American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
- n. A covering; a shelter.
- n. The state of being concealed; disguise.
- n. Law The status of a married woman under common law.
Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. A cover or covering.
- n. A covert or shelter; covering; protection; disguise; pretense.
- n. Specifically, in law, the status of a married woman considered as under the cover or power of her husband, and therefore called a feme covert. At common law coverture disabled a woman from making contracts to the prejudice of herself or her husband without his allowance or confirmation. Also
- n. law A common law doctrine developed in England during the Middle Ages, whereby a woman's legal existence, upon marriage, was subsumed by that of her husband, particularly with regard to ownership of property and protection.
- n. alternative spelling of couverture.
- n. Shelter, hiding place.
GNU Webster's 1913
- n. Covering; shelter; defense; hiding.
- n. (Law) The condition of a woman during marriage, because she is considered under the cover, influence, power, and protection of her husband, and therefore called a feme covert, or femme couverte.
- From Middle English, from Old French coverture, from covrir ("to cover") (Wiktionary)
- Middle English, from Old French, from covert, covered; see covert. (American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
“C: Yes, it comes from common law, called coverture, describing marital roles and duties.”
“The doctrine of "coverture," which subsumed wives into their husbands 'citizenship, eroded during the 19th century, and (white or non-Southern) women became voting citizens in 1919.”
“This doctrine became a way to reconcile the increasing sense that men and women really were equals thanks mostly to the revolution in marriage that made it based on consent and love along with the spread of classical liberal ideas about the inherent rights of individuals with the objective circumstances of the 19th century where men had legal advantages such as coverture that enabled them to control economic resources, as well as having the franchise, which women lacked.”
“By the law as it stands, if Mr Norton can evade his covenant (as he does, by stating that it is null because it was a contract with me, and "a man cannot contract with his own wife") he can defraud the creditor; for if a creditor sues me, I have only to plead 'coverture' (plead that I am a married woman), and the creditor who could not recover against Mr Norton is equally unable to recover against me.”
“This concept of “coverture” meant that a husband not only legally owned every piece of property in his family but also was, according to law and American culture, incapable of raping his wife.”
“Once I read a news article that was just so blatantly biased in favor of the view that 19th century coverture laws were unjust.”
“There was also the issue of coverture, or the belief that a woman's civil existence is erased the moment she marries.”
“We especially need it now as we try to unravel the remnants of "coverture" that still constrain women's civil status and as we do so in the face of an intensifying backlash against women's equality.”
“Even violence against women was for many years condoned under the principle of male "coverture" that defined women's legal identities.”
“According to the laws of coverture, when she marries she must cede all legal rights to her husband.”
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