Sunday, May 1, 2011

Young Woman's Dowry Dispute

One woman in 1700s New Mexico named Eduarda Yturrieta represents so many other women’s stories of the time. She married young, was widowed twice, and raised many children. But she was atypical because she sued her father-in-law in a dowry dispute.

Eduarda was a young Spanish woman who married into the famed Durán y Cháves clan that settled the northernmost region of New Spain in the 1600s. Her father-in-law was Don Nicolás Durán y Cháves, who was a landowner south of Albuquerque.

Eduarda Yturrieta, whose parents were José Mariano Yturrieta and Juana Teresa Romero, married Luís Chavez in April 1747. The couple had a daughter named Maria Isabel, who grew up in Los Padillas and is believed to have married Joaquin Torres – the great-grandfather of our progenitor Crespin Torres. Eduarda married her first husband 100 years before Crespin was born.

Eduarda reportedly was born in the 1730s in Plaza de Gutierres near Albuquerque. She and Luís lived in a place called Sitio de Gutierres in the 1750 Spanish census with their infant daughter Maria. Their family servants at the time were named Magdalena and Antonio.

Eduarda’s second husband was Diego Padilla. She had about 10 children with him born in the 1750s-’70s. But she was a widow by the time of the 1790 Spanish census, living at the Plaza de Los Padillas. And she likely died before 1802, when another Spanish census makes no mention of her in Plaza de Los Padillas or any other nearby community.


Online abstracts of the proceeding and book excerpts help explain the dispute, although we have not seen the original Spanish document:

Luís must have died in 1751 after only four years of marriage. While a dowry helped finance initial costs of creating a household, it also provided some economic security in the event of an early widowhood, according to author Ramón A. Gutiérrez. Livestock was the item most frequently used for dowries in New Mexico.

“Don Luís Durán y Chávez received ‘700 pesos … in 200 young, healthy and sheared ewes, 14 cows, and one team of plow oxen,’ from Doña Eduarda Itturrieta’s father at their 1747 betrothal,” Gutiérrez says.

With the help of her brother or father (they had the same name) and Albuquerque procurador Ramon Garcia Jurado, the nearly 20-year-old Eduarda sought to recover 730 pesos worth of the dowry to be paid in livestock. The matter was resolved in her favor as long as she would not make another claim that the debt was unpaid.

700-730 pesos? It wasn’t an exorbitant dowry but was a good sum at that time. An unrelated Spanish Archives entry – from a 1740s estate matter– gives an example of the value of some everyday items: steers were worth 20 pesos, cows were worth 16 pesos; mares were valued at 15 pesos; ewes were 2 pesos; a gun was about 40 pesos; a pair of silk stockings with gold embroidery, 8 pesos; and a saddle with silver mount, 120 pesos.

Dowry proceeding source: “The Spanish Archives of New Mexico: Compiled and chronologically arranged with historical, genealogical, geographical, and other annotations, by authority of the State of New Mexico. Vol. 2.” By Ralph Emerson Twitchell. The Torch Press. 1914. Page 229. Entry # 516.

Primary source: Spanish Archives of New Mexico (SANM II), 1621-1821; Roll 008, Frames. 0720-0735 (in Spanish).

“When Jesus Came, the Corn Mothers Went Away: Marriage, Sexuality, and Power in New Mexico, 1500-1846.” By Ramón A. Gutiérrez.
Stanford University Press. 1991. Page 262.

“The Legal Culture of Northern New Spain 1700-1810.” By Charles R. Cutter. University of New Mexico Press. 1995. Pages 101, 192.

1 comment:

  1. This was one of my favorite stories to tell my Seventh Grade, New Mexico History classes about how women in Colonial New Mexico had more rights than women in the British Colonies. Women in the British Colonies and later in the U.S. had no right to bring a suit to court, while women in New Mexico were petitioning decisions by alcalde mayores. cybergata, a.k.a. Nancy Lucía López