(2nd in Series)
Part one of legislation passed at the Benicia Capitol in 1853 dealt with how we got the capitol in the first place. Part two concerns the matter of divorce, and property rights of women.
I found the following legislation from 1853 interesting for several of its relatively enlightened elements, and for its very loose “bed and board” proviso. Most interesting however is its handling of the age of consent and/or non-consent!
“An act concerning Divorces, passed March 25th, 1851 and approved April 1, 1853” Divorces from bed and board, or from the bonds of matrimony, may be granted.
FIRST: For natural impotence existing at the time of marriage.
SECOND: When the female, at the time of the alleged marriage, was under the age of fourteen years, and the alleged marriage was without the consent of her parents or guardian, or other person having the legal custody or charge of her person; and when such marriage was not voluntarily ratified on her part, after she had attained the age of fourteen years.
THIRD: By an act of adultery by either of the parties; but no divorce shall be granted upon the application of the party guilty of the act of adultery complained of, nor if it shall appear to the court that the adultery complained of was by collusion of the parties; nor when it shall appear that the parties have lived and cohabited together as man and wife, after knowledge of the act of adultery complained of.
FOURTH: For extreme cruelty in either party, or for habitual intemperance, or for willful desertion by either part for the period of two years; or for willful neglect on the part of the husband to provide for his wife the common necessaries of life, having the ability to provide the same, for the period of three years.
FIFTH: When the consent of either of the parties to the marriage was obtained by force of fraud, upon the application of the injured party.
SIXTH: In case of the conviction either party for a felony after marriage, where the punishment is not less than imprisonment for two years.
For a view of the property rights of women, the following Act just might not pass feminist scrutiny!
An Act To amend an Act entitled “An Act defining the rights of Husband and Wife,” passed April 17, 1850.
The people of the State of California, represented in Senate and Assembly, do enact as follows:
Section 1. The ninth section of the “Act defining the rights of Husband and Wife,” passed on April 17, 1850, is amended to read as follows: The husband shall have the entire management and control of the common property, with the like absolute power of disposition, as of his own separate estate; and the rents and profits of the separate estate of either husband or wife shall be deemed common property; unless in the case of the separate property of the wife, it shall be provided by the terms of the instrument whereby such property may have been bequeathed, devised or given to her, that the rents and profits thereof shall be applied to her sole and separate use; in which case the entire management and disposal of the rents and profits of such property shall belong to the wife, and shall not be liable for the debts of the husband.
Approved, May 12, 1853!