Writers’ Wednesday – What Was Really Going on at Those Nevada Divorce Ranches?

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Event Series Event Series: Writers’ Wednesday

May 8 @ 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm

Writers’ Wednesday

May 8, 2024
5:00 – 5:30 pm – Book signing and wine/cheese Reception
5:30 – 6:30 pm – Lecture

What Was Really Going on at Those Nevada Divorce Ranches? Fact and Fiction

In the 1940s and ‘50s, divorce seekers from around the world were running to Reno by the thousands for a six-week divorce. If they had the money and the need for privacy, they stayed on that unique Nevada institution – a divorce ranch (lingo for a dude ranch catering to divorce seekers). This month’s books are The Divorce Seekers and The Better Half: A Novel of the Nevada Divorce Ranch Era.  

Authors Sandra McGee and Peggy Wynne Borgman will talk about their newly-released books on the subject – one fact and the other fiction.

The Divorce Seekers

When Sandra McGee stumbled upon her husband’s photos from the Flying M E divorce ranch, she began asking questions. “Bill’s stories were like an old Hollywood movie coming to life,” she recalls. They teamed up and wrote The Divorce Seekers – The Intimate True Story of a Nevada Divorce Ranch Wrangler. The book became the ‘bible’ of Reno divorce ranch lore. A new edition just came out in paperback.

From 1947 to 1949, Montana cowboy Bill McGee was the dude wrangler on the Flying M E (pronounced “Em-Eee”), an exclusive divorce ranch in Washoe Valley catering to wealthy Easterners. He entertained guests with names like Astor and du Pont, and movie stars Ava Gardner and Clark Gable. This is his story…

The Better Half Novel


After discovering the 2004 edition of The Divorce Seekers in a Carson City bookshop, Peggy Wynne Borgman was inspired to write a novel about a mid-century divorcee on the run, which became The Better Half – A Novel of the Nevada Divorce Ranch Era.

In 1952, Chicago socialite Elizabeth “Bettye” Grafton flees her abusive husband for a Nevada divorce. She hides out on a gritty-glamorous divorce ranch in the Washoe Valley to endure the state’s six-week residency in a menagerie of wealthy ex-wives-in-waiting. By day, she finds solace riding the High Sierra—and by night, in a bottomless bottle of bourbon. But she discovers her past isn’t done with her… she’s a runaway from the Stewart Indian School and her powerful husband and his Las Vegas mob cronies are looking for her.

“I owe much of the inspiration for this book to Sandra and Bill McGee, who wrote the seminal history of the Nevada divorce ranches,” writes Peggy Borgman in the Afterword & Acknowledgements. “As frothy as descriptions of this era tend to be, the bottom line was that Nevada enabled women to escape unhappy or abusive marriages long before the era of the ‘no-fault’ divorce.”

Promotion for upcoming lecture: KOLO 8 Interview and RNR article.

Sandra McGee

Sandra McGee


Sandra McGee launched her writing career as a publicist for the performing arts. In 2000, she ventured into the world of Nevada divorce ranches. Her passions are ballet, film noir, B movies, and Reno when it was “Divorce Capital of the World.” (McGeeBooks.com)



Peggy Wynne Borgman

Peggy W.  Borgman

Peggy Wynne Borgman is a Carson City author, editor, and book coach. Her fiction centers on the lives of women in the West, wrapping serious themes in fast-paced thrillers with unforgettable settings. A plein air painter, her love affair with Nevada began when she and her husband moved to the area in 2016. She became enthralled with Nevada’s rich history and larger-than-life characters. (PWBorgman.com)


The Writers’ Wednesday Lecture Series, held the second Wednesday of each month, features a different author who takes part in a book signing, a presentation and question-and-answer session with the audience. A wine and cheese reception precedes the lecture.

The intent of the program is to highlight writers who specifically focus on Nevada, the Great Basin, or the West in general. The authors talk about the content of their books but also share details about the creative process.

Make sure to arrive early as we have limited seating available in our Event Space. Don’t forget, we provide free, temporary parking permits to make it easier to visit NHS!


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Sheryln Hayes-Zorn
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1650 N. Virginia Street
Reno, NV 89503 United States
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Phone: 775-688-1190