Betsy Love and the Mississippi Married Women's Property Act of 1839 Lesson Plan


With every social and cultural change in our American society there are individuals and events that serve as catalysts for these circumstances. Betsy Love is certainly a woman who helped bring change not only to Mississippi, but also to our nation. Her role in the lawsuit Fisher v. Allen served as a precedent in establishing the protection of property that belonged to married women. It was Love’s Chickasaw heritage and the tribal law of her culture that helped change the Mississippi state law concerning the property of married women. Most states in the nation followed Mississippi’s example concerning this issue. Unfortunately, Betsy Love’s part in furthering the rights of women has gained little attention not only in American history, but also in history of our state.


US History: Exploration to 1877

  • 8.7.4 - Examine leaders in the women suffrage movement, including: biographies, writings, and speeches of Dorothea Dix, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony, and their influence on women’s rights. 

Mississippi Studies

  • MS.5.3 - Contrast the culture and social structure that developed in Mississippi during the antebellum period. 


Grades 7 through 12.


  • Projector or Smartboard
  • Whiteboard and markers
  • Mississippi History Now article
  • Unlined paper for cartoons
  • Markers and colored pencils
  • Notebook paper
  • Pens/pencils


Students will:

  • Determine the significance of the lawsuit Fisher v. Allen.
  • Explain the importance of the Married Women’s Property Act of 1839.
  • Identify those individuals and events involved in facilitating the passage of the Married Women’s Property Act of 1839.


The teacher will ask the class to name female Mississippians who have made contributions to Mississippi and/or American history. The names can be listed on the board. The teacher will add Betsy Love’s name to the list and then ask the students to name her contribution to Mississippi history. More than likely, the students will not be able to answer questions about Betsy Love. Students will be informed that they will learn about Love’s contributions to the development of women’s rights in the state of Mississippi.


  1. The students will be asked to copy into their notebooks the questions listed at the end of the lesson plan. The questions can be listed on the whiteboard, Smartboard, or projector.
  2. Students will use the Mississippi History Now article in order to answer the questions. Students may work alone with a partner for this portion of the lesson plan.
  3. Once the students have completed the questions, allow student-volunteers to share their questions with the class. Students may check the answers to the questions for accuracy and comparison. The question-and-answer session for this article will lead the discussion. Be sure that students understand the precedence established by Fisher v. Allen and how it contributed to the passage of the Married Women’s Property Act of 1839.
  4. After the class discussion is complete, allow for students to complete one of the following activities (students should be allowed to work with a partner for this portion of the lesson):
    1. A newspaper editorial or letter to the editor that might have been published before or after the passage of the Married Women’s Property Act of 1839.
    2. A speech that might be delivered during Women’s history month to celebrate Betsy Love’s importance to women’s rights.
    3. A letter addressed to Elizabeth Gasper Brown addressing why Betsy Love may have had more significance in the passage of the Married Women’s Property Act of 1839 than Mrs. T.B.J. Hadley.


Allow students to share their letters or speeches with the class.


  1. Class discussion and participation
  2. Questions
  3. Editorials or speeches


  1. Allow the students to research the culture of the Chickasaw tribe.
  2. Allow students to research gender roles in American society in 1839; they can complete a comparison/contrast study between them and gender roles today.

Questions for Betsy Love article

  1. Why was Betsy Love’s husband, James Allen, sued in 1831?
  2. How did Mississippi and American law support the actions of the county sheriff when he seized Toney, the enslaved person, to settle the debts of James Allen?
  3. What principle did Fisher v. Allen establish? How did Betsy Love’s Chickasaw heritage support this principle?
  4. Why do you think scholars such as Elizabeth Gasper Brown gave credit to Mrs. T.B.J. Hadley for bringing attention to the protection of property owned by married women? Is there evidence that she was instrumental in helping to pass the Married Women’s Property Act of 1839?
  5. Why do you think the Married Women’s Property Act of 1839 was voted down several times before it was finally passed by the Mississippi Legislature?