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|Breach of promise
Written by StephenB
(10/6/2012 3:15 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, from the woman's side, penned by amytat
In theory either a man or a woman could sue for breach of promise if an engagement was broken at this time, but almost invariably it was only women in practice who could sue successfully. The basis for action was that the betrothal was regarded as a contract (ie a promise to marry) and breaking off the engagement was a wrong that could require compensation. The reason why it was only women who could normally take such action was that engagement for women amounted to an undertaking that they would be kept (since men were legally obliged to maintain their wives), and breaking off the engagement deprived the woman of that expectation. Men on the other hand did not suffer any material damage through an engagement being broken since a woman had no obligation to maintain her husband (and this was the case even though the woman might be wealthy and bringing money into the marraige which before the Married Women's property acts in the latter half of the 19th century, would be under the husband's control)
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