Why did women swear in 1723?

One of the significant features of the 1723 oath rolls is the high number of women subscribers found on many returns (see the finding list for details). This letter from the earl of Aylesford to the earl of Dartmouth gives some indication as to why:

‘I hear from H. Weston to day, that the Lawyers at London, are of opinion, that all Persons are obliged to take the oaths, as well those who have an Interest in Land, as those who have not, apprehending that those who refuse or neglect, will lie under an incapacity to take an Estate hereafter tho’ at present they dont dream of any such good fortune. I think the Act may as well extend to this Case, as to some others that it is construed to extend to. – My wife will go to Warwick & swear, for fear of the worst.’

Dated Nov 28th 1723

Copyright Staffordshire Record Office,

Ref. D (W) 1778/I/ii/580 A/1.

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