Elizabeth Minor spent nine years refusing to do housework or tending to “any of those domestic duties which a wife ought to perform.” Originally married in Lunenburg county, Virginia, sometime during the year 1824; her husband soon moved their fledgling family to Morgan county, Alabama in the hope of furthering his wealth. He made sure to emphasize his position as “extremely poor… and in reduced circumstances,” and blamed her refusal to take part in the domestic economy for the continuation of his ill fortunes.
It may be worth noting that ‘domestic duties which a wife ought to perform’ in nineteenth century Alabama encompassed everything from mundanities like sewing, gardening, and churning butter – to the gory tasks of hog slaughter or child birth. Taken all together, her husband probably expected Elizabeth Minor to be equal parts sweat shop, botanist, chemist, and butcher. Which is a terrifying and post-apocalyptic skill set for any one human to possess, much less an entire gender.
Lankton Minor convinced himself that his wife simply entered an unexpected stubborn phase. He soon discerned that the only way to convince her to stop doing whatever the hell she wanted was to simply flatter her into submissiveness. So he tested his theory that “by the most affectionate & kind treatment as a husband on his part he might ultimately restore her to her understanding.”
Yet still she refused.
Obviously Lankton Minor survived long enough to try and divorce her. Elizabeth Minor probably contributed in some way to the household, because although her husband alleged that “[h]er management of the house was so wretched that a relation of it would shock every feeling of humanity,” he stuck around long enough for her to abandon him.
Although he described how her “want of cleanliness and anything like modesty* rendered the house of your petitioner… almost intolerable,” there is no mention of her committing any acts of adultery nor stealing anything from him. Husbands of the time made sure to mention non-sanctioned coitus first and foremost in their testimonies against their wives, so we can assume that she did not get intimate with an immigrant. They also highlighted any financial indiscretions on the part of their wives so as to hopefully avoid alimony.
Instead, it appears that she simply tired of him. Lankton Minor used a lot of creative language in describing Elizabeth Minor as unfit for social enjoyment, mentally deranged, possessing a defective imagination, and full of “thoughtless expression.” So he may have just pissed her off. Indeed, she apparently warned him for several years that she planned to depart, but he brushed that off as the mindless chatter of his insane wife.
Until she left.
It may seem that I’m being needlessly harsh with Lankton Minor’s accusation, but allow me to explain. Although we’re supposed to believe that Elizabeth Minor possessed less than reasonable mental faculties, she successfully navigated back to her father’s home in Prince Edward county, Virginia, on foot. Other divorce cases of the time make specific mention of rich to middling income women hiring scouts to lead them along a trail to unite with a lover only two counties over, yet somehow a supposed invalid walked about six hundred miles without incident in 1833.
Elizabeth Minor just hated doing housework. It should please most to hear that Lankton Minor’s appeal was dismissed and he lived the rest of his life unable to remarry.
*one can only assume that she walked around naked a lot
Lankton PB Minor v. Elizabeth Minor, Book K, 387-389 (1834).