Looking forward to the future of journalism

Women and property in the 1920s: The not so good-old days

John's HouseThis weekend my cousin and I used Bexar County’s amazing Web site of historical documents to research the history of my stucco house near Woodlawn Lake, which was built in 1924. I blogged yesterday about the racial restrictions that were written in the first deed for my home. The deed prohibited the homeowner from selling or leasing the property to black people.

But the revelations about my house didn’t end there. We also found a notation in another record that shows what it was like to be a woman in the old days.

My house at 1714 W. Summit was originally sold to G.A. Wiegand in December 1925. A year later, for reasons that aren’t explained, Wiegand sold the property to his wife, Hortanz, according to this 1926 deed.

Here’s the interesting part: Check out the disclaimer by the notary at the top of the page:

… Hortanz Wiegand, having been examined by me privily and apart from her said husband … acknowledged such instrument to be her act and deed … and she did not wish to retract it.

In other words: Are you sure you know what you’re doing, little lady?

It’s interesting how the dry, legalistic wording of the public documents for my house are a window to a different time. They offer a glimpse at how some people ranked higher than others in society.

The Handbook of Texas offers a broad look at the evolving legal rights of women in Texas. In 1926, women had only recently been allowed to vote in the United States.

Update: Just found this old law dictionary on Google’s book search and it explains how married women in Texas who wanted to buy or sell property had to be “privily examined” apart from their husbands, in order to make sure the women really wanted to do the transaction, and to make sure they understood it.