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A village ahead of the equality curve

For centuries a small village in western Spain has practiced equality when it comes to family inheritance – a tradition ahead of its time and also the subject of study by a nontraditional BYU student.

Debbie Gurtler, a history student and mother of three grown children, is heading to Garganta la Olla, Spain, to take a closer look at a community that has evenly divided deceased parents’ property among all surviving children since as early as the 1600s. The period’s more common practice of giving the lion’s share to the firstborn son makes this town an ideal setting for study.

“Not a lot of research has been done on equal inheritance and to throw women in the mix is something you wouldn’t expect,” Gurtler said. “I’m curious to find out what they were able to do and what kind of power this might have given them in the community.”

Gurtler will be digging through town and church archives to find basic documents such as wills and marriage certificates to better understand the practice and implications. Also, her faculty mentor, Dr. George Ryskamp, has pointed her toward a lawsuit over land ownership that may offer a window to women’s rights in the village at the time.

Writer: Ashley Fickenwirth


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