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“The Elopement’, John Collet
We are all aware of the strong legal disadvantages suffered by 18th-century married women. Before the passing of The Married Women’s Property Act of 1882, wives were treated as appendages to their husbands, with no independent rights. After marriage, husband and wife became one person under the law, all the property of the wife was surrendered to her husband and her separate legal identity ceased to exist. There were, however, certain problems for husbands in this situation too. If your wife ran away, then incurred debts by taking credit from shopkeepers and the like, you were still legally responsible for paying them. You and your wife, even if she said she had left your home for good, remained legally one person.
That’s why local newspapers often carried advertisements like these. Note that the word “elopement” at this time simply meant “running away”. It had not…
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