This section is from the book "Real Property, An Introductory Explanation Of The Law Relating To Land", by Alfred F Topham. Also available from Amazon: The New Law Of Property.
At the present day these rights depend upon whether the marriage took place before or after the 1st of January, 1883.
(A) Common Law. - This still applies in respect of any property acquired before the 1st January, 1883, by a woman who was married before that date (a). The maxim was "husband and wife are one in law." The result was as follows: -
(1) Real Property. - The land of the wife was regarded as belonging to one person, consisting of both the husband and the wife (b). Her land could only be conveyed by a fine in which the husband joined: and the wife had to be examined separately and apart from her husband to ascertain whether she really concurred in the conveyance.
After the Fines and Recoveries Act, 1833, which abolished fines (c), a married woman can convey her lands by deed, but (in cases where the Married Woman's Property Acts do not apply) her husband must concur in the deed, and she must be separately examined before a judge or one of the
(a) Except so far as the Married Woman's Property Act, 1870 (33 & 34 Vict. c. 93), applied, see p. 124.
(b) The husband, however, had the chief control: Thus, he could grant the land for an estate which would last during his own life, without the wife's concurrence, but he could not deal with the fee simple.
(c) See p. 33.
commissioners appointed for the purpose to ascertain whether she really consents to the conveyance (a).
(2) Chattels Real (e.g. Leaseholds). - These vested in the husband alone, so that he could dispose of them during his life without the wife's concurrence: but on his death the ownership of the wife revived. The husband, therefore, could not dispose of the wife's leaseholds by his will: in other respects he was practically absolute owner.
(3) Chattels Personal (e.g. furniture) vested in the husband absolutely, and passed under his will or to his next of kin on his death. But reversionary interests in personal property did not vest in the husband until he "reduced them into possession."
These rules of the common law giving the husband rights over the wife's property were naturally not favoured by Courts of Equity, and consequently Equity allowed property to be given to trustees in trust for the wife separately.
Land and other property which was conveyed to trustees "to the separate use" of the wife, could be dealt with by her in equity as if she were feme sole (= unmarried).
Thus, if the wife had an equitable estate in land for her separate use, she could convey it without the concurrence of her husband, and without separate examination. But as she would thereby be subject to the risk of her husband persuading her to sell or convey her lands for his benefit, the Court of Chancery invented the " restraint on anticipation."
Restraint on Anticipation. - When land was granted to a married woman for her separate use, the grantor could declare that she should be re-
(a) A special custom to the contrary would be invalid. Johnson v. Clark,  1 Ch. 303.
Thus, she could not borrow money on the security of future rents.
This restraint is only allowed to take effect during marriage; and, therefore, if the husband dies, the widow can deal with the land: if, however, she marries again, the restraint revives (d), except so far as she has dealt with the land in the meantime (dd).
(C) By statute.
Some Married Women's Property Acts were passed before 1882, giving a married woman certain rights over some kinds of personal property, such as savings in a bank: these did not affect her lands, except that by the Act of 1870 land descended to her as heiress was made her separate property.
By the Married Women's Property Act, 1882 (e) s. 1, where a woman either
(i) was married after the 1st of January, 1883; or
(ii) was married before that date, but acquired the property after that date.
Then she is capable of acquiring, holding, and disposing of all her real and personal property as if she were a feme sole without the intervention of any trustee (see this section on p. 322).
There are, of course, many women still living who were married before 1883, and who acquired property before that date: to these the old common law applies, and they cannot convey lands unless (i.) they are separately examined and the husband concurs, or (ii.) the land was conveyed to their separate use.
In cases where the Act applies, a married
(d) Tullett v. Armstrong (1838), 1 Beav. 1.
(dd) But see Acton v. White (1823), 1 Six St. 429, where she has merely an interest in the income of property which is held by trustees and payable to her for her life.
(e) 45 & 4G Vict, c. 75.
woman can now deal with her lands in the same way as a man or an unmarried woman.
By the Married Woman s Property Act, 1907 (f), this power is extended to a married woman who is a trustee. Before the Act, a married woman could not convey freehold lands of which she was a trustee, without the concurrence of her husband, unless she was a bare trustee (i.e. a trustee with no duties). This curious exception arose through an oversight, the frarners of the Act of 1882 apparently thinking that it had been dealt with by the Vendor and Purchaser Act, 1874 (see re Harkness and Allsopps Contract (1896), 2 Ch. 358).
The Act of 1907 has removed this anomaly (g).
The Act applies to conveyances made after the commencement of the Act of 1882.
These Acts have not destroyed the "restraint on anticipation."
For, by s. 19 of the Act of 1882, the Act is not to interfere with any restriction against anticipation, present or future. But, by the same section, if a woman settles her own property on herself with a restraint on anticipation, such restraint will not affect her creditors.
The Act of 1882 has extended the scope of the restraint, for it has made all property of a woman married after the Act her separate property.
The restraint does not prevent her from exercising the powers of a tenant for life under the Settled Land Acts.
(f) 7 Edw. VII. c. 18.
(g) This Act also remedies a curious defect of the law introduced by the Act of 1882, by which the husband had power to deal with the wife's property without her consent by means of a covenant made by him before the marriage. See Woolstenholme, "Conv. and Settled Land Acts," 9th Edn., p. 306.