Land Ownership

Cooper Museum staff are working on a project to track the ‘original’ ownership of all the land in the Ontario Colony.  We are using records from the county tax assessor, county deeds, original land sales documents on file at the library, phone directories and anything else that comes to hand that has such things as historic property files, lot numbers, general locations or addresses.  Would you like to help with this project?  Volunteers are welcome to transcribe, collect and research existing files.

The other communities will follow and if you are from one of our other cities and would like to coordinate or help with a similar project, we would love to have you on board.

Land ownership by women in California -aerial

Taken from -  Selling the City ?  by Lee Simpson.

California’s constitution of 1849 protected women’s rights not only to property acquired prior to marriage but to property acquired independently after marriage.  Inherited from the Mexicans, this law set the standard by which all future community property law would be evaluated.

Prior to 1870, as community property law evolved, women slowly gained the right to control finances separate from their husbands.  In 1852, the California state legislature enacted a law permitting married women to engage in business as ‘sole traders’.  Sole trader status guaranteed that the business and profits a married woman acquired independent of her husband belonged exclusively to her; a lien could not be place on them to pay of the debts of her husband.  Once registered as a sole trader, a married woman?s assets attained after marriage were no longer at the disposal of her spouse.  In 1870, the legislature repealed the registration requirement and gave women the protection they needed to pursue their independence as capitalists.  The legislature further amended the law to permit a husband and wife to determine for themselves the status of their property as joint tenants, tenants in common or community property.  Although the husband continued to have the sole right to manage community property, recognition of separate property status for women opened the world of business and real estate to California women.  Between 1872 and 1917, only small changes were made in the wording of community property law.  In the 20th century, as the social status, political importance and economic position of women developed, community property law evolved to give the wife ownership rights commensurate with her contributions to the marriage, family income, and industrial society.  While separate property ownership gave women legal economic equality with men in California, socially and politically they continued to lag far behind.  Between 1880-1940, however, middle- and upper-class women increasingly fought against the social and political barriers to property ownership and management for all women.  They asserted their rights by demanding that cities respond to their claims and protect and enhance one of the few economic assets they had.  Individually and through their women?s clubs, women confronted city councils on issues as diverse as street grading and widening, tree planting, eminent domain, beautification ordinances, curfews, and zoning.  Women?s clubs in particular took it as their special mission to inform women of their property rights and to act as women?s advocates by petitioning local, state and federal governments to protect those rights.  In the process, they fond themselves drawn into the nexus of their local city growth machine.

Although women may have had the legal right to own property, breaking down the social and political barriers to economic independence proved a daunting task and one that only a few overtly political women took on.  For most women, taking advantage of their legal right to own property required what might be called an ‘apprenticeship’ in property owning and managing.  The evidence suggests that between 1880 and 1910 women evolved into active members of the growth machine by completing an apprenticeship that introduced them to the workings of the land market and the language of capitalism.

About the Author