During The Early 1900s, This City In South Dakota Became Known As A “Divorce Colony,” Serving As A Safe Haven For Women Seeking Separation From Their Spouses

Craig Zerbe - - illustrative purposes only

Women living during the 19th and 20th centuries didn’t really have many options to turn to when it came to escaping a bad marriage.

However, the state of South Dakota provided a place of refuge for women. In the early 1900s, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, gained a reputation as a haven for individuals seeking a divorce.

Due to South Dakota’s lenient divorce laws, people could get a divorce with relative ease and discretion. This led Sioux Falls to become known as a “Divorce Colony.”

One notable historical figure associated with the “Divorce Colony” is Blanche Molineux. She was the wife of Roland Molineux, who was involved in a high-profile murder case. She traveled to Sioux Falls to get a divorce from him.

At the turn of the 20th century, Roland Molineux was accused of trying to poison a rival. In April 1897, Roland was beaten in a weightlifting contest at the Knickerbocker Athletic Club by Henry Cornish. Roland was enraged and tried to have Henry fired from the club where he worked as a physical director.

Henry retaliated by writing letters to club members about Roland being a bad athlete who sold rum. Roland went to the board of directors and threatened to leave the club if Henry wasn’t fired.

However, the board decided to keep Henry on. Roland quit the club in December 1897, storming out in a rage and professing his hatred of Henry.

A year later, on Christmas Eve, Henry received a small box in the mail. It contained a silver toothpick holder and a small blue bottle of Bromo Seltzer crystals. A couple of days later, his landlady complained of a headache. Henry prepared the Bromo Seltzer for her to drink, thinking it would ease her headache. However, a few minutes after drinking it, she was dead.

The autopsy confirmed she was poisoned with cyanide of mercury, which was an ingredient commonly used in dye factories. Roland was a chemist and had access to chemicals since he worked at his father’s dye factory.

Craig Zerbe – – illustrative purposes only

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