Chrome Firefox Safari Edge. Please check your internet connection and refresh the page. You might also try disabling any ad blockers. My guest this week is Prof Ruth Hall. She is one of South Africa's leading experts on land redistribution, land restitution and land tenure in the country. All three of her post-graduate degrees have focused on the land question in South Africa. With land suddenly in the spotlight and a general election around the corner I thought it would be interesting to get some perspective on the debate.
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While a lot of discussion is taking place on the need to change the South African Constitution in order to move land distribution forward, Ruth feels it is a lack of political will from the ANC that has stalled the process. She also feels that land redistribution efforts have focused on giving farms to a politically connected urban elite, and not the poorest of the poor.
He offered her twenty-five dollars a column, and when she refused, he increased his offer until she finally accepted at one hundred dollars a column—making her the most well-paid newspaper writer of her time. Her serialized novella, Fanny Ford, appeared in , after which she signed a contract to write an exclusive weekly column for the Ledger, which began in January and ran continuously until her death in The overarching theme in all of Fern's work is women's economic independence. The protagonist of Ruth Hall pursues the goal of economic independence, as did Fern herself.
After she finds that her culture's prescription of submissive dependency does not work, Ruth begins to assert her independence. When her brother, Hyacinth, refuses to help her, she vows that she will succeed on her own: "I can do it, I feel it, I will do it" p. The author describes Ruth as a ship "steering with straining sides, and a heart of oak, for the nearing port of Independence" p. Unlike most traditional nineteenth-century novels, Ruth Hall does not end with the heroine's marriage; in fact, there is not even an eligible man on the scene.
The novel concludes, not with the picture of a new husband but with the picture of a certificate for ten thousand dollars in bank stock made out to Ruth Hall. That this is the only illustration in the book is indicative of the certificate's significance. In addition to dramatizing this theme in the novel, Fern stated it explicitly in her newspaper articles.
Writing in the New York Ledger on 19 December , she called upon women to follow her independent example, in spite of the criticism they might receive from "conservative old ladies of both sexes. Not only would success silence or ameliorate the criticism, she said, but the financially independent woman would receive better treatment: "She won't have rough usage. She will be in a position to receive good treatment from motives of policy. She will, in short, stand on her own blessed independent feet as far as 'getting a living' is concerned, as I do to-day" Ledger, 18 September On 16 July she wrote in response to a newspaper writer who had criticized female physicians:.
Why shouldn't women work for pay? Does anybody object when women marry for pay? How much more to be honored is she who, hewing out her own path, through prejudice and narrowness and even insult, earns honorably and honestly her own independence. The most revolutionary aspect of Fern's belief in women's economic independence was her assertion that such independence could be continued after marriage. Many nineteenth-century novels by women portray an impoverished young woman who is able to earn her own living.
Afshar (large), Ruth Hall Pattern 36″ x 54″, H28B
However, her independence is seen only as a stopgap measure, and by the end of the novel, she always gives up her independent career for marriage and motherhood. Elmo Fern, however, did not see marriage and economic independence as incompatible. It might be difficult to combine career and marriage, she said, but she believed that independence in marriage, such as she herself had attained, was not only possible but preferable to dependency Ledger, 8 July On 18 September she wrote in the New York Ledger:. Woman, be she married or single, being able to earn her own living independent of marriage—that often hardest and most non-paying and most thankless road to it—will no longer have to face the alternative of serfdom or starvation, but will marry, when she does marry, for love and companionship, and for cooperation in all high and noble aims and purposes, not for bread and meat and clothes.
Although Ruth Hall ends with the protagonist's acquisition of economic independence rather than the acquisition of a husband, Fern herself did remarry. In January of she married the writer James Parton — , a man eleven years younger than she. However, before the marriage, she had him sign a prenuptial agreement in which she made certain that all of the money she had earned prior to her marriage and all of the money she earned after her marriage would remain hers alone.
Such a document was even more necessary then than it is today because in all of a wife's earnings automatically belonged to her husband. Fern had had a close call in her second marriage. In , before her identity became known, Samuel Farrington had obtained a divorce in Chicago on grounds of desertion. In September of that year, after her first book was published, Fern dispatched a lawyer to Chicago to determine what the effect of the divorce would have on her earnings.
She must have been elated to read the lawyer's report that the divorce was absolute and that Farrington could not claim "any rights as husband. When he had obtained the divorce he had been unaware that his estranged wife was the famous Fanny Fern, and if he had not divorced her, all of the money she earned as Fanny Fern would have been legally his.
Although the Farrington marriage is left out of Ruth Hall, in Fern's second novel Rose Clark she portrays a woman whose experience was very much like hers with Farrington. The character, Gertrude, becomes wealthy after her divorce, and her ex-husband, John Stahl, attempts to get money from her. When his friend reminds him that because he has divorced her, the law will not allow him to touch her money, he says confidently: "All women are fools about law matters" p. Gertrude, however, is more astute than he had thought, and she sends him packing. It is probable that Farrington similarly attempted to get money from Fern, and if he did, she would have been fully armed with a copy of the lawyer's letter.
That she was not a "fool about law matters" is apparent in the prenuptial agreement she had drawn up before she married James Parton; she made sure that she would never be financially vulnerable again. Of particular importance here is the legal situation of married women in nineteenth-century United States.
American law derived from British common law , and according to common law a married woman did not have an identity separate from her husband. As William Blackstone — wrote in the classic Commentaries on the Laws of England — : "By marriage, the husband and wife are one person in law: that is, the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage" A woman could not sue or be sued, own property separately, retain guardianship of her children, or keep any money that she earned.
Tapping Reeve — , the influential American justice, wrote in Law of Baron and Femme in "The husband, by marriage, acquires an absolute title to all the personal property of the wife" p. In England, wealthy families had long used marriage settlements to establish a separate estate for a married daughter through equity courts, but many of the American states did not have equity courts, and, even when the courts did exist, the process was expensive and complicated. In the s some states began to pass Married Women's Property Acts, but these laws only dealt with inherited property, not the money that a woman earned; they did nothing for working- or middle-class women who did not have a wealthy father to leave money to them.
The laws were designed primarily to protect wealthy fathers, who did not want a spendthrift son-in-law to spend a daughter's inheritance. You will receive email notifications when changes are made to the online memorial, including when family and friends post to the Guestbook. Back to Ruth's story.
Ruth Hall and Other Writings Summary & Study Guide
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Ruth Hall: A Domestic Tale of the Present Time by Fanny Fern - Free Ebook
Follow story. Text size A A A. Ruth Elise Schiebel Hall 82 of St. Peter, died in hospice care at Benedictine Health Services on March 1,