Feme covert, feme sole & femme de couleur libre

 
 
 

 

5 February 2014

Many legal puzzles created by women we track through the past can be resolved if we understand their status at law and the language that describes their status. In today's edition of "Wednesday's Words," we cover three of those:

Feme Covert: A married woman, whose legal rights are “covered” by those of her husband—i.e., merged with his to the point that he was the legal party entitled to act on their behalf.

Feme Sole: A spinster, a widow, an abandoned wife, or a married woman who is authorized by law to manage her own financial affairs.

Femme de couleur libre: A free woman of color in a French-speaking slave regime such as early Louisiana, the Carribean, or the Mississippi Valley. The term was most often applied to multiracial females who had African ancestry, but also included females of Native American ancestry who had not been absorbed into the white population.

Do note the variances in spelling the first word of each term. Feme covert and feme sole were legal terms expressed in Latin. Femme de couleur libre was also a legal status, but the language of the term is French.