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Petition Seeking Divorce

Petition Seeking Divorce/tiles/non-collection/p/pm_016imgtile1.xml
Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration
Petition Seeking Divorce/tiles/non-collection/p/pm_016imgtile2.xml
Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration


West Alricks, a merchant, married a 15-year-old named Ann in 1794. They quickly found that they lived “very unhappily together,” and less than four years later, they separated. West Alricks left without a forwarding address. Struggling to support her two children while living in the District of Columbia, Ann Alricks sought a divorce, imagining that remarriage would help her situation. At that time, to obtain a divorce in Washington, D.C., individuals had to petition Congress, because no court had the authority to grant divorces in the city. Her petition includes personal details about her marriage, finances, and hopes for the future. After receiving the petitions of three women asking Congress for divorce, Representative Joseph Hopper Nicholson presented a bill allowing “that the District Court of the District of Columbia ought to be invested with a power to grant divorces, in certain cases.”

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