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A widow is a woman who had been married, but whose husband has died. This meant that she was now in possession of the Widow's Bed, usually equal to or greater than her dowry, as determined by the terms of the marriage settlement. In the case of a woman from a wealthy family, married to an equally wealthy husband, the widow could find herself the mistress of extensive lands, as well as other assets, as an estate or land was often part of a wealthy bride's dowry. This was a means of keeping assets within the family, even when one had daughters.
If her husband had died intestate, she was entitled to one-third of her deceased husband's estate, her dower portion (excluding any entailed property). The remaining two-thirds were divided amongst any legitimate or acknowledged children of the husband, and the widow became the Administratrix of the estates of any minor children.
A widow was free to remarry, and able to contract a second or subsequent marriage on her own behalf. Yet widowhood was the one female condition that allowed a woman to be free from the dictates of a male custodian, be he father, brother, husband, or other relation. A widow could conduct business on her own behalf (though usually via a male estate manager or steward), and could continue her deceased husband's business, if he had been in trade. In addition, society did not hold her up to the high moral standards of behaviour which they held out for maidens. Widows were thought to be "merry", because of their newly attained freedom.
Widows can also select the benefit Lump Sum (where as young unmarried daughters and married ladies cannot).
- Widowed - for a list of Biographies of both widows and widowers