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The Legal Status of Women
in the
United States of America


as of January 1, 1958

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5 RKtfedSil^peSple of Alaska—

Women’s Bureau Bulletin 157-51

James P. Mitchell, Secretary
K. Leopold, Director

Mbs. Alice

The report for Alaska was prepared by Laura H. Dale, under
the general direction of Alice A. Morrison of the Division of
Women’s Labor Law and Civil and Political Status of the
Women’s Bureau, U. S. Department of Labor.

Cover clipping from an AP release in The Evening Star,
Washington, D. C., August 27, 1958


For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U. S. Government Printing Office
Washington 25, D. O. - Price 10 cents

Introduction ____________________________________________
Civil rights
Contracts and property__________________________________
1. Age of majority
2. Contractual powers of a minor____________________________
3. Property exemptions from seizure for debt_____________________
A. Respective rights of man and woman____________________
B. Homesteads
4. Ownership and control of property owned at marriage__________
5. Contractual powers of a married woman______________________
6. Earnings of a married woman________________________________
7. Liability for family support
8. Right of a married woman to engage in a separate business_____
9. Rights of a married woman with respect to separate property___
10. Property acquired by joint efforts of husband and wife_________
11. Damages for injury to person, property, or character___________
12. Damages for injury by spouse to person or property____________
13. Competency of husband or wife to testify for or against each other.
14. Right to dispose of separate property by will__________________
15. Inheritance rights in deceased spouse’s estate______ ________ __
16. Provision for survivors during administration of estate__________
17. Right of husband or wife to disinherit the other by will____ ____
Marriage and divorce
_______________________________________ _
18. Age of consent to marriage
19. Common-law marriage
20. Premarital requirements
21. Interstate cooperation in marriage-law enforcement.............. ........
22. Annulment'.
23. Divorce ____________________________________________
Parents and children_______________________________________ _
24. Parents’ right to services and earningsof a minor child__________
25. Guardianship of a minor child
26. Appointment of testamentary guardianfor a minor child________
27. Inheritance—child
28. Child born out of wedlock__________ __________________ __
29. Inheritance—child born out of wedlock______________________
Political rights ...
30. Domicile of a married woman
31. Public office—eligibility of women
32. Jury service—eligibility of women______________________ ______









The Legal Status of Women in the
United States of America

Any conclusion bearing on woman’s status under the laws of the
United States of America must take into account the common law,
on which the fabric of the Nation’s jurisprudence is woven.
The common-law rules of property sprang from various causes,
notably tradition, military or economic exigency, and “natural male
dominance.” Economic and social advances in the position of women
in the United States have brought about marked changes in the laws
governing property and family rights and political status.
In general, it has been the rule that where specific statutes abrogat­
ing common-law principles have not been enacted, the common law
applies. In the century just past, many of the old common-law
injustices to women have been removed by statute.
The material considered centers largely around the woman in the
marriage relation, since the legal status of the unmarried woman is
practically identical with that of the unmarried man.
The United States Summary of the Legal Status of Women in the
United States of America, Bulletin 157, has been brought up to date
as of January 1, 1953. Information in the Summary is compiled
from the reports for each of the 48 States and the District of Colum­
bia. Material for Alaska will be incorporated in the United States
Summary when the latter is revised.


Constitution of Alaska
Compiled Laws of Alaska (Annotated), 1949
Session Laws, 1949, 1951, 1953, 1955, 1957
Alaska Eeports
Alaska Federal Reports

Explanatory Note

This pamphlet, Bulletin 157-51, presents a digest of the Constitution
and statutory provisions affecting the legal status of women in Alaska.
It includes pertinent statutory changes enacted up to January 1,1958,
and supersedes the section in the previous report and addendum for
References to the code sections are indicated by parenthetical in­
sertions of section numbers, as “ (sec. 20-1-1).”
Session laws are referred to by year of enactment and page number,
as “(1955, p.479).”
Case citations definitely construing statutes or declaring judicial
policy in the absence of express statutory provision are indicated by
footnote references. Cases showing historical development of a statute
or policy are followed by the abbreviation “hist.”
Numbered subject headings are the same as those used in the Sum­
mary. Cross references employ these numbers for brevity, as “see
No. 6,” which refers to the subject heading “Earnings of a married

Contracts and Property

1. Age of majority
The age of majority is 21 years for males and for unmarried females.
At majority, all persons have control of their own actions and business,
and all the rights and liabilities of citizens of full age (sec. 20-1-1).
All females attain majority upon marriage, according to law (sec.
2. Contractual powers of a minor

The Uniform Sales Act provides that a minor must pay a reasonable
price for necessaries sold and delivered to him, “necessaries” meaning
goods suitable to the condition in life of the minor and to his actual
requirements at the time of delivery (sec. 29-1-2).
Under the common law, in general, all contracts of a minor for other
than “necessaries” may be voided by him.
A minor cannot be executor of a will. Upon coming of age, how­
ever, he may apply within BO days, if otherwise competent, to serve
and qualify as executor. When a minor qualifies as executor, the
power of the interim administrator, if appointed, ceases. If another
executor has qualified and is acting as such, the two become joint
executors (1953, p.286).
3. Property exemptions from seizure for debt
A. Respective Rights of Man and Woman

Property exemptions from execution are available to a “judgment
debtor,” and appear to apply generally to either men or women, with­
out regard to marital status (sec. 55-9-78).
A judgment debtor or his agent may, by selection, reserve from sei­
zure for debt certain articles of personal property, including: (a)
Books, pictures, and musical instruments valued up to $75; (b) neces­
sary wearing apparel (jewelry included not to exceed $100 in value);
(c) tools, animals, library, etc., necessary to carry on trade or profes­




sion, up to $500 in value, as well as 6 months’ supply of food for ani­
mals ; (d) household goods and furnishings up to the value of $300; (e)
family seat or pew in place of public worship; and (/) all property
in any public or municipal corporation (sec. 55-9-78).
Earnings up to $200 of the judgment debtor for personal services
rendered within 30 days next preceding the levy of execution or at­
tachment are exempt, if such earnings are necessary for the use of his
family supported wholly or partly by his labor (sec. 55-9-78; 1953,
Proceeds from life-insurance policies are payable to the beneficiary
as designated, free from any claims of the insured, of the persons ef­
fecting the policy, of the creditors or representatives of such persons,
or of the beneficiary (sec. 42-1-27).
B. Homesteads

The homestead of any family, or the proceeds thereof, shall be
exempt from judicial sale for the satisfaction of any liability hereafter
contracted or for the satisfaction of any judgment hereafter obtained
on such debt. Such homestead must be the actual abode of and owned
by such family or some members thereof. It shall not exceed $8,000
in value, nor 160 acres if not located in a town or city laid off into
blocks or lots; or if located in any such town or city, it shall not exceed
one-fourth of an acre. This act does not apply to decrees for the fore­
closure of any mortgage properly executed; but if the owners of such
homestead be married, then the mortgage must be executed by husband
and wife (sec. 55-9-79; 1957, p. 59).
The family homestead cannot be deeded or conveyed unless both
husband and wife join in the instrument of conveyance (sec. 22-3-1).
The requirement that the spouse of a married person join in any
deed or conveyance of the family home or homestead does not create
an additional proprietary right, title, or interest. The failure of a
spouse to join in a deed or conveyance does not affect the validity
thereof, unless such spouse’s name appears on the title. Such deed
or conveyance is sufficient to convey the legal title to the premises from
the grantor to the grantee, provided that no suit has been filed within
1 year from the date of recording or that the spouse whose interest
is affected has not filed a notice of his or her interest in the property
(1953, pp. 360, 361).
For the widow’s right to remain in the homestead during admin­
istration of her husband’s estate, see No. 16.
4. Ownership and control of property owned at marriage

The property owned by a married woman at the time of her marriage
is her separate property and is not subject to the debts or contracts



of her husband. She may manage, sell, convey, or dispose of it by
will to the same extent and in the same manner that her husband may
control property belonging to him (sec. 21-2-6).
5. Contractual powers of a married woman

A married woman may make contracts and incur liabilities; sue and
be sued in connection with her contracts, rights, and property; and
receive, hold in her own right, and sue for the wages of her personal
labor to the same extent and in the same manner as if she were un­
married (secs. 21-2-10, 55-3-6).
All laws which impose or recognize civil disabilities upon a wife
but not as to a husband are declared repealed, and a married woman
has the same right as her husband to bring suit in her name for any
unjust usurpation of her property or natural rights (sec. 21-2-11).
A married woman is liable on her own account for all civil injuries
committed by her, and her husband is not responsible for them unless
he would be jointly responsible if the marriage did not exist (sec.
A resident married woman conveys her real estate in the same
manner as a married man. When a nonresident married woman joins
with her husband in any conveyance of real estate situated within
Alaska, the effect of such conveyance as well as its acknowledgment
are the same as if she were single (sec. 22-3-14).
A married woman acknowledges a conveyance of real property, such
as deed or mortgage, in the same manner as if she were unmarried
(sec. 22-3-13). An acknowledgment is required as proof of a con­
veyance and must be made before the appropriate certifying officials
(sec. 22-3-9).
A conveyance, transfer, or lien executed by either husband or wife
to or in favor of the other is valid to the same extent as between other
persons (sec. 21-2-3).
A married woman may convey real estate to herself and her husband
as tenants by the entirety (sec. 22-1-6).
Either spouse may authorize the other to be his or her attorney in
fact or to control or dispose of his or her property, and may revoke
such authority, as other persons may do (sec. 21—2—4).
There is no distinction as to sex or marital status in qualifications
for executors, administrators, or guardians (secs. 61-3-1, 61-3-2,
Married women who are material witnesses against a defendant may
be required to procure sureties for their appearance (sec. 66-6-31).
Neither husband nor wife is liable for the debts or liabilities of the
other incurred before marriage and, except as otherwise provided, they
are not liable for the separate debts of each other (sec. 21-2-5).



6. Earnings of a married woman

A wife owns and may sue for lier wages in her own name (sec.
7. Liability for family support

Any parent or guardian who deserts or willfully fails to furnish
necessary food, care, clothing, shelter, medical attention, education, or
support for a child under 16 years of age dependent on him or her for
care, education, and support is guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to
fine, imprisonment, or both, as is any man who abandons his wife or
refuses or neglects to provide necessary maintenance for her (sec.
8. Right of a married woman to engage in a separate business

No statutory provision exists which requires the consent of the
husband to his wife’s engaging in a separate business.
9. Rights of a married woman with respect to separate property

A married woman may manage, sell, and will the pecuniary rights
and property owned by her at the time of her marriage or acquired
afterward by gift, devise, or inheritance, to the same extent and in
the same manner that her husband can property belonging to him (sec.
21-2-6). The property acquired by a married woman during cover­
ture by her own labor is not liable for the debts, contracts, or liabilities
of her husband, but is in all respects subject to the same exemptions
and liabilities as property owned at the time of her marriage or after­
ward acquired by gift, devise, or inheritance (sec. 21-2-7).
A married woman may prosecute and defend all actions for the
preservation and protection of her rights and property as if unmarried
(sec. 55-3-6).
Should either spouse obtain possession or control of property belong­
ing to the other either before or after marriage, the owner of the
property may maintain an action therefor, or for any right growing
out of the same, as if they were unmarried (sec. 21-2-2).
When a wife has in her own right an estate of inheritance in lands,
she may either sell or convey such property without her husband
joining in the conveyance or dispose of it by will. When so sold or
conveyed or disposed of by will, such property is not subject to any
estate by curtesy as known to the common law (sec. 63-1-21).
Neither spouse is liable for the premarital or separate debts, con­
tracts, or liabilities of the other, nor is generally the property owned
by either of them (secs. 21-2-1, 21-2-5).



10. Property acquired by joint efforts of husband and wife

In the absence of a specific provision to the contrary, by rule of
common law the husband has the management and control of property
gained by joint efforts during marriage.
Husband and wife may, by common-law rule, own property as
tenants by the entirety, with right to survivorship; i. e., on the death
of either spouse the survivor becomes full owner of the entire property.
Joint tenancy (excepting tenancy by the entirety or interests in person­
alty such as bank accounts) is abolished, and all persons having an
undivided interest in real property are declared to be tenants in
common (sec. 22-1-6).
When a deposit has been made in a banking institution in the names
of two or more persons and payable to either or to the survivor, pay­
ment in whole or in part may be made to either of said persons whether
the others be living or not (sec. 34-1-27).
11. Damages for injury to person, property, or character

All laws which impose or recognize civil disabilities upon a wife
which are not imposed or recognized as existing as to the husband are
hereby repealed; and for any unjust usurpation of her property or
natural rights she shall have the same right that the husband has to
appeal in her own name alone to all courts for redress (sec. 21—2—11).
When the death of a person is caused by the wrongful act or omis­
sion of another, an action may be maintained against the latter. The
action must be commenced within 2 years after the death, and the
damages are not to exceed $15,000. The amount recovered, if any,
is to be exclusively for the benefit of the decedent’s husband or wife
and children and is to be distributed after payment of all debts and
expenses of administration. When there is no surviving husband,
wife, or children, the amount recovered is to be administered as other
personal property of the deceased person (1949, p. 222).
12. Damages for injury by spouse to person or property

In the absence of a specific statute empowering husband and wife
to sue each other for personal torts, neither spouse may maintain such
action against the other, by rule of common law.
Should either spouse obtain possession or control of property
belonging to the other either before or after marriage, the owner of
the property may maintain an action therefor, or for any right grow­
ing out of the same, as if they were unmarried (sec. 21-2-2).
13. Competency of husband or wife to testify for or against each

In civil actions, generally, a husband may not be examined for or



against his wife without her consent, nor a wife for or against her
husband without his consent ; nor can either during the marriage or
afterward, without the consent of the other, be examined as to any
communications made by one to the other during (lie marriage. This
restriction does not apply to a civil action between spouses, nor to
a criminal action or proceeding for a crime committed by one against
the other (sec. 58-6-3).
In criminal actions, generally, when one spouse is the party accused,
the other is a competent witness but may not be allowed or compelled
to testify unless both spouses consent. However, in all cases of per­
sonal violence upon one by the other, the injured spouse is a competent
witness and may be allowed to testify against the other (sec. 66-13­
58). In all prosecutions for abandonment and nonsupport, both hus­
band and wife may testify for or against each other (sec. 65-8-5).
In certain criminal actions for immorality, a husband or wife is a
competent witness against the other, and the wife may be compelled
to testify on behalf of the government against her husband (secs. 65­
9-17, 65-9-29).
Laws attaching a privilege against the disclosure of communications
between husband and wife are inapplicable under the act for uniform
reciprocal enforcement of support. Husband and wife are competent
witnesses and may be compelled to testify to any relevant matter,
including marriage and parentage (1953, p. 97).
14. Right to dispose of separate property by will

A married woman may dispose of her real and personal property
by will to the same extent as her husband can his property (sec. 21­
Every person of sound mind, when 21 years of age or over, may
dispose of real and personal estate by will, whether married or not
(sec. 59-1-2).
If an unmarried person marries after making a will, the marriage
operates as a revocation of the will. A divorce granted after the
making of a will revokes the will as to the divorced spouse (secs. 59­
15. Inheritance rights in deceased spouse’s estate

The real and personal estate of any person who dies without dis­
posing of his property by valid will descends in the following order
of preference and survivoi'ship:
Absolute interest

Real property
One-half descends to the surviving spouse; the remaining half is



divided according to law among living issue. All descends to the
surviving spouse, when no children or lineal descendants survive
(sec. 60-1-3).
Personal 'property
The surviving spouse receives one-half of personal property remain­
ing after payment of the debts of the deceased and the charges and
expenses of administration, if issue survive; and all of such property,
if no issue survive (sec. 60-1-4, subsecs. 3, 4, 5). The one-half share
to which the widow is entitled is one-half the property owned by the
husband at the time of his death and is not affected by any advance­
ment received by surviving issue from the intestate during his life­
time (sec. 60-1-8); among the charges on the estate is an allowance
to the widow of all articles of her apparel and ornament, according to
the degree and estate of the intestate (sec. 60-1-4, subsec. 1).
Life interest

Estate by curtesy, as known to the common law, is abolished, and
upon the death of the wife intestate her real property shall descend
to her heirs according to the laws of inheritance (sec. 63-1-21).
The widow of every deceased person is entitled to dower, that is,
“the use during her natural life of one-third part in value of all the
lands whereof her husband died seized of an estate of inheritance,”
unless she is barred from such right according to law (sec. 63-1-1).
A woman may not be deprived of her dower right because she is a
nonresident or an alien, if the lands of her deceased husband lie in
Alaska (sec. 63-1-14).
A woman may be barred of her dower in all the lands of her husband
by jointure settled on her with her assent before the marriage, provided
that such jointure consists of a freehold estate in lands for the life
of the wife at least, to take effect in possession or profit immediately
on the death of her husband (sec. 63-1-7). A woman expresses her
assent to the conveyance by which such jointure is settled by becoming
a party to it, but she must either be over 21 years of age or joined with
her father or guardian in such conveyance (sec. 63-1-8). Any pre­
marital pecuniary provision for the benefit of an intended wife and in
lieu of dower bars a woman’s dower right in all the lands of her hus­
band if she has expressed her assent, as required (sec. 63-1-9).
When the estate out of which dower is to be assigned cannot be fairly
divided by boundaries, the dower may be assigned from the income,



to be received by the widow as a tenant in common with the other
owners of the estate (sec. 63-1-5).
16. Provision for survivors during administration of estate

Until administration of the estate has been granted and the in­
ventory filed, the widow and the minor children of the decedent are
entitled to remain in possession of the homestead, all the wearing ap­
parel of the family, and decedent’s household furniture; and also to
have a reasonable provision for their support during this period, to
be allowed by the commissioner (sec. 61-12-1).
A widow may remain in the dwelling house of her husband for 1
year after his death without being chargeable with rent for it, and is
to have reasonable sustenance out of the estate for 1 year (sec. 63-1-15).
(For homestead provision see No. 3.)
When the estate’s inventory has been filed and expenses for funeral,
last illness, and administration have been provided for, the commis­
sioner, upon petition, will award and set apart to the surviving widow
or minor children for her or their maintenance estate property up to
$4,000 in value exclusive of any mortgage or lien, including the home,
household goods, and all property exempt from execution (sec.
61-12-2). (For exemptions from execution see No. 3.)
The commissioner may also make any reasonable additional allow­
ance out of the estate which he considers necessary for their main­
tenance according to their condition in life (sec. 61-12-3), or he may
so award the whole estate if it does not exceed $4,200 in value (sec.
If the total value of the estate is less than $1,000, the commissioner
may proceed under summary administration to permit disposal of
property and distribution of proceeds to heirs and distributees of
decedent (sec. 61-11-1).
When a married woman dies, the administration of her estate is in
all cases granted to her husband, provided he is qualified and com­
petent for the trust and applies for it within 30 days from her death,
unless by marriage settlement or testamentary disposition of her prop­
erty it becomes necessary and proper to grant the administration to
some other person (sec. 61-3-8). In the case of a deceased married
man, when the court appoints his administrator it must give preference
to the wife, next of kin, or both, as against other competent and qual­
ified persons or organizations (sec. 61-3-4).
17. Right of husband or wife to disinherit the other by will

Within the time provided by statute, a woman may elect, after the
death of her husband, between her dower right in the lands of her
husband and the jointure or pecuniary provision made for her either



before their marriage or without her required assent as the intended
wife, but she is not entitled to both (sec. 63-1-10). If any provision
expressly in lieu of dower is made for her in the will of her husband,
she must elect whether she will be endowed of the lands of her husband
or accept the land devised or the provision made in the will, but she
is not entitled to both unless it is plain that it was so intended by the
testator (sec. 63-1-11). Unless she file in the district court, within
1 year after the death of her husband, her election in writing to re­
linquish her rights under the jointure, devise, or provision, it will be
assumed that she has elected to take such jointure, devise, or other
provision (sec. 63-1-12).
There is no provision for a surviving husband to elect to take against
his wife’s will.
Marriage and Divorce

18. Age of consent to marriage

Marriage is a civil contract, which may be entered into by males at
21 years and females at 18 years, if otherwise capable (sec. 21-1-1).
The statutory ages for legal marriage with parental consent are
between 18 and 21 years for males and between 16 and 18 years for
females. Such consent (under oath or in writing, and verified by affi­
davit) is required of parents or guardian, or in the absence of either of
these, permission from the commissioner of the precinct. No license
may be issued to either of the contracting parties if under the age of
18 years if male and 16 years if female (sec. 21-1-12).
If the female applicant is under the marriageable age of consent
(16), but presents a certificate from a licensed physician recommend­
ing marriage, and the consent of her parents or guardian, the commis­
sioner may issue a marriage license (1953, p. 105).
If the license is issued to any female applicant who presents a
certificate from a licensed physician recommending marriage, and the
male applicant is under the marriageable age of consent (18), but
presents the consent of his parents or guardian, the commissioner
may issue a marriage license (1953, p. 106).
19. Common-law marriage

Although there are statutory requirements as to license, witnesses,
and solemnization (secs. 21-1-11; 1955, p. 203; 21-1-14, 21-1-15,
21-1-41 through 21-1-45), the courts have construed these as merely
directory. Marriages have been recognized as valid if good under the
common law, i. e., based on mutual consent and followed by the open
assumption by both parties of marital duties and obligations.1 2
1 McDaniels v. McDaniels (1914), 5 Alaska 107 (hist.).
sReed V. Hartcrader (1920), 4 Alaska Fed. 893; 5 Alaska 668; 264 Fed. 834.



20. Premarital requirements

As a prerequisite for obtaining a marriage license, each applicant
must present a certificate from a licensed physician or surgeon stating
the age of the applicant; that a physical examination including a
standard serological test for syphilis has been given not more than 30
days prior to the date of the issuance of such license; and that in the
opinion of the physician or surgeon, the applicant is neither infected
with the disease nor able to communicate it (1949, p. 168; 1953, p. 155).
Requirements for premarital medical examinations, laboratory tests,
and certificates may be waived and the marriage license issued, if all
other requirements of the marriage laws have been complied with and
proof is presented that no licensed physician or surgeon is available
to make the examination and/or that such examination or test is
contrary to the tenets or practices of the religious creed of which the
applicant is an adherent, provided that the public health and welfare
is respected (1949, pp. 170,171).
In general, a period of 3 days must elapse between the application
for license and the marriage. No marriage license shall be issued
unless both of the contracting parties shall be identified to the satis­
faction of the proper commissioner, who shall further require a state­
ment under oath relative to the legality of the contemplated marriage;
the names, relationship, if any, nationality, color, residence, and
occupation of parties; guardians of such, if under the age of legal
majority; and prior marriage or marriages of the parties or either of
them, and the manner of dissolution thereof; and if there is no legal
objection thereto and neither of the parties is under the influence of
liquor or otherwise incapable of understanding the seriousness of the
proceeding, such commissioner shall issue a license in the form herein­
after provided. The statement under oath in this section required may
be made and executed before a notary public, who shall certify the
same to the commissioner of the precinct in which the statement is
made and certified (sec. 21-1-11; 1955, p. 203).
21. Interstate cooperation in marriage-law enforcement

In the absence of a statute on the subject, it is assumed that the
general rule is followed that if a marriage was contracted by parties
in another jurisdiction in which they actually resided when married,
and the marriage is recognized as legal where contracted, it will be
recognized as valid in Alaska.
22. Annulment
The following marriages prohibited by law are absolutely void if
solemnized in Alaska: Those in which (a) either party has a husband
or wife living at the time of such marriage; (b) the parties are related



to each other within and not including the fourth degree of relation­
ship by whole or half blood (secs. 21-1-2, 56-5-2). Either party may
take court action to have a void marriage so declared (sec. 56-5-4).
A marriage is voidable by the court upon an action by the injured
party whose consent was obtained by force or fraud, or who was
incapable of consenting for lack of majority or sufficient under­
standing, unless it appears that the parties freely cohabited together as
husband and wife after the force was removed, the fraud discovered,
or the impediment removed (secs. 21-1-3, 56-1-3, 56-5-5).
The aggrieved party may maintain an action for dissolution of a
voidable marriage by annulment (sec. 56-5-1).
If the marriage took place elsewhere, the person suing for annulment
must have resided in Alaska for 2 years next preceding the filing of
suit (sec. 56-5-8).
23. Divorce

The aggrieved party may maintain an action for divorce on the
following grounds: (a) Impotency existing at the time of the mar­
riage and continuing when the suit is filed; (6) adultery; (c) convic­
tion of a felony; (d) willful desertion for 1 year; (e) cruel and
inhuman treatment calculated to impair health or endanger life, per­
sonal indignities rendering life burdensome, or incompatibility of
temperament; (/) habitual gross drunkenness contracted since mar­
riage and continuing for 1 year prior to the action; (g) willful neglect
of the husband for a year to provide for his wife the common necessi­
ties of life, when able to do so, or when he so fails by reason of idleness,
profligacy, or dissipation; and (h) incurable mental illness and con­
finement to a mental institution for 18 months prior to the action; (i)
habitual use of narcotics following marriage (secs. 56-5-1; 56-5-7;
1957, p. 267).
Residence in Alaska for 2 years next preceding application for
divorce is required of the person filing the suit (secs. 56-5-9, 56­
On granting a divorce, the court may change the name of the wife
to her maiden or other prior name if she is not the party at fault
(sec. 56-5-13).
Alimony and maintenance

During the suit, the court may order the husband to furnish suffi­
cient money for the wife to prosecute or defend the suit; provide for
the temporary care, custody, and maintenance of minor children;
order the freedom of the wife from her husband’s control; and protect
the property rights of either or both parties (sec. 56-5-12).
Whenever a marriage is declared void or dissolved, the court has



the power to decree that (a) the party at fault, not allowed the care
and custody of the children, contribute such amount as is just and
proper for their care and education; (b) the party at fault contribute
such amount as may be just and proper for maintenance of the other;
(c) the husband deliver to the wife, when she is not the party at fault,
her personal property in his possession or control at the time of the
judgment (sec. 56-5-13).
Parents and Children

24. Parents’ right to services and earnings of a minor child

Under the common law, which applies in the absence of specific
statutory provision, the father is entitled to the services and earnings
of his minor child, by reason of his legal obligation to support and
educate the child.
25. Guardianship of a minor child

In the absence of a specific statute making the parents the joint
guardians of the person of a minor child, the common-law rule giving
preference to the father is in effect. Generally, the parents have no
right of guardianship over the minor child’s estate until formally
appointed by the court for that purpose.
Every guardian appointed by the court has the custody and care
of the education of the minor and the care and management of his
estate until the minor attains majority or until the guardian is legally
discharged, subject, however, to the rights of the father and mother
to have custody of the child’s person (secs. 62-1-4, 62-1-6).
The mother and father are individually and jointly liable, in an
amount not to exceed $500, for malicious or willful destruction of
property by their unemancipated minor child (1957, p. 134).
26. Appointment of testamentary guardian for a minor child

The father may, by his last will in writing, appoint a guardian or
guardians for any of his children, bom or likely to be born, to continue
in office during the minority of the child or for less time. The mother
may make appointment only in the event that the father of the child
died without appointing or whenever, by judgment of divorce between
such parents, the custody of the child has been awarded to the mother.
Testamentary guardians have the same powers and duties with regard
to the person and estate of the ward as a guardian chosen by the court.
However, a testamentary guardian does not take custody of the person
of a minor child when either parent is living and is competent to
transact his or her own business (sec. 62-1-6).



27. Inheritance—child

If a person dies intestate, leaving neither spouse nor direct descend­
ants, his real and personal estate after payment of debts is distributed
to the father and mother equally, or to the survivor of them. If the
intestate leaves no lineal descendants, nor husband, wife, father,
brother, or sister, such real property descends to his mother, to the
exclusion of the issue of the deceased brothers or sisters of the intestate
(secs. 60-1-3,60-1-4).
28. Child born out of wedlock

The parents of a child born out of wedlock have the same obligation
for its support as the parents of a child legitimately born (sec. 65­
A child born out of wedlock in Alaska, heretofore or hereafter, is
legitimized and considered the heir of the father who (a) subse­
quently intermarries with the mother of the child; or (b) is adjudged
to be the father by a United States Commissioner, acting in the ca­
pacity of an ex efficio probate judge or justice of the peace, or higher
court of competent jurisdiction, upon evidence that the alleged father
so conducts and bears himself toward the child, either by word or act,
as to give rise to the general belief in the community that the child
is his, and such conduct and general belief may be construed by the
court to constitute evidence of paternity; or is the father of such
child (1957, p. 148).
29. Inheritance—child born out of wedlock

If a child born out of wedlock who has not been legitimated dies
intestate, leaving no spouse or issue, the mother inherits the child’s
real and personal property (sec. 60-1-6).
A child born out of wedlock is considered an heir of its mother and
inherits as if born in lawful wedlock. Such child is not entitled, how­
ever, to inherit, as representing his mother, any property of her kin­
dred, either lineal or collateral. Provided that when the parents of
such child have formally intermarried, such child shall not be regarded
as illegitimate within the meaning of this code, although such formal
marriage shall be adjudged to be void (sec. 60-1-5).
30. Domicile of a married woman

In the absence of a specific statute, the common-law rule prevails
that the domicile of a wife follows that of her husband.



The rule is not applied if the husband separates from the wife, in­
tending to leave her permanently.3
31. Public office—eligibility of women

Women have the same right to hold office as men (sec. 38-1-1).
32. Jury service—eligibility of women

Every person, without regard to sex, who is a United States citizen,
an inhabitant of Alaska over 21 years of age, and otherwise qualified
is eligible for service on grand and petit juries (sec. 55-7-21). In
drawing a paneling of any jury, discrimination against women is
prohibited (sec. 55-7-22). A woman may claim exemption on the
basis of sex by giving oral or written notice to the clerk of the court
or other authorized official (sec. 55-7-24).
* Wilson v. Wilson (1945), 10 Alaska 616.