Divorce in 1890 Utah: Signs of Polygamy

Related Posts: Utah Polygamy and Divorce – 1880 to 1930; Polygamy versus Democracy; Edmunds Act (1882); Edmunds-Tucker Act (1887); Idaho Test Oath; Marriage in 1890 Utah: Very Normal

Summary: I said this post would be interesting. And it is. The LDS Church officially abandoned polygamy in 1890 due to intense government pressure. The 1890 Census Report contains detailed information on divorce that I believe captures evidence of polygamy in Utah. My previous post analyzed the marriage data (Marriage in 1890 Utah: Very Normal).

Firstly, when talking about divorce in 1890 we are dealing with a very small percentage of the population. The median divorce rate for the US was 0.23%. And it turns out that the overall divorce rate in 1890 in Utah is ordinary, right at the third quartile for US states and territories. However, when you look at divorce by age and sex it becomes much more interesting. Above age 34 Utah has the highest or second highest female divorce rate in the US–from 45 on up only Nevada is higher. But this is interesting because Nevada’s total population was 45,761 compared to Utah’s 207,905. Nevada’s male to female ratio was 1.76 and Utah’s was 1.13. Nevada was a much more difficult place for a woman to live and you would expect a higher divorce rate. But Utah?

More can be said. The male divorce rate for Utah qualifies as ordinary (falls between the first and third quartiles) for all age categories. But if you look at the difference between male and female divorce rates by age then Utah really stands out. The national trend is, overall, downward with male divorces eventually exceeding female divorces. The Utah trend is starkly upward, increasing in nearly a straight line from age 15 to 64. Overall, the female divorce rate far exceeds the male divorce rate. Not only does the divergence between the Utah male and female divorce rates increase with age, it also diverges from the national trend. Continue reading