Parliamentary Divorce

The act of divorce during the 18th and early 19th centuries was not only an issue of sexism but also classism. Only around 300 divorces were finalized before the Matrimonial Causes Act in 1858. The only standards by which a divorce was allowed to be filed was if the wife had committed adultery against the husband. The woman could not even consider divorcing the husband at this point. If the couple was to finalize their divorce the man would be responsible for taking all of the money that the woman entered the marriage with as well as any money she had made throughout the marriage and taking full custody of any children no matter how fit of a parent he would be. If the man were to file for divorce, the woman would have no say in the matter. When looking for a wife, a lot of men would seek out women of high social standings and high-class rank because of their money. They knew that any money that a woman had going into a marriage would be absorbed by their now husband. It did not matter if the husband would beat the wife or the children, women could not do anything to leave their husbands legally. They would have to wait until they died or run away illegally and if they had children, they would have to leave them with the husband or take the risk of endangering them when running away.

Works Cited:

JAMES, D. (2012), Parliamentary Divorce, 1700–1857. Parliamentary History, 31: 169-189.


Associated Place(s)

Event date:

1700 to 1857

Parent Chronology: