"In the mid-1700s, in the tiny villa of San Fernando de Béxar, on the northern fringes of the Spanish Empire in North America, Hispanic women had legal rights that would have astonished their British counterparts half a continent to the east. Under Spanish law, even in the sparsely settled land that would one day become Texas, married women could own property in their own names. They could control and manage not only their own property but even that of their husbands. And if their property rights were infringed, they could seek redress in the courts." --from the Introduction
In the Texas Republic, Spanish law came to be seen as more equitable than English common law in certain areas, especially women's rights, and some Spanish traditions were adopted into Texas law. Upon statehood, traditions in community property and women's legal status were written into the state constitution.
Through legal battles, documents, and court cases, Hers, His, and Theirs explores the evolution of Castilian law during the Spanish Reconquest and how those laws came to the New World and Texas. Jean A. Stuntz looks carefully at why the Spanish legal system developed so differently from any other European system and why it survived in Texas even after settlement by Anglos in the 1830s. She discusses what this system of community property offered that English common law did not and why this aspect of married women's property rights has not been well studied.
Jean A. Stuntz teaches Texas and Spanish borderlands history at West Texas A&M University, in Canyon. Formerly a practicing attorney, she now specializes in women's history of the Southwest.