During the Colonial era, women had very few legal rights. Connecticut legislation tended to regard women as the property of their husbands, who also had full control of their finances.
Widowed women had more freedom, generally speaking, than single or married women. If there were no male heirs, widows were entitled to become property owners, with all rights and obligations, for the first time in their lives.
Married women had no legal right to buy or sell property, collect wages, sue or be sued, or dispose of property through a will; all legal rights resided with their husbands.
Advertisement in the Litchfield Monitor, February 1, 1792.
Connecticut Acts & Laws, 1796.
These two Acts addressed the topic of women and sex, establishing a double standard in which a married woman having sex with any man other than her husband would be punished for adultery, while a married man having sex with an unmarried woman would be punished for fornication, a less serious crime.
…a woman is essentially a being of retirement and seclusion, and …her nature becomes deteriorated by any employment which brings her before the public. Home is our province, and let your greatest wish and endeavor be, to perform the duties belonging to it, perfectly and properly: do not seek to raise yourself by your talents or acquirements, to be the rival of the other sex; but let your delight and desire be, to contribute to their happiness. Nature has made us subservient to man, and we rely upon him for support and assistance.
~ Jane Kinderly Stanford, essay in The Bridal Keepsake,
an advice book for new brides, published in 1848.
A man may love his intellect—nay, he may even make it his mistress, as it were, by his intense devotion to it. But a woman, never—and it is very evident that she is not inclined to cultivate it; but instead of this she prides herself upon her external accomplishments, and seeks earnestly to improve and elevate her affections. There is in her nature, born with her, a continual desire and leaning to unite herself with the intellect of the man. Thus she listens with delight to his discourse, without wishing to display her own power of mind, perfectly satisfied if she can be agreeable and acceptable to him.
~ Mrs. Colman, introduction to The Bridal Keepsake, an advice book for new brides, published in 1848.