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Sarah Banks: The Unknown Feminist Hero

Professor Collier talks to UB students about Sarah Banks and the Married Women’s Property Act of 187

On October 26, 2011

Professor Christopher Collier, Professor of History and former Official State Historian of Connecticut, came to University of Bridgeport to lecture his research findings about a Fairfield woman who should have been a feminist hero.


In the Necessary Voices Lecture Series, UB students were introduced to Professor Collier, the author of eight historical books including "My Brother Sam is Dead." In his current project, Collier is researching about Sarah Banks, the woman who spent six months in the Bridgeport jail due to Connecticut's covertures policies in 1865.


Throughout his lecture, Collier gave a great detail of Bank's tribulations of her life. After inheriting her father's property from his death, Banks later on married a man name Jesup Sherwood who ended up taking her property under his name. Due to the Married Women's Property Act of 1877, the husband inquired all of the wife's properties and it becomes his own. Even after the husband dies, the property goes to the children while the wife has no say in this since married women had no legal standing. 


Banks tried to regain ownership of her property since Sherwood was being irresponsible of her belongings, but was denied by the court and was told to surrender all of her property notes to her husband. Banks refused and was later jailed for six months.


During those months in jail, Banks and her female inmates planned on helping Sarah to not only get a divorce from Sherwood, but also get back her property as well. After a couple of tries the legislative approved of her request and in 1877 created an act that stated that women were equal to men.


Professor Collier believes that Banks was the one who behaved in a heroic way which inspired the women's rights movement. Even though there are still a lot of unanswered questions, Collier wants to find out more about the women's movement and loves the "thrill of discovering gratification to enlighten the general public."


Jorge Rodriguez, a Graphic Design student, was surprised that laws were so against women back in the day. He states that it was very inhuman and notes that "women are not properties."


Rachel Rambo, a sophomore student, was very enlightened on how bad it was back then, but also mentions that it was good that how a "gathering of people can make a difference" when it comes to change.

Professor Collier is currently teaching a history course in UB this fall semester. The class marks the 50th anniversary of the first class he had ever taught at the school since the 1960s.

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