Mississippi was the first state to give married women rights to their own property. And it’s all because of a Chickasaw woman named Elizabeth “Betsy” Love.
Born in the 1780’s in what is now north Mississippi --but was then the Chickasaw Nation-- Betsy married a man named James Allen. She came to the marriage with property of her own, and he came to the marriage with debt.
When creditors demanded that Betsy’s property be used to settle James’ debts, she argued that under Chickasaw law, her property was her own, and James’ creditors could have no part of it. The Fisher versus Allen case went all the way to the United States Supreme Court, which ruled in Betsy’s favor.
This landmark ruling influenced the Mississippi Legislature to pass a new law in February of 1839 recognizing married women’s property rights. Other states, as well as Great Britain, soon did the same.
For more interesting facts about Mississippi's 200-year history, watch a new interstitial each week of 2017 with Mississippi: A Thread Through Time on MPB TV.