People of the West should know their heroes. Or "heroes".
Divorce is a hot topic constantly discussed on antifeminist blogs. Usually the discussion goes along the lines of accusing women of divorcing perfectly good husbands on a whim and stealing their possessions through divorce courts. I won't dispute that it may be the case in the USA as I don't live there, though I would say that divorced women I personally know certainly haven't become wealthier after their divorces, and it wasn't always their fault, however, that isn't the point.
People divorce on a whim because modern laws alow them to divorce on a whim. When it was more difficult to obtain a divorce and being divorced carried a stigma, people also divorced less. This is an undisputable fact. Divorce laws started changing in the middle of the XIXth century, and the movement was ever leftward.
Let's look closer at those changes. In 1857 the parliament of Great Britain reformed the divorce law, taking the divorce proceedings from the jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical courts thus making it a civil matter. This year marks the beginning of the direct governmental involvement in marriage which has worked so very well up till now.
Marriage officially became a contract instead of a sacrament, and the parliamentary Act made divorce cheaper, easier and thus more "affordable". It also widened the grounds for divorce. The authors of this bill were Lord Aberdeen, Lord Campbell, Lord Palmerston (all men) and it was supported by the Bishop of Exeter and the Archbishop of Canterbury. Lord Palmerston did everything possible to drag the bill through the Parliament despite the opposition. The new law also abolished adultery as a criminal offence.
The result of this law was that the year it was implemented, there were 300 petitions for divorce as opposed to only 3 the year before. This divorce reform was supervised by one Sir Creswell Creswell who achieved a degree of fame and respect for his work and was considered the representative of all the married women in Britain. (Read the whole story at Wiki).
The new law, however, was not gender-neutral, and thus described as
"highly unjust" by some. The husband only had to prove the wife's
adultery, while the wife had also additionally to prove abuse, rape, desertion and the like. All this according to the Bible, which describes adultery as the married woman having sexual relationship with a man other than her husband (the man who commits adultery with another man's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress should be surely put to death).
Traditionally speaking, as long as the husband treated his wife more or less decently and kept supporting her financially, his sexual shenanigans didn't matter much and were certainly not considered grounds for divorce, as opposed to the wife's infidelity. (man's honour is courage, woman's honour is chastity). It's obvious that feminists of that time weren't satisfied with such a law and campaigned for reform.
Among the campaigners there were some prominent figures whom we all know; for instance, Arthur Conan Doyle. Most people have heard about his Sherlock Holmes stories, but that wasn't the only thing he wrote. He also penned Divorce Law Reform, championing equal rights for women in divorce law .
As usual with most reformers, he had personal reasons to wish for easier divorce. Conan Doyle married a woman he didn't particularly love, and later, when she became sick with tuberculosis, promptly traded her for a younger, prettier and healthier model. Despite supposedly strict Victorian morals, he managed to parade her in society claiming that it was fine and dandy, because their relationship was supposedly platonic. Still, Sir Arthur couldn't divorce his wife and had to wait until she died to marry his mistress.
To quote this article: "This explains why he took up the cause of divorce law reform...he had great sympathy with people trapped in loveless marriages, saying
that an unmarried woman, with her freedom, was much happier than a woman
hitched to the wrong man, the worst of it being that "the poor things
can never tell till they have married the chap!"
While Conan Doyle had so much sympathy for the poor women trapped in their marriages whom he never met, he had none for his own children from the first marriage: "Mary and Kingsley, his children by Louise, were unceremoniously cut out
of his life while he indulged his uxoriousness and fathered a second
family. "I can't think why my father is so hard," Mary complained to her
brother. "I have not had one gentle word, or sign of love from him
during the whole two years since Mother died." (idem).
To put things more into the perspective, he was a freemason, too. So much for "female imperative."