Stephanie Jones-Rogers has won a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for University Teachers. Jones-Rogers, an Assistant Professor in the department, will use the fellowship in order to support her second book-length project, Women, American Slavery, and the Law.
Historians have long argued that a series of 19th-century laws called married women's property acts were not really about women or their ability to own and control property and had little to do with women’s own motives or actions. The objectives of this legislation, scholars contend, were to preserve family (i.e. paternal) wealth and to shield that wealth from unscrupulous and fiscally inept husbands. Rather than exclusively examining the process of lawmaking from legislators’ perspectives, Jones-Rogers considers how slave-owning women’s legal actions shaped this legislation. She also shows that married slave-owning women routinely and successfully called upon local courts to protect their property rights and to aid them in securing or maintaining control over enslaved people, even at their husbands’ expense, and they drew upon laws pertaining to property and slavery to do so. Women, American Slavery, and the Law argues that, long before legislatures codified married women’s property laws, many women already possessed separate property rights, which they secured through a variety of legal instruments that granted them separate ownership and control of the bequeathed property. But more profoundly, the legal petitions women filed before the passage of married women’s property acts suggest that, when lawmakers enacted this legislation, they were writing into law activities that were already happening on a piecemeal, case-by-case basis in local courts.
The National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowships support individuals pursuing advanced research that is of value to humanities scholars, general audiences, or both.