In an age when couples can both get married and divorced via a drive-thru window, one former single mom offers a real wake-up call.
That's almost hard to imagine when today, you can find divorce lawyers and support groups in the blink of an eye. But when Norden was 25 -- as well as eight months pregnant and the mother of a 4-year-old -- her dance instructor husband came home and told her that he wanted a divorce.
"I've seen my lawyer and I'm sending you to a divorce ranch in Reno," she recalls him saying to her in their Connecticut home in the early 1950s.
A divorce ranch? "Back in those days, in the Eastern Seaboard states, you had to wait a year and show proof," she explains. "The quickest divorce you could get was in Nevada. If you were a resident of the state for at least six weeks, you could get a 'quickie divorce.' The law became popular with couples who wanted a quick and clean separation, but the question was: where would people stay for six weeks while they waited for the paperwork to come through?"
So, off she went to Nevada, where "soon-to-be divorcees, typically women, would stay as paid guests at the ranches for those six weeks. They had a place to stay, and the fading dude ranches got a shot in the arm with the new business."
Little did her husband -- who was now courting a new dance student -- know that this cattle ranch would actually become "a haven" for her. She got to hang out with wranglers of wild horses, cow-hands, and socialites. (You might recall that Clare Boothe Luce's The Women and Arthur Miller's The Misfits both feature "divorce ranches.")
After leaving the ranch, Norden moved with her two kids to California, where "I had a career as a big band singer, and also met my future husband, who was a clinical psychologist."
They were married for 50 years -- and she had three children with him -- before he passed away in 2007.
Thanks to no-fault divorces in most states now, divorce ranches are a thing of the past. Norden recalls that "in her day, women were not as empowered as they are now," and she adds that "reflecting on that part of American history might be a good lesson for young women today."
"I think it is important for people -- especially today's younger women -- to realize how difficult it was to get a divorce in the 1950s in most states in this country."
Do you agree?
|Rachel Sarah, a.k.a. "Single Mom Seeking" blogs at SingleMomSeeking.com and co-founded SingleMommyHood.com, the first-ever website to offer "a whole new way to think about life."|