Marriage & Divorce in the 1920s

What was it like to Marry and Divorce in the 1920s?

During the 1920s there was more money and more social freedom, especially for women, than ever before. It was the age of revolution for housewives and flappers alike. Employment opportunities enabled women to gain more financial independence and emboldened them to view themselves as being more than just wives and mothers.

Women were determined to have a voice and to speak for themselves, at the polls, in their workplaces and also in their marriages. As a result, the 1920s saw a time of decreased marriage rates and a spike in divorce. Many young women chose to remain single for longer than their mothers had.

1920s marriage and divorce
1920s marriage and divorce

Even after gaining voting rights, women were not on equal footing with men in virtually all other areas of life. Married women were expected to devote themselves to running the household, raising children and to acquiesce to their husbands’ judgment. Employers had the right to fire women after they married or had children. Single women, whether divorced or widowed, also faced many challenges. Male co-signers were required for unmarried women to make any credit application.

Although divorce was more attainable in the 1920s than it had been in previous decades, it still carried a heavy stigma. There were few legal resources or options for women who were stuck in abusive relationships. Divorce was only allowed in situations where there was adultery, although exceptions were made in cases of bigamy or impotence.

Couples who wished to divorce had to present their cases to the court and provide evidence of one of the partner’s infidelity or wrongdoing. In cases of divorce, women had fewer rights and had to prove that they were of sound mind if they wished to gain custody of their children. It was not uncommon for a divorced woman to be left with very few resources after a divorce.

1920s marriage and divorce

Despite the lengthy legalities, the divorce rate steadily climbed throughout the twenties at a seemingly shocking rate for the time. Many critics feared that the institution of marriage and family was in danger. Early feminists, flappers, and ‘loose morals’ were blamed. To combat the increasing number of divorces, the early beginnings of marriage counseling and prenuptial contracts were developed.

Given the cultural climate of her time, Ginger Gold is a remarkable woman, although not without her flaws. Like many of her peers, Ginger protests the social limitations bestowed upon women of her status. Rather than quickly remarrying as might be expected, Ginger is determined to support herself by starting a dress shop called ‘Feathers & Flair.’ I love her feisty spirit and determination to make her own choices, even while paying the price for it at times.

Did you learn something new? Write me a note to let me know.


Books from the Era

If you enjoy historical fiction I think you’ll love my cozy mystery series 

set in the 1920s, 30s, and 50s. 

I hope you'll give them a try!

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