Selling a Wife (1812–1814), by Thomas Rowlands...
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History of Divorce: Wife Selling

Attitudes towards women, marriage, and divorce have varied radically between different cultures at different times. We are fortunate that in this day and age, women are treated as equals. More women than men are finishing college degrees, and the glass ceiling is gradually disappearing. In the past, however, women were sometimes literally treated as property. Even in the late 1800s, in a time when divorce was unheard of, so-called “wife selling” was a common practice.

Prior to the Marriage Act of 1753, marriage was not a registered legal process in Britain, like it is around the world today. Both before and after the Act was passed, women were not able to own property on their own and were completely legally subordinate to their husbands. Many believed that this practice secured the safety of women, but it also literally reduced them to their husbands’ legal property.

At that time, when a man was dissatisfied with his relationship, he could take his wife to auction. Men would parade their wives around like livestock, sold to the highest bidder. Although wife selling was never a part of British common law, the practice became popular in the 1700s and persisted even as late as 1901. As awful as this may seem now, people were able to rationalize it through their belief that women must be bound to men: divorce was not an option in their eyes.

In the developed world today, most people would find the practice of wife selling both horrifying and incomprehensible. Women today participate in the workforce at least as much as men. Motivated by their new freedoms since sexist laws have been eliminated, women are capable of being successful on their own. For that reason, many traditional objections to divorce have become irrelevant.

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If you and your spouse are considering a divorce, you can part ways as independent individuals. By working with a qualified divorce lawyer, you can make sure your divorce works for both of you. To discuss your case with the experienced Oceanside divorce lawyerscontact the lawyers of Fischer & Van Thiel today at 760-722-7646.

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