A Peek Into the Archives Reveals “Women’s Suffrage” As a Cause for Divorce

Living in a swing state during the 2020 election was exhausting. There was no way to escape the political phone calls, mailers, and television and radio ads. But it was also a year of celebration. 2020 marked the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.

A peek into the archives reveals it did not take long for women’s suffrage to become an issue in a divorce case, but not for a reason you might expect!

Here’s a clipping from the front page of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Oct. 20, 1920:

Into the list of insidious influences which are filling the divorce court dockets steps women’s suffrage.

It came out yesterday afternoon when a woman with a worry-wrinkled countenance broke the news to an attorney at the Welfare Legal Aid Bureau. She recounted how her husband had become a stranger in his home until the small hours of the morning and how his continued absence had led to her investigating the political activities to which he ascribed his late hours.

“I followed him,” she said. “I didn’t want to do it. I thought It best to wait until after the election and forget all about it, but my suspicions wouldn’t let me rest, so I followed him.

“He went to political meetings and visited politicians all right; but my suspicions weren’t groundless. At every political meeting he attended there were women, and all his calls were on women workers. I couldn’t stand that so I asked for an explanation.

“‘Why. of course I work among the women,’ he told me. ‘Can’t they vote?’

“Then he stammered and said that all the women were going to vote for the twenty-first amendment, but I knew there is no twenty-first amendment, so I didn’t say any more.

“But I’ve come down here for a divorce because I knew his brand of politics wasn’t going to take up any less of his time after Nov. 2.”

It sounds like this supposed politico was cheating. The wife was likely forced to air the couple’s dirty laundry in public in order to convince the courts to grant her a divorce. Today, most states, including Pennsylvania, have no-fault divorce laws on the books.

Under a no-fault divorce law, the courts can award a divorce to any couple that wants one, without either party having to take the blame for the split. There is no finger-pointing, so no-fault divorces are typically less messy, and therefore faster and cheaper.

Pennsylvania’s Fault-Based Divorce Law

Unlike many other states, Pennsylvania did not repeal its fault-based divorce law when it adopted a no-fault law. If you really want to, you can publicly reveal you want a divorce for one of these specific reasons:

  • Adultery — Your spouse cheated on you.
  • Abandonment — Your spouse left you, for no good reason, for over a year.
  • Cruelty — Your spouse treats you in a way that threatens your health or life. Domestic violence is a form of cruelty.
  • Bigamy — Your spouse never divorced his or her previous spouse.
  • Imprisonment — Your spouse is going to jail for at least two years.
  • Humiliation — Your spouse’s actions have led you to suffer such indignities as to make your life intolerable.

If you choose to go the fault-based route, you must be prepared to discuss your relationship in open court. And you can’t be in a hurry. Fault-based divorces take a long time to wind their way through the court system compared to their no-fault counterparts.

If you are ready to “vote with your feet” and walk out on a bad relationship, the Law Office of Gary R. Swavely, Jr. is here for you. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation.