Historical story

Dowry:When did brides stop being property?

In "Fonissa", the unsurpassed work of Alexandros Papadiamantis, Fragogiannou dies paying for her crimes. And there in the last pages, when the tide was leading her to death, the reason for the heinous murders she has committed in the previous pages is also revealed. Papadiamantis makes his heroine, while being covered by the waves, see the deserted field, near the sea, the evil dowry that her parents had given her, to marry, to "cocoon".

" The waves swelled wildly, as if in passion. They covered her mouth and ears. At that moment Fragoiannous's gaze turned to Bostani, the desert north-west coast, where he had given her an argon as a dowry, when she was young. they married and cocooned her, and her parents made her a bride.

— Oh! here's my dowry! he said.

These were her last words. The old woman Hadoula found death at the pass of Agios Sostis, at the neck connecting the rock of the hermitage with the land, halfway between divine and human justice.

Hadoula Fragogiannou hated womanhood, by her own fate. Her poor parents had nothing but a field near the sea (which at the beginning of the last century had zero value, no one imagined how things would change in the course of time), her marriage was led to disaster, to misery.

The murders of the girls that Fragogiannou commits have as their starting point her own fate, from her "dowry" which she faces as if by tragic irony at the end of her life. The novel by Papadiamantis was written through the personal experiences of the leading Greek writer, it vividly describes the relentless life of the poor and women, in a society that had predetermined standards for marriage and personal happiness.

The institution of dowry was one of them. It came straight from the past, but it became a huge thorn in the side of families, especially those who could not afford to endow their girls in marriage. But even those who had the financial means, turned the impending marriage into a commercial transaction, even an auction by the prospective grooms, who did not see the bride, but the property that her father ordered.

Its abolition with the law 1329/83 which was submitted to the parliament in November 1982, put a definitive end to the era of another Greece. After all, the reform of family law came to modernize the structure of the Greek family, as the man was no longer the head, the spouses had the same rights and obligations in the common life, the care of their children, but also the property they acquired after their marriage.

In order for a man and a woman to marry, they should now have reached the age of 18, while until then the law gave a man the right to marry a girl of 14 (!)

Civil marriage was also established (amidst strong reactions from the church), while the previous summer the criminalization of adultery had also been abolished, which had sent dozens of illegal couples to the section with a sedona ("Zavalos" as Lambros Konstandaras also called it in the "villa of orgies" ").

The end of the dowry, which of course gradually disappeared over time, freed the families from the unbearable obligation of the family to dowry the daughters to have luck in life, a good marriage, for which ... they were destined by the their very birth.

The father and son-in-law bargain

Papadiamantis wrote "Fonissa", and Andreas Laskaratos in the Mysteries of Kefalonia attacks the institution as a whole, which essentially destroys marriage. Excommunicated from the church (since in the same book, he goes through fourteen generations of the lot) the prose writer does not hesitate to write in his incomparable style that marriage does not unite two people, but is a commercial agreement, between the father and the prospective bridegroom.

A good groom was in demand, he bargained, regardless of whether the woman he was given wanted him or not. Who cared about women's feelings. Matchmakers did the work, girls had to suppress their lusts and desires, of course they didn't go to school, they had to be good housewives so when they got married (virgins of course) they had to serve their husbands.

Another enlightened writer, Konstantinos Theotokis, has the dowry as the central theme of his novel, "For Price and Money". The blackmail of the worker Epistem by the dowager Andreas, the unexpected pregnancy of the daughter of Rini, compose an almost nightmarish scene, which ends with the wounding of the fallen aristocrat by the mother and her retreat to give almost all her property to save the her daughter. It is Rini herself, however, who in the end refuses to marry Andreas, understanding that he only wanted her for a few "hundreds of dollars".

. "I will go to foreign places, to a foreign world, to other places; I will work for myself and to rock the child that will be born," she tells him, determined to raise her child alone, in a rather revolutionary act for the years that wrote Theotokis.

Dowry stories exist in every Greek home. My father always said that my grandfather, in order to provide for his sisters, gave up all his rights to the family property. And he wasn't the only one.

The dowry was supposed to ensure the prosperity of the family that the newlyweds would create. Essentially, however, it was a bargain between father and son-in-law. The fear of not leaving "the girl on the shelf" favored the exorbitant demands of the so-called dowry hunters. For poor families, of course, no reason.

In many cases, the two sides, in the presence of a notary, signed a detailed dowry agreement on what the groom would receive in detail. There were, of course, also pure frauds who promised marriage, gnawed the dowry and then disappeared. One of them was called "Athenian Arsene Lupine", as he appeared as a groom... a golden opportunity, with a high education, a car to win the trust of women and fathers.

There have even been recorded murders when the man found that the dowry was ultimately less than what he had been promised.

The first battle against dowry (in 1955)

In 1955, twenty-eight years before the law 1329/83, seventeen community leaders of Central Greece submitted a memorandum to Queen Frederica in which they requested the "abolition of the anachronistic institution of the dowry". The letter signed by the Roumelio representatives of the local community underlines:

"The biggest social problem that is presented today in Greece is the dowry of girls. And this problem, especially in the post-war period, appears in its sharpest form. The dowry, whose monetary unit is now the English pound, became the biggest nightmare of families with girls.Mostly the personal worth of a girl is not considered but the amount of pounds she has and the guy will first ask how much money the daughter has and then ask about the daughter.That's why many virtuous girls stay on the sidelines of life and become old daughters and die of withering, and their parents are overwhelmed by disappointment and despair"

The letter was written by Kostas Kitsos, father of four daughters, farmer by profession, president of the Fthiotidos agricultural chamber from 1932 to 1938. Speaking to the press of the time, he told how he was inspired to write the letter (which was adopted by the 17 community leaders).

A countryman of his from the village of Lefkada, neighboring Agios Georgios where Kitsos lived, told him one day:"Someone has come for my girl and is asking me for a dowry and I have nothing to give him. And on top of that, he is also soaked , it is not worth giving her to him. And my daughter said, father you do not kill me better than to take him as my husband"

Kitsos advised him to expel him, but the short villager replied:"This is just a conversation". And then the idea of ​​a total reaction against the dowry that tormented almost all families came into his mind. Frederica never answered. The queen, who a few years later caused an uproar over the endowment of Princess Sofia, with 300,000 dollars from the state budget, was not concerned with the ... louziko. Hence the slogan of the demonstrations of the time "dowry for education and not for Wisdom"

The abolition of the institution became a permanent demand of the women's movement and the first actions were taken by the Gazi committee in 1978, which recommended its abolition along with other changes in family law.

In 1983, it was finally abolished and on February 18, 39 years ago today, all the dowries were returned to the women...