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This is the first item listed on the two-page inventory of the estate of Elizabeth Welles of Wethersfield, Connecticut, in 1683. We rarely come upon an inventory that dates this early, and even fewer that were of estates of women. Of course, it helps that she was the widow of Governor Thomas Welles. And in his will of 1659, he designated that “the land wch I head of hers should return to her agayne; . . and that howsehold stuffe wch remaynes.” Property brought to a marriage by the wife generally was subsumed by the husband’s estate, so Thomas’ actions were quite unusual. But it explains the size of the inventory, and the fact that she owned 14 acres of meadowland, 30 acres of upland and one 50 acre lot.

The first 14 items in the inventory are clothing, including gowns, petticoats, waistcoats, and suits. The list also includes yard goods, bed linens, a featherbed, rugs, pewter, livestock, and cookware. The inventory was taken by Samuel Talcott, James Treat and Samuel Butler, selectmen of the town of Wethersfield. Ms 07880.

For more information on coverture (women’s property rights in marriage) please visit the following web site: womenshistory.about.com/od/laws/g/coverture.htm.

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