The word that every American should know is–coverture. This holdover from our British colonial days held that married white women did not legally exist. During the American Revolution, with ideas of freedom, inalienable rights, and Enlightenment everywhere, American women had every expectation that this ancient oppression would be addressed. It was not, and the new nation began with coverture in place. It remains, like a ghost in our legal machine. Find out how coverture still haunts us and what we can do about it. The answer may surprise you!
Catherine Allgor is the president of the Massachusetts Historical Society since 2017. Previously, she had been the Nadine and Robert Skotheim Director of Education at the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA, and a former Professor of History and UC Presidential Chair at the University of California, Riverside. Allgor attended Mount Holyoke College as a Frances Perkins Scholar and received her Ph.D. with distinction from Yale University, where she also won the Yale Teaching Award. Her dissertation received a prize as the best dissertation in American History at Yale and The Lerner-Scott Prize for the Best Dissertation in U.S. Women’s History. She began her teaching career at Simmons College and has been a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and a Visiting Professor of History at Harvard University.
Allgor’s first book, Parlor Politics: In Which the Ladies of Washington Help Build a City and a Government (University Press of Virginia, 2000), won the James H. Broussard First Book Prize from the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic and the Northeast Popular Culture/American Culture Association Annual Book Award. Her political biography, A Perfect Union: Dolley Madison and the Creation of the American Nation (Henry Holt, 2006), was a finalist for the George Washington Book Prize. In 2012, she published Dolley Madison: The Problem of National Unity (Westview Press) and The Queen of America: Mary Cutts’s Life of Dolley Madison (University of Virginia Press). President Obama appointed Allgor to a presidential commission, The James Madison Memorial Fellowship Foundation. Catherine Allgor also serves on the Board of Directors of the National Women’s History Museum.
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