Elizabeth Wilson, the Bible, and the Legal Rights of Women in the Nineteenth Century

Authors

  • Joy A. Schroeder Capital University and Trinity Lutheran Seminary

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/post.v5i2.219

Keywords:

Elizabeth Wilson, Abigail (biblical figure), Nabal (biblical figure), Elizabeth Cady Stanton, property laws, feme covert, coverture, 1 Samuel 25

Abstract

In 1849, Elizabeth Wilson (fl. 1849-1850) published an impassioned defense of women’s rights entitled A Scriptural View of Woman’s Rights and Duties. Her work critiques patriarchy in church and society, arguing in favor of women’s social and legal rights within marriage. Challenging prominent male biblical commentators, Wilson asserted that male and female were created as equal co-sovereigns over creation. She claimed that biblical patriarchs and matriarchs exercised equal authority within the marriage relationship. Wilson’s most striking example is Abigail, who distributed household property, an extravagant gift of dressed sheep and other food, to David, against her husband Nabal’s wishes (1 Samuel 25). Wilson uses this story to prove that wives have equal right to administer marital property. Thus she offers an incisive critique of American property and inheritance laws biased against wives and widows.

Author Biography

Joy A. Schroeder, Capital University and Trinity Lutheran Seminary

Joy A. Schroeder (Ph.D., University of Notre Dame) is Bergener Professor of Theology and Religion at Capital University and Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio.

References

Audretsch, Robert W., ed. 1976. The Salem, Ohio, 1850 Women’s Rights Convention Proceedings. Salem, OH: Salem Public Library.

Basch, Norma. 1982. In the Eyes of the Law: Women, Marriage and Property in Nineteenth-Century New York. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Clarke, Adam. 1826-28. The Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments, With a Commentary and Critical Notes. 6 vols. New York: N. Bangs and J. Emory.

Henry, Matthew. [n.d.] Commentary on the Holy Bible: With Practical Remarks and Observations. Vol. 3. New York: Funk and Wagnalls.

Isenberg, Nancy. 1998. Sex and Citizenship in Antebellum America. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Milton, John. 1935. Paradise Lost. Edited by Merritt Y. Hughes. New York: Doubleday, Doran & Company.

Salmon, Marilyn. 1986. Women and the Law of Property in Early America. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Scott, Thomas. 1856. The Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments According to the Authorised Version; With Explanatory Notes, Practical Observations, and Copious Marginal References. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott.

Speth, Linda E. 1982. “The Married Women’s Property Acts, 1839—1865: Reform, Reaction, or Revolution?” In Women and the Law: A Social Historical Perspective, Volume II: Property, Family, and the Legal Profession, edited by D. Kelly Weisberg, 69–91. Cambridge, MA: Schenkman.

Stanton, Elizabeth Cady. 1895–1898. The Woman’s Bible. New York: European Publishing Company.

———, Susan B. Anthony, and Matilda Joslyn Gage. 1881. History of Woman Suffrage. Vol. 1. New York: Fowler & Wells.

“Temperance Lesson.” 1889. Sunday School Journal 21: 353–355.

Warbasse, Elizabeth Bowles. 1987. The Changing Legal Rights of Married Women 1800—1861. New York: Garland.

Wilson, Elizabeth. 1849. “A Scriptural View of Woman’s Rights and Duties.” In All the Important Relations of Life. Philadelphia, PA: William S. Young.

Published

2011-11-14

How to Cite

Schroeder, J. A. (2011). Elizabeth Wilson, the Bible, and the Legal Rights of Women in the Nineteenth Century. Postscripts: The Journal of Sacred Texts, Cultural Histories, and Contemporary Contexts, 5(2), 219–232. https://doi.org/10.1558/post.v5i2.219

Issue

Section

Articles