During The 17th Century Instead Of Divorce Wife Selling Was A Real Thing

Samuel Reason - July 20th, 2020

During the 17th to 19th century, there was a weird and terrible custom of wife selling instead of divorce. It is a practice we are happy has gone away today, and anyone could explain to you why it is highly degrading towards women – but if you asked people from that time era they may end up telling you it had a practical purpose.

history.com

In market towns, wife auctioning was a regular occurrence. It happened much like selling cattle, the husband would sell his wife to the highest bidder. In 1847, there are written reports of George Wray tying his wife up to my waist and leading her to the nearest market. She was then auctioned off to the highest bidder: William Harwood. It sounds like some sort of strange joke, but it was an organized way of having a divorce.

Between the 17th and 19th centuries divorce was extremely expensive and many lower-class British couples could not imagine affording it. It sounds completely outlandish today, but it happened in taverns, markets, and fairs all across England. Historians still debate when the practice started and how popular it was, but it appeared to be a preferred alternative to divorce for lower-class Britons.

If your marriage broke down during the 1750s for example, you had to obtain a private Act of Parliament to be allowed to divorce. This process was time-consuming and very expensive, so it appears at some point wife selling came to be the form of faux divorce. It wasn’t legal, but most of the public saw it as valid. The reason was that people could simply leave each other, but that meant the woman was always in danger of her previous husband coming back to haunt her. Legally speaking, a husband could demand that his wife’s new lover pay him money for having relations with his wife. At the time the law was vastly in favor of the man, for example, the wife could not sue the husband for adultery. So wife sales came about as a way to sidestep that risk.

If you have not guessed it already, wife sales were symbolic. Generally speaking there was only one bidder which was the woman’s new lover. This was because women had to agree to the sale for it to be completed, as a result, men couldn’t simply start auctioning off their wife randomly.

Next Article
  • The Colossus Of Rhodes Only Stood For 54 Years

    One of the wonders from the ancient world called the Colossus of Rhodes stood for only 54 years before it collapsed. However, its legacy has lasted much longer and is even talked about today. You could compare it to an ancient Lady Liberty that would guard the port entrance. The Colossus of Rhodes stood at...

    Read More
  • The Canadian Tank Nicknamed The Bomb Never Gave Up

    During World War II there was one Canadian tank nicknamed The Bomb that never missed a single day of service. That includes landing on D-Day all the way to VE day. Bomb was one of the few Allied tanks that survived the ordeal of D-Day when they landed to liberate France on June 6th, 1944....

    Read More
  • That Time France And Brazil Went To War Over Lobsters

    Once considered the rats of the sea, the lobster is now an expensive food item. Prices range from 12 to 30 dollars per pound depending on the quality. And believe it or not, these shelled creatures have even caused national security problems on several occasions. Though only once in history have two nations squared up...

    Read More
  • The Model Who Won $15.6M For A Coffee Jar Photo

    A model who took a photo for Nestle when he was 39, but then never heard back from them, has been awarded over $15.6 million after he found out they had been using his images for years on the Taster’s Choice Coffee labels. Russell Christoff is now 55 and retired, but used to model around...

    Read More
  • The Massive Prehistoric Tomb Of Ireland

    Known as Newgrange, this massive prehistoric tomb located in Ireland predates the construction of the Pyramids in Egypt. The tomb is estimated to be over 5,200 years old found in Ireland’s Boyne Valley which is typically known as Ireland’s Ancient East by historians. The structure is thought to have been built by Stone Age farmers....

    Read More
  • The Billion Dollar Nuclear Plant From The 70s That Was Never Used

    Located in Zwentendorf in Austria, there is a nuclear power plant from a forgotten era, one where nuclear power was being championed around the world. The only thing is, this plant has never once split an atom - it was never turned on. It is Austria's first and only ever a nuclear power station, but...

    Read More
  • The Underwater Postbox Of Susami Bay In Japan

    If you have ever wondered how you may mail a letter if you are stuck living deep in the ocean, then don’t worry you can do that from Susami Bay, Japan. That is right if you are ever stuck in the waters, you can post your letter from a postbox that is 10 meters deep...

    Read More
  • Ernest Hemingway Cheated Death Over Five Times

    Hemingway wasn’t a household name without taking a few risks not only in his art but also in his own life. From early on he brushed close up to death on multiple occasions, mostly because he embraced character traits that were very similar to some of his crazy fictional characters. We know that he was...

    Read More