1864 to 1906: Howell Code, Edmunds Anti-Polygamy Act, Divorce Rate

1864, the Howell Code

The Howell Code creates a legal framework for divorces, either in territorial district court (for reasons such as intemperance, cruelty, and adultery) or by the territorial legislature (no cause need be specified). Governor Safford is one of those who obtains a divorce (from Jennie Tracy, m. 1869, though they had rarely lived together). The code makes marriages with “a negro” void. In 1865, marriages with American Indians and people of Chinese descent are also prohibited by the legislature. These restrictions could be evaded, it turns out, by getting married in New Mexico.

1882, the Edmunds Anti-Polygamy Act

The Edmunds Anti-Polygamy Act of 1882 outlaws polygamy and cohabitation with someone not one’s spouse. Dozens are tried for adultery in Arizona under the act. Male violators are sometimes fined, sometimes imprisoned. Wives would sometimes be imprisoned for refusing to testify against their husbands. Once the sentences had been served, the husband could return to the polygamous marriage and not be tried again for polygamy, under the doctrine of double jeopardy.

1906, divorce rate in West soars

The divorce rate increases markedly nation-wide. The rate of divorce in the West is about 4 times that of North and South Atlantic states.