Glasgow: James Maclehose & Sons, 1891. First edition. Original blue publisher's cloth binding with bright gilt to spine. With some toning to endpapers and half title, else internally bright and unmarked.Collating xvi, 169, [170-173], 174-249, [1, blank]: complete, including half title. An exceptionally pleasing copy, inscribed by Murray on the front endpaper: "R. E. Aitken, Esq. C.A. With the Author's Compliments." In another hand in pencil below it, the date "16 Feb. 1891." Scarce institutionally and in trade, OCLC reports holdings at only 8 U.S. libraries and the present is the only copy on the market.
After decades of lobbying, the women of Great Britain gained several key legal victories in the form of the Married Women's Property Acts (1870-1893). Across the four acts were measures that broke down the English Common Law structure that subsumed married women's legal and social identities under their husbands' through coverture for centuries. With each new act, women gained the ability to sue for divorce and custody, to own property and wages, to enter into contracts and otherwise engage as individual legal entities. At times difficult to navigate -- for both women and men -- books like the present volume became useful for laypeople. According to Murray's preface, his "object is to state shortly the effect of marriage upon the property of spouses, the claims of the children of the marriage, and the rights of creditors." In this sense, his book acknowledges from the start that women's gains in legal selfhood affect a much broader system of operations that are deeply ingrained in the U.K. To this end, "the common law is first explained -- to some extent in its historical development -- then the alterations made upon it by statute, particularly by the Married Women's Property Acts." The result is a highly useful, straightforward reference guide that assists the reader (and especially women new to having such rights) both how the old laws stood and what has now changed. Marginal commentary, indexes, and appendices assist in bringing further cross-referencing and explanation as needed.
A major set of legal victories for women, Murray's text also gestures to the great social shift that has begun taking place alongside them: "Marriage creates a society of partnership between the married pair...a community of property between husband and wife." Fine (Item #3913)