By the middle of the 19th century, in Europe and the Russian Empire, the voice of women began to sound louder: the fair sex began an active struggle for their rights. Despite the fact that, in general, the socio-economic development of the Russian Empire lagged behind that of Europe, the legislation on women's rights was more progressive. And this concerned mainly property issues.
Despite a series of revolutions that swept across European countries since the end of the 18th century and significantly influenced changes in legislation, the civil and family code was rather conservative with regard to women's rights.
So, in France, one of the main gains of the revolution was the right to divorce and the legislative consolidation of civil marriage, which was concluded by state bodies and did not require an obligatory church procedure. However, in the new code, the “head of the family” took a central position, as a result of which the wife and children were made completely dependent on the man, who had the absolute right to dispose of the property of minors and the spouse.
Moreover, the powers of administrative punishment on the part of the man were prescribed: for disobedience, he had the right to send any family member to the place of imprisonment. For example, a wife, convicted of treason, could also be sent to prison for several months.
In Prussia, the man also had the final say and power in the marriage union. The wife did not have the right to engage in any work or litigation without her husband's permission. Her property was at the complete disposal of her husband (certain restrictions existed only in part of the land brought in as a dowry). The upbringing of children was determined in a special way: the mother had to provide for the bodily needs, and the father had to provide the rest (maintenance, upbringing).
In Germany, a woman in the family had several more rights: with the permission of her husband, she could make transactions, and the husband had to ask her consent to dispose of his wife's property. In addition, the wife had the opportunity to dispose of personal belongings and jewelry, she could use what she acquired through her labor.
In Britain, only unmarried women enjoyed quite a lot of freedom. They could act as trustees, trustees, and own property.
But a married woman was not recognized as a subject of civil rights and could not do practically anything without the consent of her husband, including owning property and filing lawsuits. A woman could draw up a will, but her husband had the right to challenge it.
Legislation of the Russian Empire
According to the legislation of the late 19th century, a woman, on an equal basis with a man, could herself go to court, acquire, own and dispose of property or entrust it to someone.
A woman, having married, could transfer to a higher estate of her husband, but she remained in her rank if she married a man of a lower estate. Also, a wife could initiate a divorce, but it was stipulated that it was unacceptable to dissolve the marriage only at the request of the spouses without a clear reason for the church authorities.
Women had the opportunity to make donations and even found women's cooperatives, independently deciding what to spend their capital on.
However, the rights enshrined in legislation often turned out to be impracticable in practice. A married woman, being free in the matter of property, was compelled to submit to her husband in personal respect.
Such contradictions are pointed out, for example, by Professor Vasily Ivanovich Sinaisky in his work "The Personal and Property Status of a Married Woman in Civil Law."Russian women suffered from legal illiteracy and public opinion, which condemned a woman's desire for independence.
Yes, and the articles of the civil code themselves contained similar contradictions, saying that "a wife is obliged to obey her husband as the head of the family, to be in love, respect and in unlimited obedience to him, to show him any pleasing and affection, as the mistress of the house." The law also gave priority to the head of the family in raising children.
Legislatively, an attempt was made to introduce punishment for physical violence, but this punishment was only in church repentance, and therefore it was not profitable for the woman to sue - in this case, divorce was not supposed anyway. In addition, complaints about her husband in the opinion of society were indecent.
Also, without the consent of her husband, a wife was not entitled to a separate residence permit, education and the opportunity to decide on a job.
Nevertheless, unlike European legislation, Russian legislation, albeit with reservations, but by the beginning of the 20th century recognized a woman as a full-fledged subject of property and legal relations, which made her position somewhat more stable.