Married Women Declaration Books
Women as Sole Traders, 1854-1896 (2 volumes); Separate Property of Married Women, 1856-1893 (one volume)
The Placer County Archives maintains three volumes of records regarding the recording of declarations of married women including to act as sole traders, as well as to hold property separate from their husbands.
Two of these volumes refer to declarations as sole traders. The first volume is alternatively titled “Declaration of Married Women,” and dates from 1854-1865 (Reference # 2230.12.1). There is currently no index prepared for this volume.
The second volume is alternatively titled “Book A,” and dates from 1863-1896 (Reference # 2230.12.2). See link below for searchable PDF index for this volume.
The third volume is titled “Separate Property of Married Women,” and dates from 1856-1893 (Reference # 2230.12.3). There is an index in the front of this volume.
In 1852, the State of California passed a statute that stated: “Married women shall have the right to carry on and transact business under their own name, and on their own account, by complying with the regulations prescribed in this act.” Women who wished to conduct business separately from their husbands were required to file a declaration with the County Recorder stating the nature of their business, trade, profession, or art. This declaration would also be published in the local paper for three consecutive weeks.
Once the declaration was recorded and published, a married woman could conduct her own business and the property, revenue, money, debt (approved by her husband), and credits would belong exclusively to her. She would not be liable for the debts of her husband but would become responsible financially for any children.
Many filings include the names and ages of the woman’s children as well as the terms for which she is petitioning to conduct business separate from a spouse. Among reasonings cited include debts, abandonment, or character flaws of the spouse including being idle, dissolute, improvident, intemperate, and others.
If the amount invested in the business was more than $5,000, the declaration was required to include a sworn statement that the funds did not belong to her husband.