Echoes of Oregon History Learning Guide
Divorce Petition, 1858
Transcript of original document:
Polk County O.T. Nov 15 Ad 1858
I humbly Beg o f the Legislator of oregon to grant me a bill of divorcement for I cannot live with Mr Judson he misuses me in everry shape he is capable of doing he has knocked me down and scolded me and beemeaned me in everry shape and lyed on me as bad as any one could lly on another and does not Provide for me Nor the family as he aught to do But has squandered all that father has givin mee and has squandered every thing wee have in the world and has mortgaged my land and his and it is all gone and he is not able to support me nor the Children neither is he capable of takin care of us the children are ragged and go not fit to bee seen and have to depend on the Neigbors for their bread and do not get mutch of that I have not lived with Mr Judson since the first of last December Ad 1857 from that time to this I have had to support my self as best I could and the children has been Poorly taken care of for they have had to take care of them selves in a maner that is too of them for I have one of them with me sending him to scool the yongest a little boy the other too is down at Clatsap where he keeps them have stalved and half naked My Children has never bee to school of any consiquenc and he never will sene them I have three children one little girl 10 years olde the 10 day of next december one boy 12 years olde 22 of February next the yongest is alittle boy 7 years olde the 26 day of may next and he knows more than all the rest for I have been sendding him to school ever since wee parted Now if it will please your honerble boddy to give me a bill and give me the Children I will every Pray ec
I ever remain your humble friend
Mrs Nancy Judson
Getting a divorce required an act of the legislature in Oregon Territory. Women found it difficult to obtain a divorce as long as they were economically dependent on their husbands. This petition to the legislature recounts the poor treatment that Nancy Judson received from her husband. Mr. Judson has lost the land that his wife brought to their marriage, he has abused her and their children, and he has abandoned her. Mrs. Judson points out that the two children in her husband's custody are kept half-starved and half-naked, and have not been sent to school. These circumstances caused the legislature to grant her the divorce.
Words and Terms
For Further Discussion
1. What does Nancy Judson want the Oregon legislature to do?
2. What reasons does Mrs. Judson give for requesting a divorce?
3. How could Mrs. Judson support herself and her children without a husband?
4. From the information in this document, what were the realities of family life in frontier Oregon?