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dowry(dou`rē), the property that a woman brings to her husband at the time of the marriage. The dowry apparently originated in the giving of a marriage gift by the family of the bridegroom to the bride and the bestowal of money upon the bride by her parents. It has been a well-established institution among the propertied classes of various lands and times, e.g., in ancient Greece and Rome, India, medieval Europe, and modern continental countries. Generally the husband has been compelled to return the dowry in case of divorce or the death of the wife when still childless. One purpose of the dowry was to provide support for the wife on the husband's death, and thus it was related remotely to the rights of dowerdower,
that portion of a deceased husband's real property that a widow is legally entitled to use during her lifetime to support herself and their children. A wife may claim the dower if her husband dies without a will or if she dissents from the will.
..... Click the link for more information. . In civil-law countries the dowry is an important form of property. In England and the United States (except for Louisiana), the dowry system is not recognized as law.
property—in the form of money, objects, real estate, or other assets—allotted to a bride by her parents or relatives upon her marriage. The custom arose during the period of the decline of the clan system, when monogamous marriage emerged. The dowry was originally an allotment from the common property of the clan, and it continued to be considered the property of the clan after a woman’s marriage. When a woman died childless, her dowry reverted to her clan. As the patriarchal social order became stronger, the dowry first represented the joint property of the married couple but later was usually the sole property of the husband.
The dowry survives and plays an important role in bourgeois marriage. In most capitalist countries, legislation gives the husband the right of sole control over the family’s property, including the wife’s dowry. The dowry has lost its significance in the USSR. It is retained among an insignificant portion of the population, chiefly rural, and is not subject to legal regulation.