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What was a dowry?

Bed

A dowry was the wealth that a woman brought to her marriage. The dowry could take different forms: land; farm animals, such as cows or chickens; furniture, such as a feather bed, which was considered a luxury. The dowry was given by the father of the bride to the married couple, unless the bride had wealth of her own from a previous marriage. Marriage was an economic partnership. A father could insure his daughter's future by providing her with a large dowry to attract suitors with the potential to provide his daughter with a comfortable lifestyle.

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© Illinois State Museum 31-Dec-96