Sara Margaret Butler deposited “More than Mothers: Juries of Matrons and Pleas of the Belly in Medieval England.” in the group Legal history on Humanities Commons 2 years, 8 months ago
With regard to English common law, medieval women were able to participate in the curial process in only a limited way. This is not true of women as defendants: women could be sued for almost any civil or criminal plaint, but their privileges as plaintiffs were broadly curtailed by marital status and cultural expectation. The legal fiction of unity of person saw a wife’s legal personality merge into her husband’s; he assumed the responsibility for representing them both at law. A married woman was a lawful dependent; the only time she appeared as plaintiff in a civil suit was when she stood in as attorney for her husband. The single woman (a category that includes also the feme sole, a married woman whom the law treated as single for business purposes) was the exception to the rule: the courts acceded to her full legal personhood. She was capable of representing herself at law, although that concession existed more in theory than in practice.