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|Widows and Inheritance
Written by BarbaraB
(4/30/2010 1:05 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Does anyone Know?, penned by Aaron
"The role of the widow in Austen's fiction is an important one...they could own property and make wills regarding whatever portion of their property had not previously been disposed of by their husband's will or by entailment; they could choose where to live and spend their money as they saw fit. As with spinsters, however, the freedoms were enjoyed only by those who had sufficient property and income to be self-supporting. In Austen's novels, many of the most powerful women are, in fact, wealthy widows. But despite their fortunes, they never achieve the same degree of power in society as men with similar fortunes."
"If the De Bourgh estate had been entailed or strictly settled according to tradition to the next male in the family line, Lady Catherine would have had little or no power after the death of her husband, and she her daughter would have had to depend for their livelihood upon the widow's jointure (annuity from the husband's estate allowed to a widow after his death) and daughter's portion (whatever amount of personal property the daughter inherited from her father). If the combination of the jointure and the daughter's portion was insufficient for their maintenance, the new male head of the family might, if he chose, assist the women through his benevolence. If he did not choose to assist them, they would have to manage with a drastically reduced lifestyle. Lady Catherine's power is, therefore, the result of her husband's family having settled the estate against tradition, leaving the family's fortune in the hands of Lady Catherine and her daughter." (Teachman)
Hope this helpful. :)
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