Divorces


Delia Mahoney

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Oct 10, 2003
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Hello,
I'm wondering what did Edwardian people think about divorces. And I would like to know something about divorces' law in 1912. Can anyone help me?

All the best,

Delia
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Dec 2, 2000
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A clue as to how divorce was viewed lies in the scandal revolving around Colonel Astor and his wife Madeline, a much younger woman whom he married after divorcing his first and older wife. He had a problem finding a minister who would even do the ceremony and they had to go overseas for their honeymoon, and she was pregnant when they returned. (Unfortunately, on the wrong ship!!!)

Quite the scandal in a day and age where "To have and to hold from this day forward, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health until death do you part." was taken very seriously.
 
May 12, 2005
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All,

Divorce was severe enough that it kept Lucy Duff Gordon from marrying Sir Cosmo for nearly a decade after leaving her first husband. Cosmo's mother, a strict follower of the High Church party, refused to acknowledge Lucy. It was only after her death that they were wed.

Her divorce afterwards prevented her from being presented at the Court of St. James, even after she married Cosmo. She was denied admittance under Queen Victoria in 1900 and again under George V at the time of his Coronation in 1911, despite an appeal in her behalf by her friend Margot Asquith, the PM's wife. The New York Times reported that she was "stricken from the list of suitable and qualified entrants" on account of her being "in trade" but this was not so. If that was the excuse Buckingham Palace gave, it was out of a desire not to utter the word divorce. (The old Royal aversion to divorced people is funny to us today as they are all divorced themselves now)

In England and in America, LDG's public relations man, when releasing biographical info to the press, carefully omitted any mention of her divorce, with the result that she was often erroneously referred to as "the former Miss Lucy Wallace Sutherland" when in reality the name "Wallace" was that of her first husband.

Now to finish stuffing stockings for my nephews and niece!

Merry Xmas,
Randy
 

Delia Mahoney

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Oct 10, 2003
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Curious suggestions! I suppose that there weren't many divorces in the Gilded Age. The High Society didn't fast forget this.

*Merry Christmas and Happy New Year*,

Delia
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Dec 2, 2000
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>>I suppose that there weren't many divorces in the Gilded Age.<<

I don't know that there weren't many, but the stigma that came with it persisted for a long time past the guilded age. (As in, within my lifetime but not quite to such extremes.) A very close reletive of mine was divorced from her first husband just befor the Second World War, and the double whammy here is that they were Catholic!!!! She did re-marry in due course, but the divorce was something that was simply never discussed...especially in her presence...for any reason. It remained a taboo subject until the day she died.
 

Tracy Smith

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Apr 20, 2012
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Victorian mores lasted well after the Victorian era was well past, I'm thinking.

So far as the Astors go, I'm wondering if the fact that Madeleine was young enough to be JJ's daughter was as much of a factor in the disapproval as the fact of the divorce itself.
 

Brian Ahern

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Dec 19, 2002
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There was a healthy handful of divorced passengers on board.

In addition to JJ Astor and Lady DG, the list includes:
Helen Churchill Candee
Harriette Crosby
Charlotte Cardeza
Eleanor Genevieve Cassebeer (from first husband, Mr. Long, if I remember correctly from a thread on her several years ago)
Erik Lindeberg-Lind

Olive Earnshaw was in the process of a divorce and Dorothy Gibson had separated from her husband and resumed her maiden name, but I don't think actual divorce proceedings were underway (this is partly according to Randy Bryan Bigham's excellent work, and so perhaps he can confirm).

I'm sure there were others in second and third class who I can't think of off-hand. Of course, many passengers went on to be divorcees, though most in later decades. Among those who divorced within the era of the sinking (say before 1920) are the Carters and the Bishops.

Those who were eventually divorced from the people they were married to at the time of the sinking, whether a few years later or many years later, include Zette Baxter Douglas, Samuel and Nella Goldenberg and Albert and Sylvia Caldwell. I had thought Emma Schabert was divorced from her husband before marrying Baron von Faber du Faur (as opposed to being widowed), but a glance at her ET bio does not confirm this.

I have read that Clinch Smith was returning from an unsuccessful attempt to convince his wife to live with him again, but I can't recall which book I read it in and don't know if it's true. However, Edith Bowerman Barber, Margaret Brown, Ben Guggenheim and Emma Bucknell (though her husband had died by 1912) are all examples of how couples at the time were much more likely than they are today to remain married and lead separate lives long after finding living together intolerable.
 
May 12, 2005
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Hi, Brian:

According to another researcher, Dorothy Gibson was divorced in 1911 from her first husband George Battier, Jr. I had not seen this information myself, so I based my belief that she wasn’t divorced till later on the two accounts available to me at the time. One was by her friend and co-star Muriel Ostriche, who said Dorothy was not divorced until just before she married Brulatour (1917). The other was an interview with Dorothy by journalist Adela Rogers St. Johns, in which the narrative refers to Dorothy and Brulatour as having both "divorced spouses to marry one another."

Your list would be even longer of you included all those who got divorces later! You know Rene Harris married and divorced three times, bless her restless soul. A 1930s New York Sunday News article about her "frequent marriages" makes it clear she was Broadway’s favorite "serial bride," the correspondent writing that Rene "had married again and again and again…"

Randy
 
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Vikki Aris

Guest
Divorced women (unless they were the innocent party) were not allowed to be presented at court - this is a pretty good indication of the social stigma that still surrounded divorce at the time.

I read a good article a while back about the difference between the prevalence of divorce in the UK and the USA - divorce was more common in America, and there was somewhat less of the feeling that you simply had to put up with any disappointment in your marriage (either from differing tastes, simple loss of affection or misapprehensions before marriage)... This had even been noted by contemporaries.

Contrast the stigma of divorce with the relative acceptability of extra-marital affairs - so long as they were discreet, of course, and the duty of producing offspring had been fulfilled...
 
May 12, 2005
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Vikki:

Even women who were "the innocent party" were generally banned from court presentation. Lucy Duff Gordon, whom I discussed above, was not permitted at court, despite being on friendly terms privately with both Queen Alexandra and Queen Mary. Yet Lucy wasn’t guilty of anything in her failed first marriage but having the bad luck to choose an abusive alcoholic philanderer for a husband. She referred to her years with her first husband, James Wallace, as "wretched" and "tormented;" she said the experience was the worst of her life. Lucy never elaborated in full but there’s evidence that the situation was horrific. It’s one of the unthinkable aspects of society in those days that even women who suffered such severe abuse and who, like Lucy, were brave enough to seek a divorce to end the terror, were ostracized and treated as though THEY had committed a crime.

Randy
 
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Vikki Aris

Guest
Sorry Randy. I was reading quickly and didn't see your earlier post. However, it's just what I was saying. Most divorcees were banned from court, there were only a few that were considered suitable to be presented. The actual rhyme and reason behind who was considered the 'innocent' party doesn't seem to have followed what we would consider to be the case today - such as Lucy Duff Gordon, who clearly ought to have been considered the wronged party (not to do so doesn't say much for a person's sympathies) - especially by Queens who were on friendly terms with her.