Coverture refers to the period during which a woman is married and reflects an old-fashioned common law legal concept regarding the status of a woman during marriage. Under coverture law, wives did not have a separate legal status from their husbands and could not control their own property unless specific provisions were made before marriage, they could not file lawsuits or be sued separately, nor could they execute contracts.
Married women began acquiring more legal rights in the 1800's. Mississippi was the first stateto make statutory changes in the common law of coverture by granting married women increased legal rights in 1839. New York passed a married women's statute in 1848, limiting the application of coverture, which was the first law to gain widespread attention.