an uncivilized tribe of Indians in the interior of Mississippi, in this respect, have anticipated that action of more enlightened communities in a reform of the common law, now acknowledged to be not only just and proper, but in strict conformity to the highest principles of equity.”
Thus, Claiborne paid a left- handed compliment to Betsy Love and her tribe. Fisher vs. Allen established that property belonging to a woman before marriage, or any subsequent acquests and gains, is not liable to the debts of her husband.
There can be little if any doubt that the basis for the ruling was Chickasaw tribal customary law.
Good News Happy Hour Thursday
It’s time to tune back in again to “Swanee’s Mississippi Good News Happy Hour” this next Thursday at 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. on your AM dial for WKRA 1110.
For the first time we will be bringing to you Elton Bray to talk to us about important banking in today’s world and our very own wonderful Kenny Brown will be entertaining us with his unique hill country blues style of music.
It promises to be a wonderful and interesting hour. Hope to see you there and if you miss us on Thursday be sure to tune in on Saturday morning at 11 a.m. for a repeat performance.
Just a heads-up for the next week. We will be broadcasting from the Square Museum on the Square so drop by and take a look at us at the usual time in the store front window at 111 Van Dorn Ave. and be sure and wave.
This program is sponsored by the Marshall County Historical Museum, 111 Van Dorn Ave., Holly Springs. www.mchmuseum.org.
News: (662) 252-4261 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Questions, comments, corrections: email@example.com
©2004, The South Reporter, All Rights Reserved.
No part of this site may be reproduced in any way without permission.
The South Reporter is a member of the Mississippi Press Association.
Site managed and maintained by
South Reporter webmasters Linda Jones, Kristian Jones
Web Site Design - The South Reporter
Back | Top of Page