Widows in Georgia

Josephine Bagley was born in 1878 in Forsyth County Georiga.  She married her husband, R.L. Bagley, in 1899. Together that had 3 children; Loy, William, and Ruth. The couple was married for forty-one years. R.L. Bagley passed away in 1940, just after their forty-first wedding aniversery. Josephine then lived the next fourty years as a widow until her death in 1980; she lived to be 102 years old.

Early 19th marriages were asymmetrical; men had the upper hand in all financial and social aspects of the marriage where the wife was supposed to carry the emotional burden herself. Women in states like Virginia and Georgia were placed under English Common Law. English Common Law states that the man and woman in a marriage are regarded as one person during the course of their marriage; the woman would have no legal existence separate from her husband. The death of a spouse may not only cause a crisis in social identity but a crisis in financial security. The social and financial status of widows has always been of concern to lawmakers in the United States. Early United States legislators wanted to be sure that the widow was not taken advantage of by family or members of the community looking to buy her newly found estate but were also concerned with if the widow was able to successfully operate the entirety of her husband’s estate. Different legal statutes, like Title 31 of the Georgia Code of 1933, explicitly stated what the husband was legally required to leave his wife and how much of the estate she was entitled to after his death. The legal requirement was referred to as a dower. Dowers were important to the financial and social success of the widow. 


Rylee C