Sarah Terry Coleman stood up for her rights in an era when husbands controlled property the wife brought to a marriage.
Sarah's first husband died, leaving her with two children and custody of a small Kentucky farm that would belong to her son when he came of age. A neighbor, Robert Cochran, came calling and, after a decent courtship, proposed marriage. Robert had three grown sons by two previous wives and a well-known history of bad debts. Sarah must have loved him because she accepted his proposal--with one condition. She insisted he sign, and file with the county court, a document relinquishing all rights to her existing property and to her future inheritance from her father’s estate.
I can only imagine Robert's initial reaction and the conversations, or arguments, that followed. He must have loved her very much, and understood his own weakness in financial management, because he complied with her wishes. They were married two days later on November 5, 1833. Their only child was my grandfather, John Robert Cochran.
Sarah was wise to obtain what we now call a prenuptial agreement fifteen years before the first Married Women's Property Act was passed. At the time of their marriage, a husband legally controlled all property. On his death, the wife was entitled to a widow's dower of one-third of his property for her lifetime.
Over the twenty-three years of their marriage, Robert proved Sarah’s wisdom. He managed to lose a considerable amount of his own property to debts he could not pay, including: 150 acres of land (including a house and barn), 40 hogs, 18 head of cattle, 12 sheep, 8 horses, and one wagon.
Causes Cynthia Becker Supports
Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region