Begging for bigamy

In November of 1878, two women from Waratah in the North West of Tasmania began a quest to marry one man. They were happy to share him between them, as long as they could do it with the blessing of a church. 

This man had so many good qualities, but one of the highest on their list was his gloomy expression. They had ‘never yet known him to commit the sin of smiling’.

As devout Christians, they were convinced that the bible had enough examples to support multi-partner marriage. It was the laws of Tasmania that prevented them. If the law wouldn’t bend, they were prepared to travel to ‘the Mormon settlement’, presumably in America.

Couldn’t the grumpy gentleman have just picked his favourite and been done with it? It seems the situation was more complicated than that. Rumour had it that he was already married to a woman in the Victorian colony. Although it was common during colonial times for people to consider themselves single if their husband or wife lived too far away, if people knew you were already married the law could get in the way of you marrying again.

If anyone can work out how this drama was resolved, we would be very interested to know…

Devon Herald Sat 16 Nov 1878 p.3, National Library of Australia

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Author: Jess Walters

Jess is an archivist with the State Library and Archive Service.

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