Welcome to Divorce Nevada Style
From the 1930s to the 1960s, if you wanted a quick, simple exit from marriage, Reno was the place to go. “Divorce Seekers” (as they were called) flocked to Reno by the thousands — the rich, the poor, Eastern socialites, movie stars and housewives — all seeking to take the Reno “Cure”. For three decades, Reno held the undisputed title of “Divorce Capital of the World”.
In most other states, divorce required a waiting period of one or two years and sometimes proof of adultery. But in 1931, Nevada made it simple: reside for six weeks at a hotel, boarding house or one of the exclusive divorce ranches; pick your reason for wanting a divorce from a list of nine legal grounds that required little proof; and spend an average of six minutes in court before a judge to get your divorce decree.
My fascination with the Reno divorce era began a few decades ago when I met my husband, Bill McGee, a former head wrangler from 1947 to 1950 on Nevada’s legendary dude and divorce ranch, the Flying M.E., twenty-one miles south of Reno. Bill’s stories about the Flying M.E. and the changing cast of characters he met there had the makings of a Hollywood movie, I thought.
For years, I urged Bill to write about these years. Not to sound mauldlin, but how many former Nevada dude wranglers were “still above ground” (as the cowboys say) to tell these stories?
In 2004, we co-authored the hardcover book The Divorce Seekers: A Photo Memoir of a Nevada Dude Wrangler with 500 black-and-white photographs, most never before published. In 2014, we updated/condensed the book for a Kindle eBook and retitled it, The Cowboyin’ Years, 1947-1950: A Nevada Dude & Divorce Ranch Memoir. Both books may be sampled and purchased at Amazon.
Today fewer and fewer people know about this period of Nevada history and its profound social impact on American society as Nevada led the way for other states in the liberalization of divorce laws. Through this blog, I hope to help preserve this fascinating period of history in the contemporary American West.
If you have a Nevada divorce story you’d like to share, please contact me at email@example.com. — Sandra McGee