Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Subversive Family

Everybody with an interest in understanding institutional misandry, anti-fatherhood, anti-family ideologies, and “broken family values,” has a short list of favorite books on these subjects. For those whose short list does not include it, I take this opportunity to pitch a truly indispensible bit of brilliant and broadly learned writing that is guaranteed to cast an interpretive light on everything else one might read.

When it was published in England in 1982, The Subversive Family ruffled not a few British establishment feathers. It was a history book on the family – and anti-family ideologies – set in Europe and England, with little mention of the American experience. So perhaps the ten year lapse between the first publication and the American issue might be explained by this fact. But more a likely explanation for the blindness of the American intelligencia to Mount’s explosive counter-revisionist history was that for thos who decide what gets published and what does not the books message was just a bit too ...“subversive.” The Subversive Family's arguments and the facts presented therein challenged everything that leftism, progressivism, big government, global big business, radical feminism and social engineering of every shade and color stand for. Better to pretend it was never written.

Although The Subversive Family was indeed published in the United States in 1992 and at that time was recognized as important within the non-leftist intellectual community. Yet it has never gained anything like the wide readership it deserves. The time has now come for the book to be taken up by all those who are reeducating themselves in self governance, liberty and resistance to totalitarianism.

The history of the American family that today available to us in academic and popular publications is a fake one: one which through distortion, omission and frequently outright misrepresentation succeeds not in enlightening us to the true “genealogy of everyday life” in America, but rather offers an elaborately Orwellian narrative that promotes the Progressivist ideology of its tenured authors. Mount himself implicitly refereed to the fake American history when he blithely suggested that the American publication of The Subversive Family “might even serve as a prologue to that great history of the American Family which has yet to be written.” (“Preface to the American Edition,” p. ix).

-- From American Reviews --

“The Subversive Family was published in England ten years ago but has only recently made its appearance in this country; even so, it is ahead of its time. Ferdinand Mount's thesis is that we have been living through a period of ideologically-inspired attack, meant to persuade us that there is nothing “natural” about love, marriage, the family, or, for that matter, human nature. All these, we are to believe, are constructed by the social system.”  [Commentary Magazine, Oct. 1993, Joseph Adelson, professor of psychology at the University of Michigan and the author of Inventing Adolescence.]

“Mount does a devastating – and highly entertaining – demolition job on fashionable myths about the family. He carries his astonishing erudition lightly and his wit is sharp. With ‘family values’ now a central issue in American politics, this book will be invaluable for those concerned to distinguish sense from plausible nonsense.” – Owen Harries, The National Interest, 1992

-- From the 1992 American press release --

“The family is a subversive organization.” With these words, Ferdinand Mount begins what has come to be regarded as one of the most influential works of social history in recent times. Published to acclaim in England and throughout Europe, The Subversive Family now makes its first appearance in America. At a time when public discussions of divorce, child support, gender inequality, adoption, care for the aged, and all manner of family issues are taking new and unexpected turns, Mount provides us with a history of the family that will pique the interest, and often the ire, of all parties in the debate.

Mount argues that our society has been shaped by a series of powerful revolutionary movements, the leaders of which, whether they be politicians, theologians, feudal lords, or feminist writers, have done their utmost – ultimately unsuccessfully – to render the family subordinate to their purpose.

He maintains that many widely held beliefs about the family are based on a willful misreading of the evidence promulgated by the Church, the sate, and various idealogues; included among these are that arranged marriages were the norm until this century; tat in earlier societies children were treated as expendable objects; that the nuclear family is a twentieth century invention; and that romantic love never existed before the troubadour poets glorified adultery. Divorce, Mount contends, is no great novelty either.

Irreverent and entertaining, The Subversive Family will jolt the reader into a fascinating reassessment of love and marriage and encourage greater consideration for policies today that support the family. [From the American publisher’s press release, Dec. 14, 1992, The Free Press, New York, NY]

-- Selected Quotations from The Subversive Family --

p. 7)  More lies are spoken and written about the family than any other subject.

p. 10)  For the history of the family [as written by the professors] is a future [oriented] affair, marked by manipulation, dishonesty and sophistry as well as by cruelty and indifference to individuals.

p. 164)  the family is in permanent rebellion against the public ideology of the Establishment.

p. 173)  The family’s most dangerous enemies may not turn out to be those who have openly declared war. It is so easy to muster resistance against the blatant cruelty of collectivist dictators, even if the resistance is only silent and inward. It is less easy to fight against the armies of those who are ‘only here to help’ – those who claim to come with the best intentions but come armed, all the same, with statutory powers and administrative instruments: education officers, children’s officers, housing officers, architects, planners, welfare workers, and all the other councils, agencies and task forces which claim to know best how to manage our private concerns, and which declare that they are only acting out the principle that ‘we are all members one of another.’

What is objectionable is not merely that these public officials are frequently wrong – though they are. Nor is it that for the most part we have no means of controlling or challenging their activities – though that is often true too. What is always affronting, offensive and distressing is the simple fact of their intrusion into our private space.

p. 213)  And it is this rival power centre which is the real abiding threat in the modern world to all ideologies, religions and patriotisms – namely the family.

p. 228)  But if we concede that traditional marriage, however flawed, could have some emotional life of its own – could indeed scarcely help having some emotional life and generating some kind of two-way relationship between husband and wife – then we ought surely to look st the connection between marriage and society from the inside out. Instead of marriage being a puppet show created by one huge, eternal, all-powerful masculine enemy, entirely for his own pleasure and convenience, we may begin to see marriage as an autonomous, natural and moral institution threatened and often oppressed from outside by a series of enemies thrown up by history. On this interpretation, it is not the family which represents a passing historical phase or sequence of phases – but rather its enemies.

p. 241)  In the medieval and Renaissance texts we have quoted, mutual forbearance and respect are regarded as inescapably connected with and consequent upon the equality of true marriage. The old ideals of marriage were not and are not opposed to women’s rights; indeed, it is in them that we first find those rights asserted. What the old ideals were and are opposed to is egotism, whether male or female. They assume a biologic ethic – a series of duties of nest-gathering, nursing, feeding, protecting and teaching, all involving the sacrifice of self.

A note on cultural misandry: This blog was written in Word 2003, a program which does not recognize the existence of the word “misandry.” The three alternate words offered by Microsoft are “masonry,” “milady,” and “missionary.”

Friday, November 20, 2009

Helen the Serial Killer

Helen Auguste Geisen-Volk was a baby farmer. She was also a serial killer of children. By the time she was arrested in 1925 at the age of 41 for the kidnapping and murder of children in , her victims numbered 53 according to the New York District Attorney's "confirmed" count.

The term “baby farming” is obsolete, so most people don’t have any idea what you’re talking about when you mention it. But it’s a word that needs to be brought back again, now that the notion of a nanny state that is to oversee all aspects of childrearing from birth (or before) onwards is all the rage with totalitarian social engineering class again. Don’t worry that “baby farming” with its quaint old-fashioned sound might fail to get you listened to when you speak the word in conversation. For there are other words that will appear in the sentences you speak that include “baby farming” that are the sort of words that will no doubt cause the most sleepy-headed of listeners to sit up and take notice. These helpful added-value words that are going to perform such a valuable service are these: “infanticide,” “child torture,” “kidnapping,” “serial murder,” “mass murder.”

“The term “baby farming” … referred to placing-out infants for money as well as to their sale for profit. Many clients were unwed mothers, prostitutes, and destitute or deserted wives who needed help with their children while they worked for wages. Although most baby farming amounted to what we now call family day care, it developed a terrible reputation when exposes uncovered horrific abuses and horrible death traps.” [Ellen Herman, The Adoption History Project]

It is presently not very easy to locate information on the history of baby farming in America. Wikipedia misleadingly implies the practice was uncommon in the United States and that it was solely a 19th century phenomenon. Both are untrue. Baby Farming was widespread in the U. S. and Canada by the mid-19th century (such news reports as “The Baby Business – Baby-Farming in New York City – Where When And How to Get a Baby – Christian Families Supplied with Blue-Eyed Babies on Demand,” Philadelphia Telegraph, Sep. 5, 1869, attest to this) and lasted at least as late as 1950.

The most well-known baby farming cases in the English-speaking world are ones that occurred in England, Australia and New Zealand. The reason for this is simple: several baby farmers were executed for their crimes. Death penalty cases have a way of going unforgotten in popular -- and academic -- memory.

This illustration shows the first of several executions of baby farmers in England:

Helen Geisen-Volk, born circa 1883, was the most notorious of American baby farmers not because she murdered more children than any other day care operator – Georgia Tann (1891-1950) slaughtered and tortured an exponentially larger number of children – but simply because she was successfully prosecuted.

She had been a nurse in the German Red Cross during World War I yet somehow found her way to United States well before the November 11, 1918 armistice. She is reported to have begun her New York City baby farming establishment, called an “infantarium,” in January of that year at 1966 Park Avenue. It was not long before she was in hot water with the law. On May 23, 1919, along with abortionist Dr. Arthur Camnitzer, Helen was indicted for the death of Ann Seeburg, victim of a botched termination procedure. (Many, if not most, baby farmers were involved with abortion rings). The D. A. had to drop charges in December due to insufficient evidence. In 1920 the city issued her a permit for the infantarium, but revoked soon after in October “because a child had not received proper care.” The following year a mother whose name remains unknown instituted kidnapping proceedings against Helen after her child “went missing.” The charges were dropped due to insufficient evidence.

What happened next would lift the veil on Giesen-Volk’s murderous racket once and for all.

“The city’s florists were already raising the price of white carnations for the coming weekend as William Angerer's nervously afflicted wife readied to come home from the state hospital and hold again the tiny son the couple had reluctantly boarded a few months earlier at a city-licensed infantarium for $10 a week. Now steamfitter Angerer went to Helen Geisen-Volk's brownstone at 235 E. 86th St. to collect his boy for the joyful Mother's Day homecoming, and he stared at the bundle Volk thrust into his arms.

"This is not my son," he said.

"You are mistaken," said Volk.

"My son had two teeth," Angerer protested. "Where are his teeth? "

"This is your son," shouted the mistress of the house. "Get out. Take him and go."

He went - first to his family physician, who agreed that the mewling, toothless babe was a stranger. Then he went to the police.

By Friday morning the 8th of May 1925, the 86th St. house of horrors was on every newspaper's front page. Investigators tramped, dumbstruck, through Helen Geisen-Volk's squalid baby nest, taking into custody 16 filthy, starving, cruelly neglected tykes. Six-month-old Stephen Angerer was not among them.” [From: Jay Maeder, “Baby Nest, May 1925 Chapter 34,” New York Daily News, Mar. 15, 2000]
Stephen Angerer was never located. It was presumed he had been murdered, along with 52 other children during Helen Geisen Volk’s six-year long sadistic spree. The boy who had been falsely represented by the baby farmer as Stephen, and known temporarily as “baby Raymond,” was eventually identified as Francis Shimkus, son of single mother Mary Shimkus.

Within a day of the May 8 police raid, one of the 16 abused infants rescued from the baby farmer died in Bellevue hospital. It was the 23rd death in the Giesen-Volk baby farm within a period of only fifteen months. A hearing held in May 12 it was learned from the testimony of a nurse who had worked for Helen that she had witnessed the child’s murder when Geisen-Volk dashed little eighteen-month-old Agnes Toohey’s head against a wall.

Another witness, Miss Rose Donnelly, social worker reported that she had in Dec. 1923 seen baby Mary Dobbins with “welts and discolorations over her entire body, indicating she had been severely dealt with. In this case the child did not die. Other witnesses who had worked for Helen in the past told of scaldings, beatings, and of secret burials of babies in satchels and fake documents and identity scams used to cover up the deaths.

That day the court ordered the exhumation of Agnes Toohey and another dead child, Agnes Toohey and William Winters, aged six months. It was the autopsy of William Winters showing that he died of a skull fracture which was the basis for a Grand Jury indictment for first degree manslaughter on the 21st.

At the trial Helen’s insouciance was almost as shocking as her sadistic crimes, when the prosecuting attorney, Mr. Pecora confronted the defendant with the number of deaths of abused children totaling 53, asking her answer whether that number was accurate she calmly replied “No. There were only twelve or fourteen deaths.” She had character witnesses trotted out – taken from a pool of no less than twenty women who had come to court to testify on her behalf -- who attested to her kindliness, gentles and respectability, and offered the theory that she had suffered from shell shock during the war, but these witnesses were no match for the former employees and the mothers such as Mrs. Irene Meroff who testified her baby nearly died from treatment received at the baby farm.

On Jul. 23, 1925, Helen Giesen-Volk, who was convicted for killing the six-month old William Winters. Judge McIntyre, referring to Cooley’s report, said “The report of Mr. Cooley indicates that she is a fiend incarnate. I see no extenuating circumstances in this case. Yet the law of New York permitted a mere 3 ½ - 7 years of prison time.

It is not presently known what became of Helen the serial killer, following her conviction. Scholars interested in studying female serial killers are even more rare than female serial killers are purported to be.

-- Other North American Baby Farmers Accused of Being Serial Killers --
(An Incomplete Checkist)

Ashmead – 1904-1911 – Elizabeth Ashmead – (3 prosecutions 1904, 1909, 1911); Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Wilmington, Delaware; Millville, New Jersey; “Given Five Years – Baby Farmer Was Sent to Federal Prison,” The Lowell Sun (Ma.), Jul. 1, 1911, p. 7

Brooks – 1935 – Dr. Edward L. Brooks, Beulah, Michigan; prosecution failed; clergyman, abortionist; “Rev. Edward L. Brooks, Brooks Farm and Beulah,” Time Magazine, Feb. 4, 1935

Campbell – 1902 – Mrs. Neill Campbell, Chicago, Illinois; “Baby Farm Mystery – Why Did the Babies Die That Were Adopted by a Chicago Woman? - She Did Not Adopt For Profit But to Keep Her Husband at Home and Nine Die of Starvation, So the Charge Runs,” Waterloo Daily Courier (Io.), Dec. 12, 1902, p. 2

Connelly – 1912 – Matilda Connelly, Lancaster, Pennsylvania; buried bodies; arrested; “Woman Admits She Is In Baby Business,” New Castle News (Pa.), Oct. 31, 1912, p. 8

Cramer – 1926 – Mrs. Marie, (Alice M.) Cramer; Chicago, East Peoria, Ill.; 5 others charged; “Baby Farm Found – Three Nabbed in Peoria; Two Dead Infants Found,” AP, The Burlington Hawk-Eye (Io.), May 14, 1926, p. 1

Foss-Hines – 1927 – Mrs. Minnie Foss-Hines (AKA Mrs. Millie Williams, Minnie Williams-Foss-Hines) , Los Angeles, California; Mar. 31, charges dismissed; pleaded guilty to lesser charges; 40 infants had been under her care; April 1, 1927 sentenced to 1-14 years for embezzlement plus 14 years probation for forgery; “14 Missing Babies Laid to Baby Farm – L. A. Burglar Suspect’s Accusation that Ex-Wife Conducted Barter and Sale of Infants Stirs Police Probe – State-Wide Hunt For Woman Leads to Sacramento While Officials Hunt Child in Trunk in San Bernardino,” Oakland Tribune (Ca.), Mar. 13, 1927, p. 1

Gobay – 1905 – Mrs. Annie Gobay and Mrs. Emma Kitchen, “Home For the Friendless” Atlanta, Georgia; “Little Tots Die At Baby Farm – Three Deaths in Last Few Days at 17 Carley St. – Farm is Run on Strict Business Basis – Mrs. Gobay States That May Is a Bad Months for Babies – Doctors Approve It,” Atlanta Constitution (Ga.), May 28, 1905, p. 1

Grey Nun Hospital – 1876 – Grey Nun Hospital, Montreal, Canada; “Deadly Effects of Baby Farming in Montreal,” Logansport Daily Journal (In.), Apr. 14, 1876, p. 1

Gunness – 1908 – Belle Gunness, Victoria, Texas; “Death Farm Now Revealed As Ghastly Home of Slayings Unique in Drab Fiendishness,” Syracuse Herald (N.Y.), Mar. 15, 1925, sec. 3, p. 3

Hanson – 1892 – Mrs. Annie Hanson, Chicago, Illinois;“Bad Annie Hanson – She Is Under Arrest for Baby Farming,” St. Paul Daily Courier (Mn.), Jan. 4, 1892, p. 5

Lacroix – 1927 – Mrs. Diana Lacroix, Hull, Quebec, Canada; 7 deaths; Charged in Hull with murder, Mar. 3, 1927, for death of Baby Villaneuve on or about Feb. 10, 1927; two similar charges are being prepared for “Baby Rindeau” and “Baby Lalonde”; Jun. 8, acquitted of first charge, still facing 2 others; “Death of 7 Babies Charged to Head of Quebec Baby Farm,” The Bee (Danville, Va.), Mar. 21, 1927, p. 4

Lowry – 1904 – Mrs. Mary Lowry, Omaha, Nebraska; 3 almost dead, two died previous week; “Baby Farm in Iowa – Pitiable Situation is Unearthed by the Police,” Ireton Weekly Ledger (Io.), Jul. 29, 1904, p. 2

Reignolds – 1875 – Mr. Nelson & Mrs. Mary Reignolds, Holliston, Ma.; “five have been disposed of with laudanum”; Mary Colby, resided with the Reignolds’; made complaint; coroner’s jury; last child to die was Fredelina Pierce who arrived from Boston in Jan; children poisoned with laudanum; Miss Eliza Sheenan, corroborating witness; Deaths: 1st death: Tommy (1), died Nov 1874; 2nd death, James (5 mo), was whipped daily by Mrs. R; 3rd death: Maud (12 wks),arrived in Dec., lived 4 weeks; 4th death, Agnes Forbes (3 wks), arrived in Dec.; 5th death: Fredelina Pierre; “Wholesale Slaughter of Infants,” Atlanta Constitution (Ga.), Jan. 28, 1975, p. 1

Suffert – 1889 – Rachel Suffert, St. Louis, Missouri ; 2 deaths ; arrested ; bodies emaciated ; “Baby Farm in St. Louis,” The Burlington Hawk-Eye (Io.), Jan. 15, 1889, p. 1

Tann – 1920s-1950 – Georgia Tann, Memphis, Tennessee; the most prolific of all American serial killers; hundreds of murders of children; sadistic sexual abuse; kidnapping; extortion; baby selling; bribery; Barbara Bisantz Raymond, The Baby Thief: The Untold Story of Georgia Tann, the Baby Seller Who Corrupted Adoption, 2007, (Carroll & Graf, N. Y.)

Topper – 1930 – Pearl Topper, Hackensack, N. J.; “Get Woman in Poisoning of Children – New Jersey Court Charges She Attempted Deaths of Eighteen, AP, The Galveston Daily News (Tx.), Jan. 15, 1930, p. 1

West – 1907 – Mrs. Fred West, Des Moines, Wisconsin; “Shocking Depravity – Mrs. Fred West of Des Moines Arrested – Charged With Burning Infants. – The Iowa Legislature Has Ordered a Thorough Investigation, The Eau Claire Leader (Io.), Feb. 5, 1907, p. 2

Worchester – 1877 – Rozilla Worchester, New York, NY; “Case of Alleged Baby Farming – Six Children Said to Have Died in a House in Charles Street Within Four Weeks – The Authorities Investigating the Matter,” New York Times, Feb. 7, 1877, p. 8

Young – 1936 – William and Lila Young, Canada; Ideal Maternity Home; at least 100, probably several hundred murders; Books: Robert Hartlen, Butterbox Survivors: Life After the Ideal Maternity Home, 1999, Nimbus; Bette L. Cahill, Butterbox Babies, the Ideal Maternity Home in Chester, Nova Scotia, 1991, Seal Books; Bette L. Cahill, Butterbox Babies: Baby Sales, Baby Deaths: New Revelations 15 Years Later, Fernwood Publishing, 2007.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Alimony 1925

"Before the 1960s divorced women were unable to find jobs to support themselves therefore alimony was necessary."  In present-day discussions about alimony this assertion, or some variation of it, appears frequently. Are such assertions true?  The answer is ... a resounding "No!" And we can prove it.

Not only was alimony (for childless divorcees) not regarded as necessitated by the treatment of women in the job market long before the 1960s, but alimony -- and what came in the 1920s to be called "alimony racketeering" -- was the subject of public discussion nationally from before the beginning of the 20th century.

Alimony injustice was widespread before the beginning of the 20th century. But it was not until the early 1900s that men who had been through the divorce ringer began to make an effort to get together and address the issue in organized groups.

In the early years of the new century informal "Alimony Clubs" began to de talked of.

A 1904 nationally syndicated news story reported that

"Ten thousand men in New York, it is estimated conservatively, are paying alimony, says the New York press. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, are dodging it. Ten thousand women are receiving returns from ventures in matrimony that lasted anywhere from a few days to many years, and hundreds would collect similar payments if they could. Many of these men are supporting two households. Some of them have married again and must provide for wife No. 2 as well as for wife No. 1. Others are called upon to furnish funds for the maintenance of their former wives, although these women may have becomes the wives of other men. The general rule of the courts is to allow the woman one-third of her husband’s income as alimony, which makes the payments range from $5 a week to $100 or more, although the larger amount is seldom reached. The Alimony club of New York, as this aggregation of men is known, is one of the largest in the world and its non-resident list is a wonder. [excerpt from: “New York Now Has an Alimony Club – Ten Thousand Alimony and Hundreds More Dodge the Court Order,” Fort Wayne Sentinel (In.), May 4, 1904] Full text at:
The year 1909 saw a worsening of alimony injustice, when an Illinois judge opened the door to all ex-wives who had not demanded alimony in their previous divorces to have the option of showing up to demand payment years or even decades after the divorce.

"Chicago. May 11. – Divorced men received a shock from Judge Farlin Q. Ball yesterday that caused not a few of them to seek the advice of lawyers at once. Although divorced fifty years, was the purport of the bombshell exploded by the jurist, and although no mention of alimony was made in the decree, no divorced man is safe from payment of that peculiarly irksome obligation so long as his former wife lives and fails to remarry. Judge Ball calmly announced from the bench that, while a decree of divorce ended the other marital obligations, the duty of a husband to support his wife and her right to demand and receive such support was not thereby ended. He further held that only the death of one of the parties, remarriage of the woman or a stipulated sum of money accepted by her in lieu of alimony at the time of obtaining her divorce could prevent the divorced wife from demanding alimony at any time she felt the need of such support, and the court felt her former husband was able to render such.  In other words – that is, in plain American language – a wife who obtained a divorce twenty-five years ago, or even fifty, according to Judge Ball, can bob up unexpectedly and, having discovered that her former spouse has become wealthy or merely well fixed, may go into court and successfully demand her 'rights.'" [“Gives Men Who Are Divorced Cold Shivers – Chicago Jurist Declares Alimony is Due in All Cases,” Fort Wayne Sentinel (Ind.), May 11, 1909]

A crack in the alimony racket began to reveal itself in Chicago on November 30, 1925 when Judge Harry Lewis made an announcement during a divorce proceeding that was taken by many in the large audience as so shocking as to elicit a collective gasp. The papers reported that “Few women divorce seekers will receive alimony in the future from Chief Justice Harry A. Lewis of the superior court, he declared yesterday. One hundred women, who crowded the court waiting their turn to obtain freedom and comfortable alimony awards, gasped as they heard the unprecedented announcement by the court. They also listened to a stinging arraignment of what the judge called “professional alimony diggers.”

"New York, Sept. 30.—All the gold-diggers are not engaged in showing a good time to the visiting “butter and egg” men on Broadway. Thousands of them, according to the experience of Supreme Court Justice Sela B. Strong, are quiet home women who take pride in displaying their wedding rings. The gold-digger method of the latter type is alimony.

'Alimony and "separate" maintenance money enables many a woman who has only hatred and revenge in her heart toward her husband to hold him in virtual slavery,' says Justice Strong after an extended term of hearing alimony cases. I am opposed to awarding alimony except for definite and extraordinary reasons. I do not believe childless wives should receive alimony. Where there are children to be supported, of course that is a different matter. But in this day when the sexes are theoretically equal before the law, women should not cling to their old privileges so hard that they evade their responsibilities. The mother of children, however, is the last person to appear in the divorce court. Childless women are the great seekers of alimony. Judges are allowed so little discretion that they are required by the law in this state to grant alimony in about 60 per cent of the cases. I think the facts would not justify it in mere than 10 per cent.'

 -- Against 'Romantic Sentimentality.' --

Judge Strong doesn’t propose to have wives pay alimony to husbands, or any such extreme absurdity. He simply wants to dispense justice without the interference of romantic sentimentality. And men in court today, he finds, are in need of protection.

'Just last week a woman carne in who was making $45 a week and her husband only $30, the judge recalls. She didn’t get any alimony. There was another case when a jury brought in a verdict for a woman in the face of evidence most conclusively against her. She got up and began to thank the court. ‘Don’t thank them,’ I interrupted, ‘for I am going to set aside this verdict.’ There are many cases in which a woman marries just because she is tired of earning her own living, and she clings to her husband for support tenaciously. The husband is almost powerless when she starts her suit for temporary alimony. A case arose recently in which, a wife had been collecting for five years, pending the trial, and the husband was impoverished. Yet she would never willingly relinquish her grip. Court records in New York show there are twenty suits for separation to one for divorce. Women tire of their husband and get rid of them, but hold out their hands for money. When alimony becomes an issue there is almost no chance for reconciliation.'" [Britt, George, “Judge Assails Divorce Court ‘Gold Diggers,’” syndicated (NEA), Freeport Journal-Standard (Il.), Sep 30, 1925]

Justice Sela B. Strong was interviewed in early 1926 for an article explaining his refiormist views on alimony entitlement. Here is an excerpt quoting the judge:

"Her ability to secure alimony on the flimsiest excuse is a club in the hands of a selfish, vindictive wife. She can, and often does, wave it constantly over her husband’s head to keep him tractable. The trouble is that we are bound today by marriage laws and their offshoots that took root in days long past when conditions were not as they are today and when the status and economic position of woman was in large measure dependent on some man for her support. The business woman hadn’t been invented or discovered.

In the real analysis the laws to protect the wife were not passed for the wife’s sake. They were passed for the public’s sake. There had to be some coercive regulations to discourage bored husbands from unloading their helpless wives upon an already overburdened community.

The true daughter of today seeks no favors from men and accepts none, because she knows that she needs no favors. That is why it seems almost unbelievable that a right-minded woman without children will accept support from a man she has ceased to love and live with when she must realize it is at the cost of her self-respect.

However, the point is that instead of a former marriage hurting a woman’s market value (to put it in a vulgar way) it seems actually to make her more desirable. Witness the success – in the marriage mart of widows, legal as well as actual. Indeed, if observation counts for anything, they attract more admiration than the feminine novices. In passing, it may be said that divorce statistics show, that the marriages of the once before wives are more durable as a general thing than the marriages of the never before.

That is why it gives one’s sense of justice a terrific jolt when, as it frequently happens, it develops that a woman separated from her husband and seeking alimony, has a bigger income than he. I have in mind a man who at the time of this writing is in jail for non-payment of alimony. And it appears that his childless wife, having gone into business since their separation, has made a success and is earning more money than he earns or ever did earn or probably ever will earn. The question is: Did she have him thrown into jail in order to get money or revenge?

At any rate, this case, and there are literally thousands like it, shows that the alimony “big stick” smites the man coming and going. I am convinced that very few of the actions for separation with alimony by childless women are sincere; that is, based on their honest belief that they are really entitled to what they ask." [Strong, Selah B. (as told to A. E. Bearman), syndicated, (International Feature Service), “Getting After Our ‘Alimony Heiresses,’” syndicated (International Feature Service), Hamilton Evening Journal (Oh.), Feb. 6, 1926] Full text at:

Witthin a year of the publication of this review, a group of New Yorkers announced they were forming a national organization to attack the problem.

Announced in January 1927, the New York-based Alimony Payers' Protective Association was off the ground in early May. A nationally syndicated article -- published in The Washington Post amounfg many other newspapers across the country -- explained the groups objectives in terms that may surprize present-day activists with the ring of familiarity:

"BADGERED and brow-beaten to the point of desperation, the long-suffering alimony payers of this fair land are at last organizing to protect their rights as human beings and members of society. The movement had its inception in New York, long the happy hunting ground of the alimony girls. It is called the Alimony Payers’ Protective Association, and has some 750 members, although only a few weeks old. It will spread, lawyers, judges and laymen agree, for popular disgust with the alimony provisions of the divorce laws has been growing rapidly in the last few months, and students of law say that it will prove to be one of the really significant and important movements of the decade.

Sponsors of the association say that it aims to achieve the following objectives: Protect the American home against unscrupulous lawyers out for fat divorce court fees and nothing else. Secure uniform divorce and separation laws in all the States. Discourage the perjury, blackmail, conspiracy and extortion so frequent in litigation involving marital relations. Do away with court discrimination in favor of women.

Robert Gilbert Ecob, a New York architect, is the Moses who is to lead the alimony payers out of Egypt into the promised land of fair dealing and common sense, and he is very serious about the crusade. 'Too many persons seem to think this alimony, business is funny until it hits them in their pocketbook nerve,' he says. 'For years now there has been more or less jesting about alimony clubs, husbands kept in jail by money-hungry wives, and the inability of a man to get a square deal in court when opposed by a pretty and tearful woman. When a husband fell into arrears and was jailed, it was considered excruciatingly humorous. The alimony payer was a ridiculous and ignominious figure—to his wife, to the public, to his wife’s lawyers, and even to his own attorneys. But the alimony question is one of the most serious problems of our time.'" (Excerpt from: “Alimony Payers to Fight for Their Rights,” Anonymous, syndicated, Johnsons Features, Odgen Standard Examiner (Ut.), May 22, 1927]
Two months later an Anti-Alimony group was formed in Chicago, this time by a woman -- the second wife of a man being raked over the coals by a high living gold-digger of an ex.

CHICAGO, July 12—A modern Joan Arc has risen here in the person of one Mrs. Bessie Cooley, and round her standards are gathering recruits from Chicago’s pretty badly defeated army of alimony payers. Her cry is: “Down with alimony gold-digging.” “Millions for defense, but not one cent for alimony,” the heartened troops under her command are singing as a march song. Mrs. Cooley is the wife of Dr. Vernon P. Cooley. Cooley was married once before and the first wife is still receiving alimony, which makes the present militant Mrs. Cooley angry.

The Illinois appellate court recently ruled on Dr. Cooley’s petition to have the alimony to the first Mrs. Cooley stopped. The court supported his contention that Mrs. Cooley No. 1 was spending the money he was paying her in riotous living, but that fact, so the court ruled, as a mere moral issue, did not warrant any order for the discontinuance of payments. It was a long legal treatise on morality and alimony. And the upshot of the whole thing was that Dr. Cooley was ordered to keep paying and probably would have done so if it hadn’t been for Mrs. Cooley No. 2.

“No, sir,” she said. “Let them put you in jail. But don’t pay another cent. No woman without children, who is able to support herself, is deserving of alimony. If while she is living with him and is still his wife, a woman, conducts herself in an improper, manner, a husband can go into court and rid himself of her completely. But if after she divorces him and lives riotously, on the alimony he is forced to pay her, it is irreconcilable that his duty to her should be greater than while he is married to her. The two theories don’t harmonize. There are too many gold-diggers among divorced women, and half of them aren’t deserving of consideration.”

-- Forms Anti-Alimony League --

As the first part of her drive Mrs. Cooley is forming the Society of Disgruntled Alimony Payers. Eligibility to membership will be based on experience only.

A big mass meeting of members is being planned and will-take place here just as soon as the society can whip its battle plans into shape. Many Chicago judges agree with Mrs. Cooley that there is need for a movement such as she has set in motion. They concur that alimony, to healthy and able-bodied ex-wives without children is as out of date in the changed order of social conditions as a horse and buggy. [Gibbons, Roy J., “Militant Wife Launches War Against Alimony in Chicago,” syndicated (NEA), Ogden Standard Examiner (Ut.), Jul. 12, 1927]

The American Anti-Alimony movement was now off the ground. We will discuss its subsequent development in upcoming articles.