What Habeas Petitions Revealed About Marriage in the 19th Century
This is a look at habeas corpus petitions and how they were used in the 19th century, and specifically women who were requesting a divorce. We see the ways the Courts denied women because of gender roles and societal standards.
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[00:00:01.740]Hi, my name is Lauren Hinton
[00:00:03.460]and I'm a junior here at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln
[00:00:06.670]studying History and Communication Studies.
[00:00:10.100]Today, I'm going to share what habeas petitions revealed
[00:00:12.680]about marriage in the 19th century.
[00:00:15.270]So first, I just want to talk about the project summary
[00:00:17.670]and what I've been researching over this past year.
[00:00:21.040]Dr. Jagodinsky has created a project
[00:00:23.210]called Petitioning for Freedom:
[00:00:24.800]Habeas Corpus in the American West.
[00:00:27.150]Her team, along with herself,
[00:00:28.560]is working to transcribe and encode habeas petitions
[00:00:32.190]from six states during 1812 through 1824
[00:00:35.660]to create what we hope to be an open source
[00:00:38.320]and open access graph database
[00:00:40.350]with data from habeas corpus petitions
[00:00:42.470]that will demonstrate the relationship of power
[00:00:45.020]in claims to freedom and their significance and value
[00:00:47.560]within the American jurisprudence.
[00:00:50.090]Habeas corpus is Latin for, that you have the body
[00:00:53.010]or show me the body.
[00:00:54.550]A writ of habeas corpus requires
[00:00:56.270]the person who was under arrest
[00:00:57.720]to be brought before the court
[00:00:59.210]to secure the person's release,
[00:01:01.400]unless unlawful grounds are shown for their detention,
[00:01:05.000]and it's a fundamental right
[00:01:06.200]from the United States constitution
[00:01:08.070]that protects citizens against unlawful
[00:01:10.060]and indefinite imprisonment.
[00:01:11.700]Habeas corpus was primarily used by marginalized groups
[00:01:15.820]like slaves, women, immigrants,
[00:01:17.840]people of color, and indigenous people,
[00:01:20.160]to one, possibly win their freedom,
[00:01:22.360]two, use it for custody claims over children,
[00:01:25.040]or three, personal remedies like deportation or divorce.
[00:01:29.770]Now, to talk a little bit about marriage and divorce law.
[00:01:34.100]Throughout most of American history,
[00:01:35.750]marriage has been defined through law,
[00:01:37.310]the legal union of a man and woman
[00:01:39.440]as husband and wife for life.
[00:01:41.600]Throughout the 19th century,
[00:01:43.200]we see that the difficulties it was to retain a divorce.
[00:01:46.610]In fact, many courts had not defined the terms of marriage.
[00:01:49.940]Marriage law was an undefined area of law
[00:01:52.240]because judges agreed that the terms of matrimony
[00:01:54.740]like who did what, who spent what,
[00:01:57.010]and how much they spent, et cetera,
[00:01:59.200]were to be decided in private
[00:02:00.610]and was outside the court's competence.
[00:02:03.370]Marriage and divorce law differ in every state.
[00:02:06.070]Some states allowed judicially ordered separations,
[00:02:08.530]which is formally known as divorce as, a mensa et thoro.
[00:02:12.540]This translates to, from bed and board.
[00:02:15.010]Other states did not.
[00:02:16.580]In the territory of Washington,
[00:02:17.970]the district court could grant a divorce
[00:02:19.610]for the following causes.
[00:02:21.270]Number one, when the consent to the marriage
[00:02:23.430]of the party applying for the divorce
[00:02:25.020]was obtained by force or fraud
[00:02:26.780]and there has been no subsequent voluntary cohabitation.
[00:02:30.850]Number two, for adultery on the part of the wife
[00:02:33.460]or of the husband.
[00:02:34.380]When unforgiven, an application is made within one year
[00:02:37.090]after it shall come to his or her knowledge.
[00:02:39.860]Number three, impotency.
[00:02:42.200]Number four, abandonment for one year.
[00:02:44.500]Number five, cruel treatment of either party or by the other
[00:02:47.970]or personal inequities rendering life burdensome.
[00:02:51.440]Number six, habitual drunkenness of either party
[00:02:54.200]or the neglect or refusal of the husband
[00:02:56.450]to make suitable provisions for his family.
[00:02:59.470]And number seven, the imprisonment of either party
[00:03:02.290]in the penitentiary.
[00:03:03.740]If complaint is during the term of such imprisonment,
[00:03:06.780]any divorce that may be granted upon application
[00:03:09.160]of either party,
[00:03:10.560]for any other cause deemed by the court sufficient
[00:03:13.130]and the court shall be satisfied
[00:03:15.110]that the parties can no longer live together.
[00:03:18.730]First, I'd like to talk
[00:03:19.710]about Mary E. Teller versus Franklin Teller in 1886.
[00:03:24.690]Mary Teller was married to Franklin Teller
[00:03:26.690]on November 12th, 1882.
[00:03:29.070]Mary Teller, the plaintiff,
[00:03:30.720]filed a petition for divorce,
[00:03:32.160]complaining that Franklin Teller had neglected
[00:03:34.480]and refused to make suitable provisions for the plaintiff
[00:03:37.620]and had deserted her for weeks at a time
[00:03:39.730]with no money or other provisions.
[00:03:42.340]The court denied her petition and Mary Teller was forced
[00:03:45.470]to go back to the home of Franklin Teller.
[00:03:47.760]She attempted a second time for the divorce,
[00:03:50.400]but again, was denied.
[00:03:52.040]In her petition to the court,
[00:03:53.230]we see that Mary Teller and her lawyer
[00:03:55.160]specifically worded her complaints
[00:03:57.260]to be what the courts would allow for a legal divorce,
[00:04:00.110]but even so, were still denied.
[00:04:03.090]By putting women back into the homes where divorces pending
[00:04:06.390]or in the end, denied,
[00:04:08.020]puts the woman at risk for physical slash emotional abuse.
[00:04:11.410]This could be far more dangerous
[00:04:12.960]and women rarely had any power to stop it.
[00:04:16.250]Unfortunately, Mary Teller would go on to be arrested
[00:04:18.850]for murdering her husband, Franklin Teller.
[00:04:21.610]And it is worth pondering
[00:04:23.370]that if she'd been granted the divorce,
[00:04:25.370]would have Franklin Teller still be alive?
[00:04:29.830]Now, to think about that for a little bit,
[00:04:31.620]we also want to move on to what insanity law was.
[00:04:34.620]Insanity law can be traced all the way back
[00:04:36.770]to the Bible's Old Testament or the Jewish Torah.
[00:04:39.720]Evil spirits and divine punishment
[00:04:41.410]were considered causes of mental disorders.
[00:04:43.990]During the 18th century, the age of enlightenment,
[00:04:46.220]science began to emerge,
[00:04:47.570]and many had began to adopt
[00:04:49.200]a medical perspective on the madness
[00:04:51.250]and how it was rooted psychologically and physically.
[00:04:54.430]These ideas carried over to America
[00:04:56.240]by the colonists' penal codes.
[00:04:58.690]The Western world has had a long history
[00:05:00.660]of treating women unequally,
[00:05:02.310]and we can see this with one example,
[00:05:04.530]the Salem witch trials.
[00:05:06.380]These habeas petitions particularly highlight
[00:05:08.630]the lengths of people would go to
[00:05:10.040]to keep women in their societal roles.
[00:05:13.280]And to have a perfect example,
[00:05:15.360]we're going to look at Caroline Bauer
[00:05:16.800]versus State of Missouri in 1868.
[00:05:19.700]Caroline Bauer was married to John Bauer with six children.
[00:05:23.120]On December 26th, 1867,
[00:05:25.780]Caroline Bauer was arrested by a police officer
[00:05:28.970]instigated by her husband, John Bauer,
[00:05:31.100]who had deserted her for over the last four months.
[00:05:34.060]While in the midst of the pending divorce,
[00:05:36.010]John Bauer had committed Caroline Bauer
[00:05:37.930]to St. Vincent's Institution for the Insane,
[00:05:40.760]and she was held with two doctor's notes,
[00:05:42.700]certificates of insanity that were included.
[00:05:45.960]Caroline Bauer filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus
[00:05:49.170]claiming she was held illegally,
[00:05:50.880]restrained and confined against her will.
[00:05:53.600]The only authority holding confining Caroline Bauer
[00:05:56.280]was the two certificates of insanity
[00:05:58.720]which she states were purporting to be doctors.
[00:06:01.890]William Bush, the petitioner's attorney,
[00:06:03.800]stated that the arrest was illegal
[00:06:05.960]and against the statute law in such cases provided
[00:06:09.320]in that there had not been a judicial examination
[00:06:12.000]in the probate or County Court of St. Louis
[00:06:14.780]to inquire in her sanity.
[00:06:17.150]Sister M. Julia, holding Caroline Bauer,
[00:06:19.960]filed to discharge Caroline Bauer
[00:06:21.850]from any further restraint for the following reason;
[00:06:25.190]the return showed that the petition
[00:06:26.730]was restrained over liberty without any authority of law
[00:06:29.290]and without judgment of any court authorizing her restraint.
[00:06:33.180]These facts infer that John Bauer
[00:06:35.670]was wrongfully finding ways out of the divorce.
[00:06:39.600]And we can see below the Missouri statutes on divorce
[00:06:45.630]and on the right side,
[00:06:48.240]Missouri statutes on insanity,
[00:06:50.250]also in 1866.
[00:06:52.680]So what is the significance of all of this?
[00:06:55.310]These cases demonstrate the difficulties women face
[00:06:58.010]when it came to legal divorces.
[00:07:00.170]It is also interesting to note
[00:07:01.820]that especially during the 19th century,
[00:07:04.010]many people would simply just separate.
[00:07:06.290]They might just leave or disappear to never return,
[00:07:09.420]and remarry in a different state.
[00:07:12.040]It became a crucial practice
[00:07:13.750]through which the legal culture of marriage developed.
[00:07:16.360]There is no way to quantify how many men and women left
[00:07:19.580]without a legal decree.
[00:07:21.490]So what does that leave us with?
[00:07:23.280]Well, I'd still like to ask,
[00:07:25.240]what does it mean to be married?
[00:07:27.280]And what do these laws tell us about our assumptions,
[00:07:29.300]about men and women's roles in these marriages?
[00:07:32.540]How did these cases affect family and children?
[00:07:36.060]And did women face legal societal consequences
[00:07:39.790]when filing for divorce or habeas corpus?
[00:07:43.330]I'd like to thank you for this opportunity
[00:07:45.050]for me to share my research
[00:07:46.760]and my project that I've been working on
[00:07:49.180]for over the past year.
[00:07:50.840]It was delightful, and thank you very much.
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