Today in Feminist History: Wives Granted Legal Right to Sue Their Husbands (April 10, 1882)

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April 10, 1882: An abused wife has a right to sue her husband according to an opinion issued today by Justice John R. Brady of the New York State Supreme Court, writing for the majority.

This bold and welcome departure from common law tradition is based on his interpretation of New York State’s “Married Women’s Property Act,” passed in 1860 and revised in 1862. T

hough on the books for two decades, it has never before been cited as giving married women such independent—even equal—standing in a court of law.

The case was initiated by Theresa Schultz against her husband, Theodore. She obtained an order of arrest against him for assault and battery and also wished to sue him for her injuries.

He tried to have the arrest order vacated on the grounds that a wife cannot initiate legal actions against her husband. But his attempt failed in a lower court, and…

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