"The Justice Of Her Country:" Early American Widows Assert Their Independent Legal Status In Congressional Petitions For Claims, 1775-1844 Open Access
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Wars and violent times filled the pages of early American history. Widowhood expanded and propelled these women to become heads of their households. This thesis examined this particular group of early American women, and the ways they asserted their independent legal status through petitions of claims sent to Congress. These petitions illuminated the ways these widows took charge of themselves and their dependents. Depositions from witnesses, schedules of losses and other forms of evidence became the tools for these women. Their attempts to gain compensation for the losses they incurred showed that they learned these legal tactics, and used a language of justice normally witnessed in the writing of their male counterparts. Moreover, each document revealed pieces of early American history, as seen through the eyes of women. From the Revolution through the first few decades of the nineteenth century, early American women sent petitions to Congress that outlined the participation of their families in the building of the new nation. Patriotic language filled these documents as these early American women asserted their independent legal status and placed their faith in the justice of their country.