I posted here about one aspect of the 1902 McAllister–Young divorce and subsequent custody battle, and offered up a single lonely suggestion for further reading: ‘Divorce in the Progressive Era’, a 1965 paper by William O’Neill. Recently I’ve found more, so here’s a list:
- Nelson M Blake: The Road to Reno (1962)
- William O’Neill: Divorce in the Progressive Era (1967; this is a book with the same title as his paper)
- Elaine Tyler May: Great Expectations: Marriage and Divorce in Post-Victorian America (1980)
- Norma Basch: In the Eyes of the Law: Women, Marriage, and Property in Nineteenth-Century New York (1982)
I haven’t read these yet, but reviews show that May’s book challenges the conclusions of O’Neill’s book pretty strongly, and that O’Neill in turn considers May’s book deeply flawed. His opinion is on record because the mischief-makers at the Journal of Social History got him to review it, surely knowing full well that cutting remarks would be made. And they were: “Elaine Tyler May’s book will disappoint [...] In her defense it must be said that divorce is harder to study than might at first be supposed.”
Other reviews by people without any obvious axes to grind are more positive, and make the nature of the disagreement clearer: “May not only attacks William O’Neill’s idea that divorce was an aspect of women’s emancipation, but stands it on its head. Divorces increased, she maintains, because men and women entertained mounting expectations of marital bliss, only to be disappointed (her argument does not invalidate, however, O’Neill’s contention that divorce – as the alternative to separation – actually strengthened the institution of marriage).” (Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones, Journal of American Studies)
I found the Basch book reviewed by May, and thought it sounded relevant to the McAllister–Young situation; I don’t know how useful it would be to someone with a more general interest. I’m more drawn towards May and Basch because their books are more recent (and because they’re women, I suppose), but I’ll also look out the O’Neill. Not sure about Blake; all I know of his book is that O’Neill cites it as a general work predating his own.
Now some papers:
- Anna Garlin Spencer (early feminist and pacifist): ‘Problems of Marriage and Divorce’ (International Journal of Ethics Vol 19, 4, Jul 1909)
- Elaine Tyler May: ‘The Pressure to Provide: Class, Consumerism, and Divorce in Urban America, 1880-1920′ (Journal of Social History Vol 12, 2, Winter 1978)
- Robert L Griswold: ‘The Evolution of the Doctrine of Mental Cruelty in Victorian American Divorce, 1790-1900′ (Journal of Social History Vol 20, 1, Autumn 1986)
- Robert L Griswold: ‘Law, Sex, Cruelty, and Divorce in Victorian America, 1840-1900′ (American Quarterly Vol 13, 5, Winter 1986)
- Michael M Epstein: ‘Victorian Divorce Anxiety and the Lawyer–Statesman in Fin de Siecle Advertising, Literature, and Debate’ (Law and Literature Vol 14, 1, 2002)
No doubt there’s more out there, but these are the ones I’m working my way through at the time of writing.