Monday, January 12, 2009

Learning about divorce

Why genealogists need to read history, even decades-old history:

Between 1867 and 1929, the population of the United States increased 300 percent, the number of marriages 400 percent, and the divorce rate 2,000 percent. By the end of the 1920s, more than one marriage in six ended in divorce every year. ...

Contradicting the assumption that more divorce meant less interest in marriage, between 1900 and 1920 the proportion of the eligible population choosing to marry rose along with the divorce rate. Moreover, the marriage age declined for both sexes.

That's historian Elaine Tyler May in her 1980 book Great Expectations: Marriage and Divorce in Post-Victorian America. I wish I'd known this (plus what more she has to say that I haven't read yet) when I was writing about a Wisconsin relative who got divorced around 1908! BTW, the book is largely based on divorce court cases in Los Angeles, where many Midwesterners ended up.

1 comment:

DianaR said...

Oh wow - I had no idea...and I like to think I'm fairly well versed in history.

I have 2 great-grandmothers who were divorced during that time and I thought it was very odd. Not to mention my grandfather in the early 30's as well.

Thanks for mentioning this book - I can see it's something I need to read to better understand my own family history.