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Norwalk Reflector Staff • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:43 PM

Lawsuits originating in Huron County might have eventually furthered women's rights in our country. In the 19th century, women had few legal rights. They could own land and property in their own right and had to sign a deed along with their husband in order to sell real estate, but they could not vote during most of the century.

In general, the property a woman inherited was considered to belong to her husband. Often, he signed the receipt for an inheritance along with his wife, or in her place. If her husband died, she had certain rights as a surviving spouse, but she did not really inherit real estate. Instead, she was allowed dower rights for life and the right to certain income and residence rights unless her husband remembered her more liberally in his will.

In 1857, the Ohio Legislature passed a law allowing married women such personal property as may be exempt from attachment. A husband was prohibited from selling any personal property without his wife's consent, especially property that might have been exempted from a legal attachment in that it was necessary for the family's existence. Further, a husband could not sell personal property to pay debts if he did not own sufficient property in the first place, to pay a debt being collect by Court action.

John and Adafna Spoors Slinker rented a farm from John and Horace Beardsley in Ridgefield Township west of Monroeville. The Beardsley brothers sued for farm rent due and were awarded $708 plus costs from Slinker. He owned a team of horses and harness worth less than $300, and turned these over to the Beardsleys to apply on the money owed.

The 1857 act of the Legislature specified that personal property of less than $300 in value was exempted to the family for its support and, because the Slinkers had little other personal property, Adafna in her own right brought a suit against the Beardsleys to recover the horses and harnesses or the cash value of them.

Huron County Common Pleas Court found in favor of the Beardsleys, but the case was appealed and eventually the Ohio Supreme Court reversed the Huron County decision in 1859 and the Beardsleys in effect lost their case and had to reimburse the Slinkers.

The 1860 census the next year shows the Slinkers living in Peru Township and by 1870 they had moved to Plain Township in Wood County near Bowling Green where they spent the remainder of their days. I would suppose that the lawsuits with the Beardsleys would have threatened their marriage, but perhaps John was happy that Adafna sued as she did.

By the way, if you think Adafna was an unusual name then consider that a genealogist descended from her brother gave me the spelling of Adaphina. No doubt her mother had some good reason for whichever spelling is correct, but one has to wonder about the origin of this name.

The Slinker story was an important step in improved rights for women and was hailed as such in the local newspapers. Instead of having to sit idly by while her husband did as he pleased with their personal property, a wife could try to retain personal property and ensure that her family would be cared for.

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