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“F” is for Femme Sole Traders

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“F” is for femme sole traders. Feme sole traders (married women engaged in trade) held a unique status in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century South Carolina. The laws and customs of the times prevented married women from undertaking commercial dealings without consent of their husbands. An important exception to this state of affairs, however, was the granting of sole trading status. As a femme sole trader, a married woman became “as if sole” or unmarried in the eyes of the law for her economic status. Because the activities of a femme sole trader could deprive a husband of services that marriage entitled him to, his consent was required, as was his agreement not to meddle in her business ventures. Statutes regarding femme sole trading in South Carolina first appeared in 1712—and were subsequently amended in 1734 and 1744.

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Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar received his B.A. degree from Davidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.