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American Child BrideA History of Minors and Marriage in the United States$
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Nicholas L. Syrett

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781469629537

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469629537.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.northcarolina.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of North Carolina Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in NCSO for personal use.date: 04 August 2021

Any Maid or Woman Child

Any Maid or Woman Child

A New Nation and Its Marriage Laws

Chapter:
(p.15) One Any Maid or Woman Child
Source:
American Child Bride
Author(s):

Nicholas L. Syrett

Publisher:
University of North Carolina Press
DOI:10.5149/northcarolina/9781469629537.003.0002

This chapter explains the English common law and colonial legal antecedents to early national marriage law in the extant states. It argues that the common law marriage ages of twelve (for girls) and fourteen (for boys) are based on presumptions about puberty and intellectual capacity, and that when North American colonial legislatures raised these ages, they did so largely to protect parental interest in their children’s labor and possible fortunes, not as a means to protect youthful people. It also argues that the differential ages of marriage and of majority (in western and midwestern states, where girls’ majority was lowered to eighteen) all had the effect of denying girls the protection of girlhood in the realm of marriage that were being offered to their brothers and to children more generally in legal revisions of the ealry modern period.

Keywords:   English common law, Marriage age, Age of majority, Colonial and early national law, Puberty, Child labor, Intellectual capacity

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