Author Topic: How unusual was divorce in early twentieth century?  (Read 1152 times)

Online LizzieL

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How unusual was divorce in early twentieth century?
« on: Friday 07 November 14 13:55 GMT (UK) »
As FindMyPast is offering free access to World records for the weekend from midday today, I thought I would try and find out a bit more about my father's second cousin who went to Australia. I was surprised to find a newspaper article (from Northampton, England) which mentioned him as the co-respondent in a divorce case. I was surprised that a divorce should make the local papers. Was it still so rare in 1922?.
Berks / Oxon: Eltham, Annetts, Wiltshire (surname not county), Hawkins, Pembroke, Partridge
Dorset / Hants: Derham, Stride, Purkiss, Scott, Sibley
Yorkshire: Pottage, Carr, Blackburn, Depledge
Sussex: Goodyer, Christopher, Trevatt
Jersey: Fowler, Huelin, Scott

Offline KGarrad

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Re: How unusual was divorce in early twentieth century?
« Reply #1 on: Friday 07 November 14 14:08 GMT (UK) »
Until changes in the law in 1923(?) divorce remained too expensive for most people until the 1920s.

The husband could sue on the grounds of adultery - the wife couldn't do the same until 1923.
Or the cause could be assault?
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Online LizzieL

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Re: How unusual was divorce in early twentieth century?
« Reply #2 on: Friday 07 November 14 14:16 GMT (UK) »
In this case it was adultery between the wife and my relative. The husband was a bootmaker so probably didn't have a lot of money. The wife was described as a professional singer in the report of the divorce, but she is not listed as having an occupation in 1911. I can't find any newspaper references to her singing career either in her maiden name or married name so I suspect she wasn't among the top singers.
Berks / Oxon: Eltham, Annetts, Wiltshire (surname not county), Hawkins, Pembroke, Partridge
Dorset / Hants: Derham, Stride, Purkiss, Scott, Sibley
Yorkshire: Pottage, Carr, Blackburn, Depledge
Sussex: Goodyer, Christopher, Trevatt
Jersey: Fowler, Huelin, Scott

Offline KGarrad

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Re: How unusual was divorce in early twentieth century?
« Reply #3 on: Friday 07 November 14 14:34 GMT (UK) »
In 1914 poor persons possessed of less than 50 (excluding clothes and trade tools) or a woman earning less than 2 a week, could be given the services of a solicitor and counsel without charge, providing that the out-of-pocket expenses of the solicitor and witnesses were paid. Eighty-eight did so that year. This effectively reduced the cost of a divorce to less than 10. By 1920 some forty per cent of divorces were thus assisted. The remainder normally cost about 50 to 60.

(Quoting from The National Archives)
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Offline stanmapstone

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Re: How unusual was divorce in early twentieth century?
« Reply #4 on: Friday 07 November 14 14:41 GMT (UK) »
It is a common belief that you had to be wealthy to get a divorce after 1858,  the very poor could sue without payment of fees 'in forma pauperis' if they could prove their lack of means.
See http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/records/research-guides/divorce-after-1858.htm
The real opening of divorce to all classes did not take place until the 1920s, with the extension of legal aid, and the provision of some local facilities. There were 11,502 divorces 1857-1900, and 16,762 from 1901 to 1920.
See Divorce in England and Wales https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Divorce_in_England_and_Wales

Stan
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Online LizzieL

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Re: How unusual was divorce in early twentieth century?
« Reply #5 on: Friday 07 November 14 14:52 GMT (UK) »
Thank you both for that very useful information. So it seems likely that by 1922 they could reach 1000 per year, as the average in the preceding two decades was about 830 per year. As one article mentioned the first world war caused many marriages to break up, so may be more than 1000. I'm still surprised that it was reported in the local newspaper. Only "celebs" divorces would be reported nowadays.
Berks / Oxon: Eltham, Annetts, Wiltshire (surname not county), Hawkins, Pembroke, Partridge
Dorset / Hants: Derham, Stride, Purkiss, Scott, Sibley
Yorkshire: Pottage, Carr, Blackburn, Depledge
Sussex: Goodyer, Christopher, Trevatt
Jersey: Fowler, Huelin, Scott

Online BumbleB

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Re: How unusual was divorce in early twentieth century?
« Reply #6 on: Friday 07 November 14 14:54 GMT (UK) »
I have copies of paperwork dated 1873 in which the wife sued for divorce on the grounds of "the said JWS having since the celebration of the said marriage been guilty of adultery coupled with cruelty towards the said ES".  She gained her freedom!!

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Offline nanny jan

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Re: How unusual was divorce in early twentieth century?
« Reply #7 on: Friday 07 November 14 14:59 GMT (UK) »

Just this week I found copies of a divorce from 1870.....ordinary couple but after a couple of years he attacked her and then deserted her. She was granted a divorce as a "poor person".

Also one from 1904; again the wife granted a divorce as a "poor person".

Nanny Jan
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Offline ThrelfallYorky

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Re: How unusual was divorce in early twentieth century?
« Reply #8 on: Friday 07 November 14 15:52 GMT (UK) »
That's interesting.
 I'd always been told that as divorce was a) highly expensive and b) not "done" in most families before the 2nd World War, often people merely moved and let people assume they were a widow / widower, often actually re-marrying without declaring previous truth - so there must've been a LOT of bigamists around, but no one seemed to be found out. Oh dear. Family values.
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