Dalhousie Law Journal


Ontario, property, Guelph, legal history, women, widows, married, single, legislation, inheritance


This paper reports patterns of property holding by women and men in late nineteenth-century Ontario. We focus on the town of Guelph immediately before and after legislation in 1872 and 1884 which permitted married women to hold property in their own name. The female-held share of all property and the female share of all owners in the town increased sharply. The gains were made by married women, and even more strongly by single women and widows. However, there was little or no shift of property in nearby rural townships. We argue that an induced change in inheritance practice amplified the direct effect of the legislation on married women and led to increased property holding by single and widowed women in urban areas. Patterns of property holding were influenced by other factors, including some which created pressure for the legislation, but the change in legislation itself contributed to the shift in the gender distribution of property.

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