Dower of Margaret Logan, widow of Zachariah Logan, Perry County, Illinois, 1864

A dower was the portion of a deceased husband’s property allowed under the law for his widow for her lifetime. Some places this was one-third of his property. In Illinois, the dower was spelled out in the law per below. The purpose, in a time when the male of a marital couple owned all real and personal estate, was to protect a surviving spouse and children so they would have something to live on. It was a tremendous humanitarian enterprise when first enacted. (Prior to the establishment of a dower, women and children could be destitute when a husband/father died.) Note (below) that the dower provided food for stock for six months and fuel for the widow and family for three months. Provisions for the widow and her family were for one year. (“Cards” refers to the implements used to card wool.)

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