First divorce in the colonies

First divorce in the colonies

We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

In the first record of a legal divorce in the American colonies, Anne Clarke of the Massachusetts Bay Colony is granted a divorce from her absent and adulterous husband, Denis Clarke, by the Quarter Court of Boston, Massachusetts.

In a signed and sealed affidavit presented to John Winthrop Jr., the son of the colony’s founder, Denis Clarke admitted to abandoning his wife, with whom he had two children, for another woman, with whom he had another two children. He also stated his refusal to return to his original wife, thus giving the Puritan court no option but to punish Clarke and grant a divorce to his wife, Anne. The Quarter Court’s final decision read: “Anne Clarke, beeing deserted by Denis Clarke hir husband, and hee refusing to accompany with hir, she is graunted to bee divorced.”

The 13 Colonies Timeline covers the time in early American history from 1607 to 1776. During the period of time covered in the Colonies Timeline the colonists and settlers arrived from Europe looking for religious freedom, land and the opportunity for wealth.

The Original Thirteen Colonies

Maryland 1634 Lord Baltimore
Connecticut 1635 Thomas Hooker
Rhode Island 1636 Roger Williams
Delaware 1638 Peter Minuit & New Sweden Company


Origins in Europe Edit

The Amana Colony stems from a religious movement started in 1714 in Germany by Eberhard L. Gruber and Johann F. Rock. They had both grown displeased with the dogmatism of the Lutheran Church and began to study the Pietist teachings of Philipp Spener. [11] Gruber and Rock fervently spread their beliefs and gained a following originally known as the New Spiritual Economy. [12] They believed that God communicated through individuals with the "gift of inspiration", just as he did in the days of the prophets. This individual was called an instrument (German: Werkzeug) because he was thought to be used as a tool of God's will to speak directly to his people. [13]

To spread their beliefs, the group led by Rock and Gruber traveled through Germany, Switzerland, and the Dutch Republic. The group became known as the Community of True Inspiration, and followers were called Inspirationalists. [14] The Inspirationalists faced the opposition of the governments of the German states because they refused to serve as soldiers and would not send their children to Lutheran public schools. [15] Adherents to the faith were imprisoned, flogged, and stripped of their possessions. To escape persecution, many Inspirationalists moved to Hesse, the most liberal German state at the time. Here, the number of Inspirationalists greatly multiplied. [16]

Gruber died in 1728 and Rock followed in 1749 left without an instrument, the Inspirationalists' numbers declined in the subsequent decades. [17] Within a span of a few months starting in 1817, Michael Krausert, Barbara Heinemann, and Christian Metz were all named instruments. Although Krausert soon left the church, Metz and Heinemann were able to revive interest in the Community. [18]

Heinemann retreated from the Community's affairs in 1823, making Metz the sole leader of the church. [19] The Community continued to face persecution from German states for their refusal to serve as soldiers or utilize public schools. In the 1830s, Metz conceived of the notion of leasing a large area of land as a refuge for the Community. They first leased land from a cloister near Ronneburg, then from the Arnsburg Abbey. [20] They expanded to Engelthal Abbey in 1834, and managed all of their land holdings in common. It was at these estates that the philosophy of communal life began to grow within the Community. By the late 1830s, the Community was prospering. [21]

Move to America Edit

The Hesse government levied harsher fines and rents against the Community in the wake of economic turmoil in the late 1830s. Metz and other leaders realized that they had to find a new home for the Community. On August 27, 1842, leaders of the Community gathered at Armenburg, Germany, to discuss a movement to the United States. The Community arrived in New York on October 26. [22] For the next three months, church leaders examined tracts of land to establish a new commune. They agreed to purchase the 5,000-acre (2,000 ha) Seneca Indian Reservation near Buffalo, which had recently become open to European settlement following the Second Treaty of Buffalo Creek. [23] The first settlement was called Ebenezer after the Eben-Ezer in the Books of Samuel. [24]

Over 800 members of the Community immigrated to Ebenezer from Germany. [25] The Community founded a "provisional constitution" in 1843 that defined the intentions of the community, which they called the Ebenezer Society. All lands and buildings were to be held in common, and prosperous settlers were expected to pay community expenses. The initial plan was that, after some time, the land would be divided among the people according to their contribution of money and labor. However, leaders saw that the disparity in wealth, skills and age would make it difficult for all to purchase a portion of land—the community would fall apart as a result. [26] Therefore, the constitution was amended on October 23, 1850, to make the Community exclusively communal. [27]

The 5,000-acre (2,000 ha) purchase was adequate for the first 800 villagers. However, the success of the community brought new settlers, and by 1854, it was apparent that a larger tract of land was needed. Furthermore, the growth of the nearby city of Buffalo concerned church elders, who thought that it could become a bad influence. Buffalo's growth also greatly increased nearby real estate prices, making an extension to Ebenezer financially unfeasible. [28] Metz met with Community leaders on August 31, 1854, to discuss the situation, and the group agreed to send four men (including Metz) to search for a new home out west. The new Kansas Territory seemed like an ideal location, so the group of four traveled across the new lands. However, they could not agree on an appropriate location. [29]

Two elders were then sent to the state of Iowa to examine the large government land grants. Finding appropriate lands near the Iowa River, they returned to Ebenezer to encourage purchase. The Inspirationalists sent four men to purchase the land and all holdings in the vicinity. [29] The first village in what would become the Amana Colonies was laid out in 1855 ( 41°48′01″N 91°52′20″W  /  41.8002°N 91.8723°W  / 41.8002 -91.8723 ). [30]

Founding Edit

The new colony was originally to be named Bleibetreu, German for "remain faithful". However, residents found difficulty properly pronouncing the word in English. Instead, the Inspirationalists settled on Amana, a Biblical name with similar meaning. [31] Under Iowa law, the Community had to incorporate as a business, so the Amana Society was founded as the governing body in 1859. Shortly thereafter, the Community agreed to adopt a new constitution. The resulting twelve-article document was very similar to the amended Ebenezer Constitution. [32]

By 1862, five more villages were laid, bringing the total number to seven:

  • Amana vor der Höhe (High Amana) (
  • 41°48′13″N 91°56′27″W  /  41.8036°N 91.9407°W  / 41.8036 -91.9407 )
  • Süd-Amana (South Amana) (
  • 41°46′31″N 91°58′05″W  /  41.7752°N 91.9680°W  / 41.7752 -91.9680 )
  • West-Amana (West Amana) (
  • 41°48′27″N 91°57′55″W  /  41.8074°N 91.9654°W  / 41.8074 -91.9654 )
  • Ost-Amana (East Amana) (
  • 41°48′32″N 91°50′57″W  /  41.8090°N 91.8493°W  / 41.8090 -91.8493 )
  • Mittel-Amana (Middle Amana) (
  • 41°47′43″N 91°53′54″W  /  41.7953°N 91.8982°W  / 41.7953 -91.8982 )

Each village had between forty and one hundred houses, a church, school, bakery, dairy, wine-cellar, post office, sawmill, and general store. Every able-bodied man was expected to serve in the fire department, and each village had its own fire department. Most houses were two stories and built with local sandstone, which has an unusual hue. They are mostly square with gable roofs. [35]

The last of the 1,200 Inspirationalist settlers from New York arrived in 1864. [31] By 1908, the Community had grown to 1,800 and owned over $1.8 million in assets. [36]

Government Edit

The Great Council of the Brethren, also known as the Board of Trustees, oversaw the affairs and conduct of the Amana Society. Trustees were expected to tend to the internal affairs of the Society as well as its external business interests. Trustees were elected annually by popular vote from the elders of the Community. The trustees would then elect out of their own a president, vice president, and secretary incumbents were usually re-elected. The group met alternately in different villages on the first Tuesday of each month. Each June, the trustees were expected to keep the Society informed of the general condition of its affairs. The Great Council also served as the high court of the Community. [37]

Each village was governed by a group of seven to nineteen elders. Decisions would be made for each village by a group of these elders led by one of the trustees. This governing board was known as the Bruderrath. Elders were selected based on their piety and spirituality. Werkzeug had the authority to appoint elders, but at times when there were no such individuals, they were selected by the Great Council. The Bruderrath had the authority to appoint foremen for each industry. Individuals could petition the Bruderrath if they sought more money, a larger house, or a lighter workload. The Head Elder had the highest level of authority in each village, even over the Bruderrath trustee. [38]

Each community member was provided with an annual sum, with men receiving $40 to $100 a year depending on their career, women receiving $25 to $30 a year, and parents of children receiving an additional $5 to $10 per child. [39] This money was expected to be spent at village stores. Members who failed to budget adequately would be admonished by the Community. If the member did not mend his ways, they could be expelled by the community. Members who were expelled or voluntarily left the Community would receive all of the money they had invested into the common fund plus interest. [40]

Marriage and children Edit

Originally, marriage was permitted only "with the consent of God" through the Werkzeug. Marriage was considered a spiritual weakness. Ceremonies were not joyous affairs, but were instead designed to impress the importance of the task upon the couple. Childbearing was similarly discouraged. Views on marriage gradually liberalized, and the Great Council was later given the authority to approve marriage. Men were not allowed to marry until they were 24 years old. If the Great Council found no fault with the union, then the couple could be wed after a year's wait. An elder would bless the marriage and the community would provide a wedding feast. The community did not recognize divorce, and second marriages (even in the case of a widow) were considered particularly reprehensible. [41] A citizen would be expelled from the community for one year for marrying an individual outside of the colonies, even if the partner wished to join the society. [42]

Dining Edit

There was no cooking in the homes of Amana citizens instead, citizens originally ate together in groups of thirty to forty-five. Communal kitchens, each with its own garden, hosted meals. Men would sit at one table while women and small children would sit at another. Prayers were said in German before and after meals. [43] Meals were not considered social affairs so conversation was discouraged. [44]

There were as many as fifty-five communal kitchens: sixteen in Amana, ten in Middle Amana, nine in Homestead, six in South and West Amana, and four in East and High Amana. The kitchen boss (Küchebaas) was tasked with kitchen operations: cooking, serving, preserving, and chicken husbandry. Kitchen personnel were appointed by the Bruderrat. Communal kitchens were usually large, two-story structures with an attached residence for the Küchebaas. Kitchens typically had a large brick hearth stove, a wood- or coal-burning oven, and a 6-foot-long (1.8 m) sink. Though kitchens originally had to bring water from the nearest well, they were the first buildings to be connected to the colony waterworks. [45] Kitchens were named after the Küchebaas. [46] The communal kitchen concept eroded some time around 1900, as married residents began to eat in their own homes. Food was still cooked in the communal kitchens, but housewives would take the food home. Kitchen staff and single residents still ate in the communal kitchens. [44]

Each kitchen operated individually and had different practices. However, menus were largely standardized across the colonies to prevent any residents from receiving more than their fair share. Saturday night would offer pork sausages or pork rinds, boiled potatoes, cottage cheese with chives, bread with cream cheese, and streusel. The noon meal on Sunday was rice soup, fried potatoes, creamed spinach, boiled beef, streusel, and tea or coffee. Menus changed with the seasons for example, more beef and pork was served in the autumn and winter because it was easier to keep fresh meat. [40]

Work Edit

Common positions held by women were in the kitchens, communal gardens, and laundry, among eight occupations. Men on the other hand had 39 different jobs to choose from, including barber, butcher, tailor, machine shop worker, and doctor. Children also participated in jobs, such as harvesting and agricultural duties for boys and kitchen work for the girls. Children stayed with their mothers until they were two years old. Then, the child would have to attend Kinderschule until the age of seven. At that point, the child would attend school six days a week, all year round until the age of fourteen or fifteen. At school, they shelled, cleaned and graded seed corn, picked fruit, and studied reading, writing and arithmetic. [47]

Amana was known for its hospitality towards outsiders. Members would never turn a person in need away. They would feed and shelter the homeless who would pass through on the train. Some would even be hired as laborers. They would receive good wages, a permit home for the length of their stay and three meals a day in the communal kitchen. The homeless were not the only outside help. Amana would hire many outside laborers to do industrial and agricultural jobs. They worked in the woolen shop, the calico-printing shop or one of the many others.

Worship Edit

Another important governing aspect of the society was the church, which was run by the Board of Trustees. Children and their parents worshiped together. Mothers with young children sat in the back of the church. Other children sat in the first few rows. Men and women were separated during worship: men on one side and women on the other side of the church. Older people and the "in-betweens" who were people in their thirties and forties had to attend a separate service. The service that members attended and where the members sat was a statement of their status in society. Services were held eleven times a week and did not include musical instruments and hymn singing. [48]

Amana and the outside world Edit

Amana would interact with the outside world in two ways, buying and selling. Each village had a center of exchange where all goods were purchased. By the 1890s, these stores were buying a great amount of goods and raw materials from the outside world. Just Middle Amana alone had more than 732 invoices from outside companies. Amana purchased anything deemed necessary to run the society efficiently, such as raw wool, oil, grease, starch, pipes and fittings. Most of the grain was purchased from the outside for their flour-mill, and the printing establishment used cotton goods from the southern states. This brings into question whether Amana was truly an economically isolated society. [49]

Great Change Edit

In March 1931, in the wake of the Great Depression, the Great Council disclosed to the Amana Society that the villages were in dire financial condition. The Depression was particularly harsh in the Colony because fire had badly damaged the woolen mill and destroyed the flour mill less than ten years earlier. At the same time, Society members were seeking increased secularism so that they could have more personal freedom. The Society agreed to split into two organizations: The non-profit Amana Church Society oversaw the spiritual needs of the community, while the for-profit Amana Society was incorporated as a joint-stock company. The transition was completed in 1932 and came to be known in the community as the Great Change. [50]

Most residents of the Amana Colony are considered tri-lingual. They speak American English, High German (Hochdeutsch), and a dialect known as Amana German (Kolonie-Deutsch). The language is High German in origin, but has strong influences of American English. For example, the word for rhubarb is Piestengel, combining the English word "pie" with the German word for stalk or stem. [51]

The Amana Society, Inc., corporate heir to the land and economic assets of communal Amana, continues to own and manage some 26,000 acres (110 km 2 ) of farm, pasture and forest land. Agriculture remains an important economic base today just as it was in communal times. Because the land was not divided up with the end of communalism, the landscape of Amana still reflects its communal heritage. In addition, over 450 communal-era buildings stand in the seven villages—vivid reminders of the past. On June 23, 1965, the National Park Service deemed the Amana Colonies worthy of distinction as a National Historic Landmark. When the National Register of Historic Places was founded a year later, the Colonies were automatically listed. [1]

Amana Farms is home to Iowa’s largest privately held forest. Amana Farms has built a 1.6 million-gallon anaerobic digester with funding from the Iowa Office of Energy Independence, which produces fertilizer, heat for buildings, and methane for generating electricity. The digester processes organic waste streams from industrial partners such as Genencor International, Cargill and the International Paper Cedar River Mill, as well as manure, thereby reducing local methane emissions. [52] [53]

Amana Refrigeration Edit

The most widely known business enterprise that emerged from the Amana Society is Amana Refrigeration, Inc. George C. Foerstner worked in the woolen mill and became a traveling salesman for the mill after the Great Change. With the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, Foerstner recognized the need for beverage coolers. He started the Electric Equipment Company in 1934 using $3500 of his own savings. The company was sold to the Amana Society in 1936 and renamed the Electrical Department of the Amana Society, though Foerstner remained as manager. The company was twice awarded the Army-Navy "E" Award during World War II for filling military contracts. Goods were produced in the Middle Amana woolen mill. [54]

In 1947, the company produced the first commercial upright freezer. Two years later, the Amana Society sold off the Electrical Department to an investment group organized by Foerstner. Renamed Amana Refrigeration, Inc., the company grew to manufacture refrigerators and air conditioners. The Raytheon Corporation purchased Amana Refrigeration on January 1, 1965, although the Amana division was mostly autonomous. [54] Amana produced the first practical commercial microwave oven in 1967. [55] The division was sold to Goodman Global in 1997 and then sold to Maytag in 2001. It became part of the Whirlpool Corporation when it purchased Maytag in 2006. [54]

Tourism Edit

Today, heritage tourism has become important to the economy of the Amana area. There are hotels and bed and breakfasts that support the tourist industry, as well as many independent shops, local artists and craftspeople, and restaurants serving family-style meals. Historic preservation efforts by several local non-profit organizations, as well as the Amana Society, Inc., in conjunction with governmental, land-use and historic preservation ordinances attempt to preserve the natural and built environment of Amana.

Education Edit

Clear Creek–Amana Community School District operates public schools serving the community. Amana Elementary School is in Middle Amana, [56] [57] and Clear Creek–Amana Middle School and Clear Creek–Amana High School are in Tiffin.

Amana High School in Middle Amana was established after a 1935 bond election. [58] The school closed in 1991. [59] Clear Creek–Amana Middle School was previously in Middle Amana. [60]

History of Marriage and Divorce

The inside of St. James Anglican Cathedral in Toronto, home of the oldest congregation in the city. The parish was established in 1797.

Traditional Christian concepts of marriage dominated Canadian society since the founding of the country. Since the end of the Second World War, however, the formal rules, family customs and societal expectations around marriage and divorce have steadily been eroded and relaxed.

Basic Marriage Patterns

Canadians have always followed the marriage pattern dominant in Western societies – relatively late marriage, companionable unions and a significant proportion of individuals who remain unmarried. Before the Second World War, nine out of 10 adults in Canada had married at least once in their lives. The average age of grooms at first marriage was between 25 and 29 the average age of brides was between 20 and 25.

Then, as today, three basic factors influenced the opportunity to marry and the timing of marriage:

First is the ratio of marriageable males to females. In Canada this ratio has varied widely over time. Overall the numbers of unmarried men and women have been more or less equal. However, during times of high immigration, and in frontier areas, men outnumbered women. Also, from 1850 onward women have outnumbered men in the growing industrial cities of central Canada.

Second, the strong tendency of men to marry women younger than themselves has affected the marriage opportunities of prospective brides and grooms in quite different ways. The selection of potential spouses for women has always been greatest when women were young for men, on the other hand, the choice of mates expanded steadily as they aged.

Third, economic factors have always affected marriage opportunities, especially for men. Until recently a man found it more difficult to marry until he could support a wife and children.

Role of Religion

Long before the founding of Canada, the Catholic and Protestant churches had established that marriage was a lifelong, exclusive union of one man and one woman who freely consented to join their lives for procreation and mutual comfort. However, the various Christian denominations were divided on several issues. The Roman Catholic Church held marriage to be a sacrament (a sign of God's presence), while Protestants simply considered it blessed by God.

Catholics believed the marriage bond lasted until death, while Protestants accepted the possibility of divorce and remarriage in limited circumstances. Catholicism prohibited a broad range of unions among people, but offered some leeway in the enforcement of its rules. Protestantism imposed fewer restrictions on who a person could marry. Despite these differences, broad agreement on the fundamentals of Christian marriage existed in western Europe after the Reformation. These beliefs and ideas were brought to Canada by European settlers and church leaders.

Indigenous Customs

There was no single or uniform marriage tradition practiced by First Nations and Inuit people before the arrival of the first European explorers and settlers. Marriage rites and customs differed across the continent. Generally, however, marriage was a common practice. Men tended to be older, marrying when they could provide for a family women were younger, marrying when they reached puberty.

Women were often equal in status to men in Aboriginal communities and, like the men, were usually free to choose when and whom to marry, and also to end marriages. The exception were women taken as prisoners during warfare. Divorce did not carry the stigma attached to it in the Christian traditions brought to North America by European missionaries and settlers. Polygamy was practiced in some tribes, with men having more than one wife. A bride price would often be paid by the groom to the bride's family before a marriage could take place. Marriage ceremonies were usually elaborate community affairs, with gift-giving, smoking of a symbolic pipe, and feasting and dancing taking place after dusk ( see Potlatch ).

Marriage between people of different First Nations, and also between men and women from various Inuit groups, was practiced sometimes as a means of establishing political and economic alliances. During the fur trade, inter-racial marriages – usually between male European traders and Aboriginal women – also occurred and were sometimes encouraged by both sides. (The children of some of these unions would go on to form the Metis Nation.) Such marriages alleviated the harshness of frontier life for many men, who also relied on their Indigenous wives to help them survive in the wilderness. The marriage of prominent fur traders or administrators to the daughters of Aboriginal leaders also served as a means of securing trade networks through kinship.

Today, while many contemporary Indigenous couples have adopted Christian or other western marriage practices, traditional elements of wedding rites and marriage customs have not completely disappeared.

Choosing a Spouse

European settlement brought with it Christian marriage concepts, which have dominated the history of Canada since that time. Some evidence suggests the existence of arranged marriages among bourgeois families in New France, but for the most part men and women have always chosen their own spouses. In addition to economic considerations, Canadians have tended to marry within their own social groups, therefore ethnicity, religion and class have played an important role in the process of mate selection. Within these boundaries (and occasionally outside of them) personal attraction has also been an extremely important motive for marriage in Canada.

Historically, the romantic basis of marriage was regarded with ambivalence. Although unions founded on personal choice and emotional attachment offered the promise of happiness and personal fulfillment through companionship, they also required lengthy, private courtship and contained hidden dangers, including the possibility of imprudently choosing a spouse by yielding to the dictates of the heart and not the mind.

Another danger was the prospect of sexual intimacy before marriage, which was an offence against respectable opinion and religious teaching, and a decision that carried the risk of childbirth outside marriage. Censure of non-marital sexual intercourse served two important functions. It affirmed high ideals of personal conduct, particularly for women, and it also constituted protection for the interests of women and children whose greatest economic security, before the age of the welfare state, lay in marriage and family life.

Community and Family Influence

For these reasons, family and community influences exerted strong control over courtship in Canada until almost the end of the 19th century. Couples exploring the possibility of marriage courted largely in their own homes under the watchful gaze of their families. They also passed time together in the homes of relatives and friends, in church, at community events, and out of doors on strolls, sleigh rides and incidental pastimes. These circumstances gave parents an effective control over courtship, especially those of their daughters. In urban middle-class circles, where "calling" and "at homes" formed part of customary social life, a mother admitted to the home only those young men she considered fit companions for her daughters. The annual "coming out" ceremonies, so carefully arranged by mothers, formally placed young women in a marriage market regulated by adults.

Urban working-class families had less influence over their courting young, for their children often worked and boarded away from home after mid-adolescence. Instead, the families with whom youths lived often oversaw their conduct, though perhaps with something less than due parental care. In rural communities courtship also fit in and around the common customs of social visiting, church attendance and everyday recreations.

Since the 1880s, controls regulating courtship and youthful social life in Canada have gradually relaxed. Parental restrictions during late adolescence were indirect through youth clubs, schools, residences, church groups and other institutions that increasingly framed the lives of the young. The transportation revolution after the turn of the 20th century also increased youthful independence. Greater mobility brought freedom from parental and community supervision, especially in larger cities. Generally speaking, the urban young achieved earlier and more extensive freedom than their rural counterparts, for they had easier access to the quasi-privacy that anonymity offers to city dwellers. In these circumstances courtship became an increasingly private matter.

Parental Approval

Throughout the history of marriage in Canada, the decision to marry has always belonged to the couple, but until the 1880s a young woman's choice of a spouse was still commonly subject to parental approval. From time to time, fathers and mothers refused to allow a daughter to wed the man of her choice, the usual justification being that the alliance was not in her best interest. In these circumstances a woman might defy her parents and marry against their will, but she did so at the risk of estrangement from her family.

Most Poles came to Canada during the Great Migration of the early century (courtesy PAA).

Although the parental veto was a heavily qualified power, its strength declined as a daughter's age increased, and it could not be used more than once or twice without inviting defiance. During the 1880s women began to free themselves from this and many other restrictions, and today women usually marry whomever they please. Men, by contrast, have always been far less constrained by parental wishes when choosing a spouse. And from the earliest days of colonial settlement they were relatively free agents on the marriage market.

Marriage Rites

In the past, marriage in Canada was usually a religious rite. Civil marriage has always been possible, at least since the end of the French colonial era, but until recently it has been relatively uncommon. The secular custom of a honeymoon after the wedding developed slowly during the 19th century. Initially, only the well-to-do had money and leisure enough for a post-marriage vacation, but after 1850 the practice spread gradually throughout all social levels. The purpose of the honeymoon has changed considerably over time as well. At first it took the common form of 19th-century social visiting. The recently married couple often travelled with relatives and visited friends and relations in distant communities. But by the end of the century, the honeymoon had become a private holiday for the newly wedded pair.


The history of divorce in Canada contrasts sharply with that of marriage for, while most Canadians married, divorce was extremely uncommon until after the Second World War. In fact, until that time, Canada had one of the lowest divorce rates in the Western world. Respectability – articulated by social and religious leaders – condemned divorce as a threat to the family, and the strength of this opinion prevented the relaxation of Canadian divorce laws. Consequently, access to divorce in Canada was extremely limited until 1968.

For most of Canada's first century adultery was virtually the only basis for divorce and, before the First World War, only Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and British Columbia had divorce courts, although Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario created them during the interwar period. In provinces without access to judicial divorce, the only alternative was an appeal to Parliament for a statutory divorce, an expensive process that limited access to the wealthy. The most common divorce alternatives were desertion, legal separation and divorce in an American jurisdiction which, though it had no legal force in Canada, seemed to satisfy public opinion.

Alternative Unions

In the 21st century, marriage in Canada no longer requires the union of a man and a woman. In 2003 some provinces began legalizing same-sex marriages, and in 2005 the federal Civil Marriage Act made same-sex marriage legal across the country. Some religious denominations, however, continued to restrict church marriage ceremonies to opposite-sex couples.

The other major change to marriage in Canada in recent decades has been the growing preference for couples not to formally marry, but to live in common-law relationships. Canadian couples who live together for at least a year generally have the same legal and taxation rights and obligations as married couples.

Telltale online indexes

If you’re not sure whether a divorce occurred, or you need direction for where to search, an online index may provide key information. Statewide divorce indexes are a relatively recent phenomenon, and in many states, divorces within the past 50 years are sealed for privacy reasons. So most statewide divorce indexes on websites such as <> provide sparse information. Take comfort that you can get at least that, and make a note to look for originals when they become available.

Still, some divorce indexes do stretch back well before the 50-year mark. has divorce indexes for about two dozen states. Most of these cover records from the mid-1900s and forward, but records for Colorado go back to 1851, Maine to 1800, Utah to 1852 and Missouri to approximately 1750. has 30 million indexed divorce records representing 18 US states and a few individual counties. Here, Washington’s index dates back to 1852, Michigan’s to 1897, Tennessee’s to 1800 and Maine’s to 1798 (when it was still part of Massachusetts). hosts some of the same indexes for free. To find them, go to <> and type divorce or court into the Filter by Collection Name box.

If you’re pretty sure a divorce took place but can’t find it in the court of your ancestor’s jurisdiction, he or she may have gone to a “divorce mecca” for a faster, easier uncoupling. Search still coming up dry? It’s possible the unhappy pair never bothered with the formality of a divorce. But keep checking back online. Just as it may have taken your ancestors years to file for a divorce, it may take a while for the right indexes or images to appear online to help you find their paperwork and learn their sad story.

The History of Divorce Law in the USA

While divorce perhaps doesn’t have the same stigma connected to it as it once did, the practice is still a touchy subject in many parts of America. Indeed, as we will see throughout the article, it has changed drastically in law as well as in the attitudes of the general population across the history of the country.

What was once a forbidden practice and only ever used as a last resort is now very common. The medium length of marriage in the US these days is around 11 years, and divorce rates have been rising steadily throughout the 20 th century. Some 29% of marriages will suffer some form of ‘disruption’ and in many cases lead to a divorce.

However, how has divorce law changed over time?

Colonial Divorce

Even before the United States officially became the nation that we know it as today divorce was a hot topic in the colonies.

One of the earliest instances of divorce law was in the Colony of Massachusetts Bay, which created a judicial tribunal that dealt with divorce matters in 1629. This legislative body was allowed to grant divorces on the basis of adultery, desertion, bigamy and in many cases impotence as well. In the North, the colonies adopted their own approaches that made divorce available whereas the southern colonies did all they could to prevent the act even if they did have legislation in place.

After 1776, divorce law was less restrictive. Hearing divorce cases took the legislature away from what they deemed as more important work, so it was handed to the judiciary where it remains today. The big problem at the time, for women, at least, was that they were a legal non-entity in the sense that it was difficult for them to claim ownership of property or financial assets which worked against them in the case of a divorce.

The Married Women’s Property Act in 1848 went some way to rectifying this, however, throughout the 17 th , 18 th and 19 th centuries divorce remains relatively uncommon if we think of how much it is used today and women were at a tremendous disadvantage from the get-go.

Early 20 th Century

By the end of the 18 th century, there were numerous ‘divorce mill’ states or places such as Indiana, Utah, and the Dakotas where you could go and get a divorce. Many towns provided accommodation, restaurants, bars and events centered on this trade. In 1887, Congress ordered the first compilation of divorce statistics at a federal level to see how big the ‘problem’ had become.

The Inter-Church Conference on Marriage and Divorce was held in 1903 in an attempt to use religion to ensure that divorce was kept to a minimum. However, with the onset of feminism and the general relaxation of views towards divorce from a societal and moral standpoint, the practice was gaining traction.

In the 1920s trial marriages were established that allowed a couple to try a marriage without actually being married not having kids or any lifelong financial commitments. In a way it was simply two people of the opposite sex living in the same quarters however for the time, it was a new concept and was one of the first ways in which the law tried to accommodate prenuptial contracts. In fact, marriage counseling was beginning to become popular as well and represented the recognition that a problem existed even if the law did not strictly prohibit it.

The Family Court

As the years rolled by and the nation found itself embroiled in two world wars, divorce took a back seat as far as lawmakers were concerned. However, the Family Court system that started in the 1950s was the first time in decades that the legislature and judicial system in the US tackled the divorce issue.

For years, couples had to go through the traditional court system to get a divorce or, at least, plead their case to do so. However with new laws in the place that established the Family Court, this created a way for judges to ratify agreements between couples for divorce that had been previously created. While the law used to ensure that a case had to be heard in a court of law, this now changed.

With these changes, law firms specializing in divorce started appearing all over the country and just about every other large city soon became involved in these family courts.

No-Fault Divorces

Possibly the biggest change to divorce law in the United States in its history came with no-fault divorces in the 1970s. Up until now there still had to be a party at fault. Even in the Family Courts, there was still a need for an adulterer or such like to be identified and then for the terms of the divorce to be agreed however with the change in the law then a divorce could be granted if neither party was at fault.

California led the way in 1969 however it wasn’t until the 1970s that other states (Iowa being the second) adopted the law. In many respects, it was enacted to bring down the cost of divorce regarding hiring lawyers and expensive court fees from drawn out trials that didn’t come to fruition. Divorce lawyers and financial advisors all still profited greatly from divorce proceedings even if both parties simply wanted to split and move on.

Something that this change in the law didn’t focus on was child custody, and it remained a neglected topic. Laws to address this were:

While the law has attempted to create a fair and equal child custody process, it still isn’t quite right in many respects and even with the legislation that has been enacted over the years there remains work to do.

Modern Day America

Divorce towards the end of the 20 th century and into the early 21 st century was a much different proposition from a hundred years ago.

While there are new laws being enacted all the time to deal with the finer points of divorce, the no-fault legislation essentially changed everything about the practice and made it into the divorce proceedings that we know today.

Getting representation to help guide you through the often challenging and difficult process of divorce has also moved with the times, with online legal services putting family law advice within reach in a matter of minutes.

That being said the attitudes towards divorce are still traditional in many quarters. Even though it has been set in law and that, in general at least, the stigma around divorce has gone it still plays a major role in affecting a child’s upbringing and other societal problems.

Furthermore, the equal share of property and finances is something else that the law is still trying to get right. Although this differs from state to state across the United States of America in most cases who is to blame doesn’t always transfer over to who gets the property. The legislature and the court system are still trying to find a balance in modern-day America between a system that allows for divorce without needing evidence of wrongdoing and one that is fair and equal while also addressing the child factor as well.

It isn’t easy, but there is still a lot of work behind the scenes to address it.


Divorces were being carried out before the United States of America was even a nation. The colonies had their own measures and laws for dealing with such things however for centuries they were largely used in extreme cases. Indeed, up until the No-Fault rule, it was unusual to see a divorce that was granted on the basis that both parties simply wanted to break up.

This happens fairly regularly these days however back then there had to be a reason of some sort behind the divorce – women cheating on a man for instance or a man having several wives.

The big question now is whether or not the law can develop even further and change with the rising divorce cases across the country and the more complicated financial and property ownership models. Up until now, at least, divorce law in the United States has developed at a fairly fast rate. It might not always have favored the couple given that much of the early legislation was there to deal with extreme cases that were even frowned upon by the religious orders of the day.

1. Marjorie Merriweather Post&rsquos fortune came from the food industry

C. W. Post founded the Post Cereal Company in 1895, manufacturing a breakfast drink mix under the brand name Postum. In 1897, he added Grape-Nuts to his products. In 1904, he introduced his corn flakes under the name, &ldquoElijah&rsquos Manna&rdquo. Objections to the sacrilegious nature of the name led him to change it to Post Toasties. Post had one child, daughter Marjorie Merriweather, and little outside interests besides expanding his ever-growing fortune. He survived accusations of product theft from the Kellogg brothers, lawsuits over false advertising, and fought unionization of his plants. He also invested heavily in Texas real estate.

In 1904, Post divorced his first wife, Marjorie&rsquos mother, and married his secretary. Marjorie remained close to her father. Throughout his life C. W. suffered from digestive orders causing him great distress and pain (Postum was originally marketed as an easy-to-digest breakfast drink). In 1914, despondent and probably suffering from clinical depression, he committed suicide. His 27-year old daughter Marjorie inherited his company, as well as a personal fortune of approximately $33 million (roughly $850 million today), as well as several residences. With her husband, Edward Bennett Close, she took over running the company. The Post-Cereal Company continued to expand, introducing new products and absorbing other food companies under Marjorie&rsquos guidance.

Rachel Jackson, the Scandalous Divorcee Who Almost Became First Lady

“There is pollution in the touch, there is perdition in the example of a profligate woman,” claimed an editorial in the Massachusetts Journal in 1828. A presidential election approached, with Andrew Jackson campaigning to unseat President John Quincy Adams, and for the first time in the country’s history, the candidates’ wives were being dragged into the fray—especially Rachel Jackson, the “profligate woman” in question. Not only was Rachel a divorcée, but rumor had it that she and Andrew had lived together before she was legally separated from her husband. In papers across the nation she was called a bigamist, an adulteress and a whore, and critics questioned whether her character was suitable for the White House.

“The campaign which preceded this election was the most abusive and slanderous that his enemies could contrive and was not equaled in American history until the 20th century,” writes historian Harriet Chappell Owsley. “The effect on Rachel of being the object of insults and abuse was devastating. The happy, fun-loving woman, saddened by the slanders withdrew from the unfriendly eyes of her persecutors.”

But Rachel was more than a scapegoat for her husband’s political opponents. In an era when women had few choices over their lives, she made a daring choice to leave her first husband and marry the man she loved—a decision that she was never able to escape.

Born on June 15, 1767, Rachel Donelson was among 11 children raised on the edges of the new American nation. Her family moved from Virginia to the western Cumberland area of what is today Tennessee when she was still a child. Her family became some of the first settlers of Nashville and played an important role in the fledgling city’s business and political base, and at age 18, Rachel aligned herself with another land-owning family on the frontier in her marriage to Lewis Robards. The couple went to live with Lewis’s widowed mother and a number of boarders in modern-day Kentucky.

But within a few years of their marriage, it became clear the couple wasn’t destined for a happy and harmonious relationship. “Lewis was a suspicious and jealous husband and accused his wife of having affairs with the men boarders in his mother’s home, and there were reports of wrongdoing on his part,” including, Owsley writes, sleeping with women in the slave quarters, almost certainly without their consent. Rachel returned to her family in Tennessee, and soon thereafter took a trip to Natchez, Florida, still a Spanish possession at the time. It was in between those trips, in 1789, when she first met Andrew Jackson, a local lawyer.

The story at this point becomes more muddled, and versions differ depending on the teller. According to the Jacksons and Donelsons, Rachel escaped to her family as a victim of domestic abuse, and fled to Florida to avoid Robards, who had reunited with Rachel once at her family’s residence. Jackson, per their version, acted as the Lancelot to her Guinevere and escorted her to Natchez.

The Robards family argued otherwise, claiming Rachel was stolen by the rakish Jackson—and historians have tended to agree with that claim. “Their passion for each other was apparently deep enough to lead them, despite their later claims to the contrary, to choose to live in adultery in order to provoke a divorce from Robards,” writes Jon Meachem in American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House.

It was an incredible example of a woman taking control of her life. “That a woman of Rachel Donelson’s status chose the extralegal recourse of desertion to end her marriage is extraordinary,” writes historian Ann Toplovich. “Elite women were expected to tolerate outrageous behavior on the part of their husbands, seeking separation only when violent behavior placed their lives in danger… Society generally regarded any woman who sought comfort from the sufferings of her marriage in a relationship with another man in contempt.”

At the time, divorce was almost entirely unheard of, and the laws governing it were tangled—especially in unorganized territories west of the original 13 colonies. During the colonial period, Americans followed the same marital laws as those who lived in England, where marriages were often held without ceremony or witnesses but legal divorces were exceedingly rare. Between 1670 and 1857, Parliament granted only 325 full divorces. After independence, that trend continued between 1786 and 1827, Virginia’s state legislature allowed for the hearing of divorce petitions on an ad hoc basis. In that period, they granted only 42 bills of divorce—one of which went to Lewis Robards in December 1790.

But the bill was only the start. From there, Robards had to take it to a district court where he could then sue Rachel for divorce. The trial didn’t take place until August of 1793, several years after the Jacksons had claimed to be married in Natchez (no documents have ever been found to prove they wed in Florida). At that point Robards himself had also remarried, but he went forward with the trial. Rachel was absent from the proceedings, and the 12-person jury found her guilty of abandoning her husband and living in adultery with another man. On January 18, 1794, she and Andrew were officially married in a ceremony overseen by Jackson’s brother-in-law, Robert Hays.

By all accounts, the marriage was a happy one. “General Jackson loved and admired her extravagantly, finding his chief pleasure in her companionship, his greatest reward in her approval,” Jackson’s niece Emily Donelson later said. But the two could never fully escape the dark cloud of societal censure over their marriage, and Jackson was quick to challenge any man—even going so far as to fight duels—whenever anyone made an attack on Rachel’s character. And while Rachel was shielded from much of the vitriol of the 1828 campaign, she did hear some of the gossip and see some of the editorials.

Another newspaper in Ohio wrote, in regards to Jackson’s defense of his wife, “We must say that his notions of an unblemished female character differ widely from ours. for the honor and purity of the sex, we most sincerely hope they will not be generally understood, and nowhere adopted.”

“Listening to them, it seemed as if a veil was lifted and I saw myself, whom you have all guarded from outside criticism and surrounded with flattering delusions, as others see me, a poor old woman, suited for fashionable gaieties, a hindrance instead of helpmeet to the man I adore,” Rachel is reported to have told her niece after overhearing women talk about her in the days after Andrew’s election. It wasn’t long afterwards, three months before her husband’s inauguration, that Rachel died of a heart attack at the age of 61.

Jackson would always claim that her death was the result of his political opponents, though she’d started having heart trouble three years earlier. Engraved in her tombstone on the Hermitage plantation was one particularly pointed line: “A being so gentle and so virtuous, slander might wound but could not dishonor.” Even as Jackson settled into his presidency, Rachel’s absence caused him constant pain. “My heart is nearly broke,” he wrote to a friend in January 1829. “I try to summon up my usual fortitude but it is in vain.”

Bill de Blasio and Chirlane McCray

In spite of the increased acceptance of interracial marriage across the United States, Bill de Blasio, elected Mayor of New York in 2013, is the first white official to be elected into a major office with a black spouse by his side. McCray is expected to play a major role in de Blasio's administration.

While polls show that interracial marriages across the United States are increasingly accepted, some disapproval is still overt: A 2013 Cheerios ad featuring a biracial family sparked so many racist remarks on Youtube that comments had to be disabled.

Many celebrate the de Blasio marriage as another significant milestone and hope it will help combat the racism that still exists in a country constantly striving to uphold its cornerstone value of equality.

Are you a visual learner?

Download and share an infographic on relationships that have changed history.

For Teachers & Educators

Background essay and discussion questions to augment your classroom teaching.

Want more?

Visit 10 Fascinating Interracial Relationships in HIstory from Listverse.

Watch the video: Ο Διονύσης Μανιάτης και ο Τάκης Μανιάτης, χορεύουν το Διαζύγιο του Μάρκου, σε αυθεντικό χασάπικο (May 2022).


  1. Kem

    Cool. And you can't argue :)

  2. Negor

    I'm sorry, but I think you are wrong. I'm sure. Let's discuss this.

  3. Kazikasa

    It's fun :)

  4. Culhwch

    Unfortunately, I can't help you. I think you will find the right solution.Do not despair.

  5. Barnaby

    No matter how hard you work, there is always a goat who works less and gets more. A bear on the Diplomat server is a person who can send you to xy @ in such a way that you will be looking forward to the trip. Aphorism in defense of marital fidelity (in response to? 10 on June 2): "Any nail will bend from the frequent change of holes." If your wife stopped fucking your brains - be on your guard, for surely someone started fucking your wife.

  6. Faegan

    You are handsome. It was nice to chat with you virtually. I'll miss you. Exactly.

Write a message