Date of Thesis

Spring 2023


This thesis explores the changing boundaries of women’s property rights in the nineteenth and early twentieth century with a critical eye on the intentions of white male policymakers. I analyze the development of laws regarding married women’s property rights, homesteading, and workplace relations to understand how lawmakers and judges viewed white women's reproductive capacity as a state policy tool in varying ways. The expansion of women’s property rights in the U.S. revolved around women’s reproductive labor and funneled women into their assumed roles of wives and mothers. Weaving together historical moments across a century of great advancement for women, I show how government entities repeatedly used the law to steer women’s bodies towards the spaces and conditions most advantageous to the state.


women, property rights, reproductive labor, married women's property acts, homestead act, protective laws

Access Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Type

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

John Enyeart

Second Advisor

Paul Barba

Third Advisor

Erica Delsandro