In colonial Connecticut between 1670 and 1719, women participated in one of every six civil cases, the vast majority of which were debtrelated. Women's participation dropped to one in ten cases after 1719, and to one in twenty by the 1770's. however, as Cornelia Hughes Dayton notes in Women Before the Bar: Gender, Law, and Society in Connecticut, 1639-1789, these statistics are somewhat deceptive: in fact, both the absolute numbers and the percentage of adult women participating in civil cases grew steadily throughout the eighteenth century, but the legal activity of men also increased dramatically, and at a much faster rate. Single, married, and widowed women continued to pursue their own and their husbands' debtors through legal action much as they had done in the previous century, but despite this continuity, their place in the legal system shifted dramatically. Men's commercial interests and credit networks became increasingly far-flung, owing in part to the ability of creditors to buy and sell promissory notes (legal promises to pay debts). At the same time, women's networks of credit and debt remained primarily local and personal. Dayton contends that, although still performing crucial economic services in their communities—services that ontributed to the commercialization of the colonial economy—women remained for the most part outside the new economic and legal culture of the eighteenth century.


The passage is primarily concerned with


reporting an author's view of a phenomenon

disputing the reasons usually given for an unexpected change

evaluating the conclusions reached by an author

assessing the impact of certain legal decisions.

defending a controversial point of view

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