This was taken from a post I made to our Facebook page recently
Dower was mentioned in a post a week or so ago and there were some questions and comments about it that slipped by, so we’re going to post about it here.
Keep in mind these comments speaking generally and there may be slight variances from one colony/state to another. Also keep in mind that dower has generally been abolished and replaced with other rights of joint ownership, survivor rights, etc.
Dower, or usually more correctly dower right, was the right a wife had in her deceased husband’s estate (typically a third) as his widow. This right also applied to land owned by the husband. At a husband’s death if a widow elected to take her dower it came before creditors were paid. In terms of a wife “giving up her right of dower” on a deed..it meant that the wife on a deed realized that if the husband had still owned the land at his death that she would have had a dower interest in that property.
During the time when dower was in effect, title was not clear to the grantee if the wife had not relinquished her dower. Dower was generally abolished in most US states by various state acts often referred to generally as “married women’s property” acts.