Coverture: The Word You Probably Don’t Know But Should

From the Women’s History Museum, September 4, 2012

My mother-in-law loves this story. A few years ago, my husband, Andrew, and I went to apply for a mortgage. As a candidate for a house mortgage—and this is the part my mother-in-law loves—I characterize myself as “greater” than my husband. I am older, I have a longer work history, I am more senior in our common profession (we are both professors), I also make more money. I’ve got a longer credit history than he and have owned more houses. Finally (though this is a matter of dispute), I am even a teeny bit taller.

But the only qualification that mattered in this transaction was my status as “wife.” When our broker filled out our application, she listed Andrew first, as the “borrower” and me second, as “co-borrower.” (Did I mention that my last name starts with “A” and his with “J”?). When I pointed this out, our broker, a woman of a certain age with long experience in her profession, sympathized, but stated that if she had made me the primary borrower, the lawyers would “fuss” at her and just revert to the traditional categories. “Honey,” she told me, a professor of women’s history, “it’s a man’s world.” FOR MORE

Thank You to Roberta Madden for introducing this article to us.

Photo Credit: Brandon Morales

gender inequality, womens history, WOMENS LIVES

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