Ramblings on Divorce Ranches

Ever since a certain Gladys Marie Moore swore to a judge she was seeking a divorce from her husband Owen because he was an alcoholic, a brute, and had abandoned her, she established Nevada as the place to unravel “the ties that bind”. She stayed just 16 days at the Campbell Ranch in Genoa, Nevada in February of 1920 and the judge, Frank Langen of the Douglas County District Court in nearby Minden, without knowing Mrs. Moore was really America’s Sweetheart Mary Pickford, one of the greats of the silent movie era, granted her a divorce. “Little Mary” left Reno for Oakland, California by train and one month later wed Douglas Fairbanks, another idol of the silver screen, with whom she’d been engaged in an affair for several years. So, the Campbell Ranch was really the first divorce ranch, one of a long line of dude ranches catering to the convenience and anonymity of people seeking a quicker way to end their marriages than waiting the much longer time required in most other states in the U.S.

At the time of Pickford’s “travesty of justice”, Nevada had the most liberal divorce law in the nation, six month’s residency, but Pickford’s lawyer found loop holes, stating she was divorced in Minden, not Reno. The attorney general appealed to the Supreme Court, saying Pickford should be declared a bigamist. Legislators clarified the law to say people had to live six months in the state before getting a divorce. Later, this was cut to three months and then to six weeks. Pickford’s public accepted the divorced star, wanting her to be happy. So, in her way, Mary Pickford put Nevada on the map, and, even into the 1960s and into the late 70s, Reno was the place many celebrities, and non-celebrities, rushed to for their divorces.

In my novel UNBRIDLED: A TALE OF A DIVORCE RANCH, readers can experience life at one of these ranches back in the 1950s as seen through the eyes of a young woman reluctant to end her marriage but determined to make the best of an unfortunate situation. It is just one of the countless stories emanating from a business that thrived for decades, and about which people today know little about. It is a slice of history that this writer feels privileged to have experienced, for that young woman’s story is a fictionalized version of my own unwitting participation (and eventual personal growth) in the annals of Reno’s divorce ranches. Look for UNBRIDLED: A TALE OF A DIVORCE RANCH¬†on October 1st on Amazon.com!

This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 6th, 2008 at 8:00 pm and is filed under Divorce Ranches, General, Latest Book. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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