20th Century Views on Divorce

Many see the new year as an opportunity for change and new beginnings, a time for resolutions while also a time for the dissolution of marriages. Although according to the CDC, marriage, and divorce rates have seen a decline in the past 10 years, January is the month when most divorces are filed. So much so, the first working Monday of each new year is dubbed National Divorce Day, a day where divorce attorneys see a spike in numbers of those seeking legal counsel.

Currently, divorce is quite common. Just about everyone knows of at least one person who is currently or previously been divorced. We see billboards advertising inexpensive divorce lawyers, and films that depict this commonly occurring event. However, divorces were considered taboo in the first half of the 20th century. In the early 20 century, the divorce rate was approximately 0.9 divorces for every 1,000 people in a given year. This number slightly rose during World War I to 1 divorce for every 1,000 people. As women started to gain their independence in the 1920s, the divorce slightly increased to 1.7 divorces for every 1,000 people.

"Mrs. Taft Believes:" is a brief article on Mrs. Taft opinions on divorce and why it is wrong.

The image above from an article, featured in June 23, 1908, The Star and Newark Advertiser, describes Mrs. Taft’s beliefs on divorce. Mrs. Taft, presumably the wife of soon-to-be-president William Howard Taft, believes that divorce is the country’ greatest peril and that it should be prohibited. She also thinks that woman’s duty is to her husband and family and should work towards preserving the family unit.

"Miss Douglas Would Imprison for Life Married Man Who Wooes Another's Wife," discusses Miss Douglas's beliefs on divorce and how couples are not taking marriage seriously.

In this article, featured in April 27, 1908 The Star and Newark Advertiser, Barbara Kent writes about writer, Amanda Douglas’s opinions on divorce. Douglas believes that marriage is taken for granted in upper class society, comparing marriages to trying on gloves. She criticizes the loose divorce laws, believing divorce should only be granted in cases pertaining to incompatibility and bad temper. She believes that couples should take the principles of marriage seriously, and not get become absorbed in outside affairs.

"Can Movies Keep Cupid From Divorce Court" portrays a woman cast on a screen. A Cupid figure is filming the couple. The article describes how films can offers an easy solution for troubled marriages.

This brief article, featured in September 21, 1921 Perth Amboy Evening News, suggests that visiting the movies is a simple solution that can prevent divorce. The relatable messages portrayed in the films can help resolve many couples’ petty arguments. So instead of going to divorce court, try a movie instead!

Good to know Dr. Anne Hochfelder, Brooklyn Democratic candidate for state senator is making a stand to decrease the divorce rate! This article is featured in July 29, 1922 Perth Amboy Evening News,

(Contributed by Kristi Chanda)


Olito, F. (2019, January 30). How the divorce rate has changed over the last 150 years. Retrieved from https://www.insider.com/divorce-rate-changes-over-time-2019-1.

Leave a Reply