Sunday, July 13, 2014

18C Masschusetts women seeks a Divorce from husband who decided to take a new wife


From the Boston Evening-Post, published as Boston Evening Post; February 9, 1756.

"Eleanor Stickney, the Wife of James Stickney of Hampstead in the Province aforesaid, having complained to the General Assenbly of said Province, that her said Husband had long neglected her and his Family, that he had cohabited with another Woman in a criminal Manner, and fearing a Prosecution, had travelled from said Hampstead, as the Complainant had been informed, to the Town of Srpingfield, in the Province of Massachusetts- Bay; and carried with him the said Woman, with whom he lived as with a Wife, and had entirely absented himself from this Complainant;

Wherefore the said Eleanor pray'd the Interposition of the General Assembly, that the Marriage Covenant between the said James and said Eleanor might be dissolved, &c. Upon which Petition 'twas ordered, that the said Petitioner be heard on the third Day of the sitting of the General Assembly next after the first Day of March next ensuing, and that the Petitioner cause the Order, with the Substance of said Petition, to be advertized in a publick Print three Weeks, thereby notifying the said James Stickney to appear and shew Cause why the Prayer of the said Petition should not be granted. Attest. Theaodore Atkinson."


The following short bibliography explores the history of divorce in America.


Basch, Norma. Framing American Divorce: From the Revolutionary Generation to the Victorians. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999.

Chused, Richard H. Private Acts in Public Places: A Social History of Divorce in the Formative Years of American Family Law. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994.

Cott, Nancy. Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000.

Degler, Carl N. At Odds: Women and the Family in America from the Revolution to the Present. New York: Oxford University Press, 1980.

Hartog, Henrick. Man and Wife in America: A History. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000.

Jones, Mary Somerville. “An Historical Geography of the Changing Divorce Law in the United States,” PhD Dissertation, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1987.

Riley, Glenda. Divorce: an American Tradition. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.

He says, she says - Early 18C English opposing views on the institution of marriage

.
Lady Mary Chudleigh (1656-1710) was a woman ahead of her time, churning out feminist rhetoric, even as she lived her life within the rigid confines of 17C England.

To The Ladies


Wife and servant are the same,

But only differ in the name:
For when that fatal knot is ty’d,
Which nothing, nothing can divide:
When she the word obey has said,
And man by law supreme has made,
Then all that’s kind is laid aside,
And nothing left but state and pride:
Fierce as an eastern prince he grows
And all his innate rigor shows:
Then but to look, to laugh, or speak,
Will the nuptual contract break.
Like mutes, she signs alone must make,
And never any freedom take:
But still be govern’d by a nod,
And fear her husband as a God:
Him still must serve, him still obey,
And nothing act, and nothing say,
But what her haughty lord thinks fit,
Who with the power, has all the wit.
Then shun, oh! shun that wretched state,
And all the fawning flatt’rers hate:
Value yourselves, and Men despise:
You must be proud, if you’ll be wise. -Lady Mary Chudleigh

Mary Chudleigh was part of an intellectual circle that included Mary Astell, Elizabeth Thomas, Judith Drake, Elizabeth Elstob, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, & John Norris. In her later years, she published a book of poetry (1703) & 2 books of essays, all dealing with feminist themes; 2 of her books went through 4 editions. Her poetry on human relationships has been anthologized & reprinted ever since.


Mary, the daughter of Richard Lee, was born in August of 1656, at Winslade in Devon, England. While she, like most women of her time, received little in the way of formal education, she read widely & educated herself in theology, science, & philosophy. Despite her strong feelings about women & marriage, she married Sir George Chudleigh of Ashton in Devon. They had at least 3 children: Eliza Maria, George (the next Sir George), Thomas. Little else is known about her life, except for the fact that her daughter must have died young, as her grief is mentioned in her letters & some poetry. Mary Chudleigh died in 1710.



About 23 years after Chudleigh's death, a watchmaker, overjoyed with the death of his "disagreeable" wife, rated an article in the London Derby Mercury, Thursday 22 March 1733,  "Some Days ago a Watch-maker on Holbourn-Hill, gave an Entertainment to a great Number of Neighbours at the Globe-Alehouse, on the said Hill, upon the following merry Occasion, viz. He happened to have a Wife endowed with some Qualities, that were disagreeable to him; (which is many a poor Man’s Case) some time before this, his Wife happened to be taken ill, and he, upon talking of it with some of his Neighbours, had declared, that should it please God to take her from him, he would entertain them all very handsomely; and it coming to pass that she died of that Malady, he was as good as hid Word, and made all his Neighbours and Friends Partakers of his Joy, to the great Vexation of all the troublesome Wives in Town, who are afraid it may become a Custom for unfortunate Husbands to celebrate the Day of their Deliverance: And I cannot but say, that the Custom would be both just and convenient, providing it were made mutual, and that a good Wife, who is delivered from a bad Husband, be allowed to keep Festival upon the Day of her Deliverance, as well as a good Husband when he is set free from an unfit Yoke-fellow. Such a custom would make both Spouses more careful of their Conduct, and more Complaisant to each other, at least to all outward Appearance; and it would destroy that stupid Dissimulation, or rather Simulation (if I may be allowed to make use of the Word) which has been long used upon such Occasions."
.
For a contemporary English view of divorce in 1700 from a woman's perspective see, Some Reflections Upon Marriage, Occasioned by the Duke and Dutchess of Mazarine's Case; Which is Also Considered. by Mary Astell, Published by John Nutt, Stationers-Hall, London, 1700.


New Hampshire's Abigail Abbot Bailey's abusive & incestuous husband had also fought in the Revolution


Abigail Abbot (1746-1815) & Asa Bailey (1745- c 1815-25) of New Hampshire had been married in 1767; farmed; & produced 14 children over their 25 years of marriage.  


The Pleasures of Matrimony by Thomas Colley 1773

During that time, Asa also fought in the Revolution; had an affair; raped a servant; beat his wife; & had incest with his 17 year-old daughter. They finally divorced in 1793.  Her own words--

One result of all my examinations and prayers was, a settled conviction, that I ought to seek a separation from my wicked husband, and never to settle with him any more for his most vile conduct. But as sufficient evidence, for his legal conviction, had not yet offered itself, (though I as much believed his guilt, as I believed my own existence,) I thought God’s time to bring Mr. B.'s conduct to public view had not yet arrived. But I was confident that such a time would arrive; that God would bring his crimes to light; and afford me opportunity to be freed from him.

Several months had passed, after Mr. B’s last wicked conduct before mentioned, and nothing special took place. The following events then occurred. One of our young daughters, (too young to be a legal witness, but old enough to tell the truth,) informed one of her sisters, older than herself, what she saw and heard, more than a year before, on a certain sabbath. This sister being filled with grief and astonishment at what she had heard, informed her oldest sister. When this oldest sister had heard the account, and was prepared to believe it, (after all the strange things which she herself had seen and heard,) she was so shocked, that she fainted. She was then at our house, I administered camphire, and such things as were suitable in her case. She soon revived. She then informed me of the occasion of her fainting. I had long before had full evidence to my mind of Mr. B’s great wickedness in this matter; and I thought I was prepared to hear the worst. But verily the worst was dreadful! The last great day will unfold it. I truly at this time had a new lesson added, to all that ever I before heard, or conceived, of human depravity.

I was now determined to go and see the daughter, who had suffered such things. Mr. B. perceiving my design to go where she was, set himself to prevent it. But kind Providence soon afforded me an opportunity to go. She was living at the house of her uncle, a very amiable man, and one whom Mr. B. in his better days, esteemed most highly; but of whom he became very shy, after he abandoned himself to wickedness. Mr. B. now could not endure the thought of my going to his house. No doubt his guilty conscience feared what information I might there obtain, and filled him with terror.

With much difficulty, and by the help of her aunt, I obtained ample information. I now found that none of my dreadful apprehensions concerning Mr. B’s conduct had been too high. And I thought the case of this daughter was the most to be pitied of any person I ever knew. I wondered how the author of her calamities could tarry in this part of the world. I thought that his guilty conscience must make him flee; and that shame must give him wings, to fly with the utmost speed.

My query now was, what I ought to do? I had no doubt relative to my living any longer with the author of our family miseries. This point was fully settled. But whether it would be consistent with faithfulness to suffer him to flee, and not be made a monument of civil justice, was my query. The latter looked to me inexpressibly painful. And I persuaded myself, that if he would do what was right, relative to our property, and would go to some distant place, where we should be afflicted with him no more, it might be sufficient; and I might be spared the dreadful scene of prosecuting my husband.

I returned home, I told Mr. B. I had heard an awful account relative to some man. I mentioned some particulars, without intimating who the man was; or what family was affected by it. I immediately perceived he was deeply troubled! He turned pale, and trembled, as if he had been struck with death. It was with difficulty he could speak. He asked nothing, who the man was, that had done this great wickedness; but after a while said, I know you believe it to be true; and that all our children believe it; but it is not true! Much more he said in way of denying. But he said he did not blame me for thinking as I did.

He asked me, what I intended to do? I replied, that one thing was settled: I would never live with him any more! He soon appeared in great anguish; and asked what I could advise him to do? Such was his appearance, that the pity of my heart was greatly moved. He had been my dear husband; and had destroyed himself. And now he felt something of his wretchedness.

I now felt my need of christian fortitude, to be firm in pursuing my duty. I was determined to put on firmness, and go through with the most interesting and undesirable business, to which God, in his providence, had called me, and which I had undertaken. I told him his case to me looked truly dreadful and desperate. That though I had long and greatly labored for his reformation and good, yet he had rejected all my advice. He had felt sufficient to be his own counsellor; and now he felt something of the result of his own counsels.

Relative to his question, what he now should do? I told Mr. B. he knew something of my mind, from an interview upon the subject sometime since, when he proposed retiring to some distant region, and forever leaving me and his family. I informed him, I now could see no better way for him than this; that I had rather see him gone forever, than to see him brought to trial, and have the law executed upon him, to the torture of myself and family; as it would be, unless he prevented it by flight.

He was then full of his consultations, relative to the mode of his going;—whether to ride, or go on foot? what property to take? and similar queries. I let him know that I was willing he should ride, and not only take a horse, but take property enough to make him comfortable. I proposed he should turn a one hundred acre lot, which we could well spare, and take the avails of it.

Source: Abigail Abbot Bailey, Memoirs of Mrs. Abigail Bailey, Who Had Been the Wife of Major Asa Bailey, Formerly of Landaff, (N.H.) Written by Herself Ed. Ethan Smith. (Boston: Samuel T. Armstrong, 1815)


Friday, July 11, 2014

Catharine Littlefield 1755-1814 m Rev War Gen Nathanael Greene & helpled Eli Whitney change the economy of the South

James Frothingham (American artist, 1786–1864) Catharine Littlefield Greene Miller

Catherine “Caty” Littlefield was born in New Shoreham, R.I., on Block Island.  The 3rd child of 5, she was the 1st daughter of John & Phebe (Ray) Littlefield.  Catharine Littlefield was born off the coast of Rhode Island on Block Island, which her family had helped settle in the 1660s. Her father, John Littlefield represented the town in the colonial assembly from 1747 to the Revolution.  Her mother, Phebe Ray, was a descendant of the earliest settlers of Block Island.

Caty's mother died, when she was 10 years old; & she was sent to live with an aunt & uncle, Catharine Ray & William Greene, in East Greenwich, Rhode Island.  Her aunt, Catharine (Ray) Greene, was a close friend of Benjamin Franklin & corresponded with him for years.  Her uncle William Greene was a leader of the Whig Party & governor of Rhode Island.  Benjamin Franklin was a regular visitor at the Greene house, while Caty was growing up.  Another frequent caller was Nathanael Greene, a successful merchant who was a distant cousin of her Uncle William's. Nathanael, the son of Rhode Island Quakers, who was 14 years older than she. The two began a courtship in 1772.



Charles Willson Peale (American artist, 1741-1827) Nathanael Greene (1742-1786) 1783

At William & Catharine Greene’s house in Warwick that Kitty Littlefield on July 20, 1774, was married to Nathanael Greene of Coventry, R.I.  Nathanael Greene, brought up as a pacifist Quaker but turned to military concerns by the threats to his country’s liberty, had left his father’s forge; & in 1774, was helping to organize the Kentish Guards, a volunteer military company.  Catharine's new husband was selected by the Rhode Island Assembly as brigadier general, in charge of Rhode Island's 3 Continental regiments. During the war young Caty was not content to sit at home awaiting word of her husband. Instead, she visited him at his headquarters & joined him at his various encampments, where she witnessed many battles firsthand.

Catharine came to the notice of Washington & his troops at Valley Forge in the grim winter of 1777-78.  She had followed her husband, soon to become quartermaster general, to the Schuylkill headquarters to sharing the hardships of those bitter months with the men upon whom the success of the Revolution depended.  She was with her husband again the following winter at Morristown.  “We had a little dance at my quarters,” wrote General Greene, “His Excellency & Mrs. Greene danced upwards of three hours without once sitting down.”  Catherine’s gallantry of spirit won Washington’s grateful admiration, although some gossiped about her association with mostly men at these encampments. Catharine Littlefield Greene stood out among Revolutionary War military wives, engaging in political discourse, maintaining friendships with men & bearing her children at the same time.

Three of their 5 Greene children were born during those years-Martha Washington in 1777, Cornelia Lott in 1778, & Nathanael Ray in 1780.  George Washington Greene, the oldest, was 8, when peace came in 1783; Louisa Catherine, the youngest, was born the following winter.  Greene's presence at her husband's encampments endeared her to the troops & to the other military leaders. George & Martha Washington became friends & supporters of Greene. The trips were made more challenging, when she began to have children. By 1779, she had three—George, Martha, & Cornelia—& was expecting a fourth. She was looking forward to joining her husband again; when word arrived, that he had been appointed commander of Washington's southern forces. It was not until 1781, that she was able to head to Charleston, South Carolina, to join him. By then their 4th child, Nathanael Ray, had arrived.

When the war finally came to an end & the family was reunited, Caty looked forward to having Nathanael there to share in the responsibility of raising the children & handling family business affairs. His presence at home "brought a peace of mind unknown to her since the conflict began." She was eager to let Nathanael take charge & to settle herself into the life of a respected, well-to-do gentleman's wife.

Though Nathanael was not required to be of further service to his country, his involvement in the war continued to affect their lives. During his Revolutionary command in the south, he faced very harsh conditions. In order to clothe his soldiers during the winter, he had to personally guarantee thousands of dollars to Charleston merchants. He later discovered that the speculator, through whom he had dealt, was fraudulent. At the end of the war, the merchants began pressing him for payment on the notes & judgments began coming down from South Carolina courts. He was without sufficient funds & heavily in debt.

 In recognition of General Greene’s war services, Georgia deeded him a sequestered loyalist estate that included Mulberry Grove plantation on he Savannah River.  Here he hoped to make a living by cultivating rice & pay off their debts by selling their other lands, when real estate markets proved favorable. This decision was particularly hard on Catharine. She had lived her whole life in the north. She would be leaving behind many friends & what was left of her family on Block Island.  There the family settled in the autumn of 1785, while the 43-year-old Nathanael undertook to restore the long-neglected land to productivity.  He would die only 9 months later.

When her husband died of “severe sunstroke” in June 1786, the widow Greene was left alone to raise their 5 children & oversee the family plantation. Catharine decided to remain in Georgia. The plantation was still not a financial success; but by 1788, with the help of the new plantation manager, originally their children’s tutor Yale grad & Connecticut native, Phineas Miller 1764-1803, Mulberry Grove was thriving.

She also gratefully yielded to General Lafayette’s request to let him educate her eldest, son of his beloved comrade-in-arms, with his own son in France.  Retaining her place in the “court circles” of the new republic, Mrs. Greene returned every summer to the cooler air of Newport, a center of Rhode Island society.  Her cultivated manners & warmth hade Mulberry Grove a gathering place for all her southern neighbors, as well, who valued such status & social graces.

In 1791, the Greene family of Mulberry Grove entertained George Washington during his presidential tour of the South.  Soon after that visit, Catharine personally presented to the United States Congress a petition for indemnity to recover funds that Nathanael had paid to Charleston merchants. On April 27, 1792, President  Washington approved & signed an act that indemnified the Greene estate. In a happy letter to a friend, she wrote:

I can tell you my Dear friend that I am in good health & spirits & feel as saucy as you please-not only because I am independent, but because I have gained a complete triumph over some of my friends who did not wish me success-& others who doubted my judgement in managing the business & constantly tormented me to death to give up my obstinancy as it was called-they are now as mute as mice-Not a word dare they utter... O how sweet is revenge!

On her journey homeward from Newport in the fall of 1792, a traveling companion was Eli Whitney 1765-1825, newly graduated from Yale, whom tutor-turned-plantation-manager Phinaes Miller had secured as a tutor for a South Carolina family across the Savannah River. 

During Whitney’s youth, the tall, heavy-shouldered boy with large hands & a gentle manner was a blacksmith, a nail maker on a machine he made at home & at one time, he was the country's sole maker of ladies' hatpins.  In his early 20s, Whitney determined to attend Yale College; so unusual a step for anyone not preparing for either the law or theology, that his parents objected. He was 23, before he got away from home & 27, when he received his degree, almost middle-aged in the eyes of his classmates. Again the most serious drawback facing him was that no profession existed suited to a man of his talents.



Eli Whitney 1765-1825

When Whitney’s teaching plans collapsed, Mrs. Greene invited him to accompany her to her plantation & read law. In the meantime, he could make himself useful in one way or another helping the tutor-turned-plantation-manager, Phineas Miller.  Miller was also a Yale alumnus, about a year older than Whitney. Whitney accepted the offer.

Being from New England, Whitney was unfamiliar with cotton farming, but Greene quickly brought him up to speed. She explained the difficulties of raising green-seed cotton.  Struck by his ingenuity in designing & fashioning a new tambour frame for her embroidery, Catherine Greene persuaded him to turn his talents to devising a machine that could rapidly strip the tenacious seeds from short-staple cotton & thus make it a profitable crop to raise. 

Some believe that she not only suggested the idea of the cotton gin, but she drew the rudimentary design, made corrections for improvement, & later financed the patent & fabrication. In Woman as Inventor, written in 1883, Matilda Joslyn Gage asserted that it was Caty & not Eli Whitney who should be credited with the invention.

Gage wrote that the cotton gin “owes its origin to a woman, Catherine Littlefield Green.” Gage goes on to describe Whitney as familiar enough with “the use of tools” to be able to build the machine. Nonetheless, the young man’s first contraption featured inefficient wooden teeth & he nearly quit, but the widow Greene’s suggestion to substitute wire for wood proved successful.

At the urging of Catharine Green & Phineas Miller, Whitney watched the cotton cleaning process of the slaves & studied their hand movements. During the slow process, one hand held the seed while the other hand teased out the short strands of lint. The machine he designed simply duplicated this.  To take the place of a hand holding the seed, Whitney made a sort of sieve of wires stretched lengthwise. More time was consumed in making the wire than stringing it, because the proper kind of wire was nonexistent.

To do the work of human fingers, which pulled out the lint, Whitney had a drum rotate past the sieve, almost touching it. On the surface of the drum, fine, hook-shaped wires projected which caught at the lint from the seed. The restraining wires of the sieve held the seeds back, while the lint was pulled away. A rotating brush, which turned 4 times as fast as the hook-covered drum cleaned the lint off the hooks. Originally Whitney planned to use small circular saws instead of the hooks, but the saws were unobtainable. That was all there was to Whitney's cotton gin; & it never became any more complicated.

Whitney worked developing his cotton gin for 6 months in a basement room of the plantation house.  In that interval Caty’s older son, returned from France, drowned in the Savannah River. 

When Whitney announced in April 1793, that he had completed a working model of an engine, or “gin”, his hostess called the attention of influential planters in the neighborhood to the potentialities of the new machine.  With no more than the promise that Whitney would patent the machine and make a few more, the men who had witnessed the demonstration immediately ordered whole fields to be planted with green seed cotton.



Eli Whitney's Cotton Gin

Word got around the district so rapidly, that Whitney's workshop was broken into & his machine examined. Within a few weeks, more cotton was planted in the area than Whitney could possible have ginned in a year of making new machines. Before he had a chance to complete his patent model, or to secure protection, the prematurely planted cotton came to growth. With huge harvests pressing on them, the planters had no time for the fine points of law or ethics. Whitney's machine was pirated without a qualm.

Descriptions of the main features of the gin leaked out; as it was simple to build, copies began to appear in Georgia, almost before Whitney secured his patent in March 1794.  A newly formed partnership with tutor-turned-plantation-manager Phineas Miller, could manufacture few more than half a dozen gins.  A prolonged struggle to establish the partners’ rights early threatened the new firm with bankruptcy. 

Whitney’s partnership with Miller ran into problems immediately. The agreement was that Whitney was to go north to New Haven, secure his patent, & begin manufacturing machines, while Miller was to remain in the South & see that the machines were placed. Having no precedent of royalty arrangement to go on, the partners' initial plan was that no machine was to be sold, but simply installed for a percentage of the profit earned. Since they had no idea that cotton planting would take place in epidemic proportions, they did not know that they were asking for an agreement that would have earned them millions of dollars a year. It had been Miller's idea to take 1 pound of every 3 of cotton, & the planters were furious. Meanwhile, cotton, one of the easiest growing crops, was coming up out of the ground engulfing everything around.

Catherine Greene in 1795, enabled the venture to continue by committing her entire resources to the effort.  According to The National Archives, Greene’s “support, both moral & financial were critical” to Whitney’s efforts. When Miller began charging farmers a fee to use cotton gins, & disgruntled farmers started building their own.

By the time Whitney & Miller were willing to settle for outright sale or even a modest royalty on every machine made by someone else, the amount of money due them was astronomical. He & Miller were now deeply in debt & their only recourse was to go to court; but every court they entered was in cotton country. At length in 1801, Miller & Whitney were willing to settle for outright grants from cotton-growing states in return for which the cotton gin would be public property within the boundaries.   By 1807, Whitney had re-established title to his invention, but his patent expired in that year, ending any real hope of financial return.  He was penniless, & his patent worthless.  Whitney was 39 years old, & most of the past 10 years had been wasted either in courtrooms or in traveling from one court to another. He returned north, turning his back on cotton, the cotton gin, & the South forever.

As for why Caty Greene did not attempt to patent the cotton gin herself, Gage suggested that doing so “would have exposed her to the ridicule” of friends & “a loss of position in society,” which disapproved of women’s involvement in any "outside industry." Perhaps she didn’t receive credit for the invention, because women were not allowed to hold patents. Regardless, neither Whitney nor Caty profited from the invention, after Congress refused to renew the patent, & it was mass produced.

An unforeseen by-product of Whitney's invention, a labor-saving device, was to help preserve the institution of slavery in the South by making cotton production highly profitable. Exports of cotton from the U.S. skyrocketed exponentially after the introduction of the cotton gin. Between 1820 & 1860, cotton represented over half the value of U.S. exports. Prior to the invention of the cotton gin, slavery was in decline. The profitably of crops grown with slave labor, such as rice, tobacco, indigo & cotton was steadily decreasing. Some slaveholders began freeing their slaves in response. By effortlessly separating the seeds from the cotton fibers, the cotton gin removed the main obstacle to producing cleaned cotton. As the price of cotton decreased, the demand for cotton soared; so too did the demand for more land & more slaves to grow & pick the cotton. The number of slave states increased from s6 in 1790 to 15 in 1860.  By 1860, 1 in 3 Southerners was a slave. The labor-saving device Whitney created effectively rejuvenated the institution of slavery in the South & helped split American society.

Catherine married Phineas Miller on June 13, 1796 in Philadelphia's First Presbyterian Church. The President & Mrs. Washington served as witnesses to the wedding.  Despite the couple’s best efforts, by 1798, Mulberry Grove fell upon hard times.

Catharine, in financing the cotton gin firm of Whitney & Miller, had lost a great deal of money. Caty was forced to sell the plantation along with many of Mulberry Grove's slaves, moving her family to Cumberland Island. There she & Phineas established a new home on land that had been given to Nathanael for his Revolutionary War service. The plantation, located near the southern end of the island & called "Dungeness," thrived. They held a total of 210 slaves to work the plantation. Miller succumbed to a fever & died in 1803, worn out at 39. Catherine Greene Miller died of fever at “Dungeness” in 1814, at 59, & she is buried there.