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Western Wife

Heritage Community Foundation, Albertasource.ca and The Famous Five Foundation

Reading: Marriage Settlements

Reading: Western Wife

Reading: Criminal Code Amendment Letter


Letter to Emily Murphy. Courtesy of City of Edmonton Archives.

Dear Madam,

Seeing the notice in the Free Press re Dower Law for Alberta, I think it is time we did have such a law, I don't understand quite what the Dower Law is. But thinking that it is a law giving married women a lawful right to half of everything that her husband owns: lands houses and moveable property of all kinds, is that so? My husband has all along let me understand that 1/3 of his estate goes to the wife and 2/3 to his children at his death. But now I am convinced that I might get nothing and that he might give his all away from me and my young family of seven.

I must say that he has threatened to do so whenever any little thing crosses him. Now I left all my friends and comforts and society and came to this new country and had many lonely trying times, endured many hardships including hunger and cold. Have had to do all kinds of work out door in all kinds of weather, chop wood, carry water, milk cows, feed horses and cattle, feed pigs etc, all sorts of work that a hired man would have to do besides all the baking cooking washing and housework for a large family and without the modern convenience of labor-saving machinery also wash all my children's clothes. I make besides most of my own and my husbands. My husband owns half a section of good land and hires no help. I help in the haying, harvest, plant along with my children (the oldest is only 10 years old) more than an acre of potatoes which we all gather in the fall and let my husband plough. I do all that and lots more which I know most women around me would not dream of doing, I am seldom from home never get to church or party. No pleasure or company of any kind so the reason I could not invite anyone to come and spend an afternoon. I am always kept so full of work and my house though large has no furniture of any kind but a stove, table and chair only 2. I have not even a rocker or a carry chair to set down and rest my weary body and tired back. I have nothing but the bare necessities of life. If I thought that I had to live my life out like this I think I would go crazy but I have great hopes and that with my trust in God keeps me going. But it would be a great comfort and security for most women to be assured that if her husband died something would be hers to start with especially a woman who helps her husband. My husband is always crying that I never help him enough and yet I raise lots of chickens, ducks and turkeys for him to sell, the profits of which I never get, I never get 5 cents to spend as I like. I must account for every cent he gives me for provisions etc.

I think if a wife got one half of all her husbands property and everything belonging to him it would be only her due and little at that and if the other half went to the children they would only get it when they come of age and many young folks would only spend it foolishly while if it could be spent on them educating them before they came of age, it would help greatly, and would not be such a drag upon a young widowed mother. I really think that if we women had a law compelling men to go equal shares with their wives there would be more home comforts and true happiness, less bachelors, less race suicide, as wives would not fear having to provide and educate their children if left with a big family. Shame on the Farmers of Western Canada they cry for Equity Associations, Good Honest. But how few of them would ever think of being Even and Equal with the wife of his Bosom.

A Western Canadian Wife

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