Alimony unlimited (and the emergence of a men’s rights movement)

Robert St. Estephe–Gonzo Historian–is dedicated to uncovering the forgotten past of marginalizing men. “Gonzo journalism” is characterized as tending “to favor style over fact to achieve accuracy.” Yet history – especially “social history” – is written by ideologues who distort and bury facts in order to achieve an agenda. “Gonzo” writing is seen as unorthodox and surprising. Yet, in the 21st century subjectivity, distortion and outright lying in non-fiction writing is the norm. Fraud is the new orthodoxy. Consequently, integrity is the new “transgressive.”

Welcome to the disruptive world of facts, the world of Gonzo History.


It was such outrageous rulings such as the one Chicago’s Judge Ball delivered in 1909 — reported in the news report below — that set the stage for the slowly developing idea of men’s rights activism in the United States. It was alimony racketeering that led to the formation of the men’s rights movement in the United States, not the 1960s counterculture and its feminist excesses as many still wrongly believe. The earliest known attempt to form a national organization to fight exploitative alimony, which had by that time spurned a widespread scam of “marriage for alimony only,” was made in December 1912 by one George R. Esterling of Denver. The publicity surrounding his idea was quickly met with the threat of a pro-alimony organization Leona Oldham, a Denver woman who had gotten her divorce in the very same week that Esterling made his announcement. Esterling’s idea for an organization, despite the enthusiasm of men from across the United States who sent him letters, never materialized.  Back in 1911, the common term for alimony abuse was called “polite blackmail;” by 1925 the common term for it was “the alimony racket.”

The first man’s rights activist, Samuel Reid, appeared on the scene in California 1925, and finally in 1927, anti-alimony organizations (the prototype of modern men’s rights movement) began spring up around the country — in New York City (American Alimony Payers’ Protective Association), Chicago (Alimony Club of Illinois) and Milwaukee. A news report from 1928 disclosed a full-scale golddigging racket operating  in Cleveland, in which “divorcees have developed a highly skillful technique of marrying, divorcing and suing for alimony, then remarry some wealthier man, divorcing and suing again for alimony.”

Below you will find the story of the faint and early rumblings of the movement which took a century to form itself into what the internet age allows to be a coherent, principled and eloquent resistance to institutionalized female privilege, to chivalry masquerading as “equality,” and to a full-fledged ideology of hate (promoting the notion of a sex-based aristocracy) which calls itself “feminism.”



FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 4): 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.

~ Ruling as Interpreted. ~

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.”

That is, of course, providing she hasn’t married in the meantime or did not accept a stipulated alimony when she was divorced.

Even though the divorced husband has married again, become the father of ten children, and may be even grandfather, the former wife’s rights to alimony are not thereby hampered or annulled in any way.


Furthermore, Judge Ball declared that his novel decision was backed up by a ruling of a Pennsylvania court, made many years ago, and by one other decision of more recent date. Several leading attorneys, when questioned about the decision, declared it was good law and had been since the days of Blackstone.

~ Case Raising the Point. ~

Judge Ball rendered his decision in the case of Mary N. Cobb vs. William H. Cobb. Mrs. Cobb was divorced from her husband on June 13, 1901, on charges of infidelity, which her husband admitted. The decree of divorce was silent as to alimony. She set up the facts that she had never remarried and that her income as a bookkeeper was insufficient for her needs.

Although the couple had been divorced eight years, Judge Ball, after a few days’ study of the case, ordered that Mrs. Cobb be paid alimony. He did not fix the amounts to be paid, leaving this for agreement between counsel.

“The question before the court,” the decision reads, “is whether it has power, on the petition filed in the original cause, to allow alimony to a wife subsequent to the term in which the decree of divorce was entered, where the bill and decree each is silent in regard to alimony.

~ Gist of the Ruling. ~

“A proceeding for divorce is sui generis. It is the duty of the husband to support his wife in a manner commensurate with his means during the life of both parties. The death of either end the liability. The decree of divorce ends the other marital obligations, but the duty of the husband to support his wife, and her right to demand and receive such support is not thereby ended. Hence upon principle, if at any time, after the final decree and within the lives of both parties, the wife becomes in actual need of such support and a husband is able to contribute it, alimony should be awarded her.

“The principle is subject to the limitation that, if prior to or at the time of the decree the question of alimony was raised and decided against the wife, it cannot again be brought forward: the maxim of res judicata forbids it.

“The petition shows sufficient ground for not asking alimony in the decree by alleging  that at the same time the defendant had no means nor property. The changed circumstances now justify her in asking relief.”

[“Gives Men Who Are Divorced Cold Shivers – Chicago Jurist Declares Alimony is Due in All Cases,” Fort Wayne Sentinel (Ind.), May 11, 1909, p. 4]



FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 4): Denver, Col., Dec. 12. – “Want address of every man in Denver up against the alimony paying proposition. Quick action necessary.”

This ad appeared in a Denver newspaper today. It was put in by Geo. R. Esterling.

Esterling is paying alimony to his ex-wife just now. He wants to form a league of grass-widowers and take the alimony question up to the supreme court of the United States.

Esterling’s is that is unconstitutional to fine a man for the rest of his life for a matrimonial mistake.

“When a man commits a burglary he is punished for a certain length of time,” says Esterling. “But at the end of that time, he is free to start life anew. Alimony goes on forever.”

[“War On Alimony Stunt.” The Day Book (Chicago, Il.), Dec. 12, 1912, p. 9]


FULL TEXT (Article 3 of 4): Denver, Dec. 21. – George Esterling, originator of the plan for the organization of all alimony players in the country to make a country wide fight against “Paying alimony forever,” has found himself famous. From all parts of the United States scores of letters come from other “victims” practically all commending this scheme.

From Everett, Mass., comes a letter from a man who proposes to establish at least one alimony club in Massachusetts. He says: “I am in favor of making the fight for our rights a national one and I am sure that if we all stand together and fight this dreadful imposition of endless punishment, and fight it increasingly, we will accomplish our purpose.”

A letter from Newcastle, Ind. among other things, says: “Men as a class are a bunch of gelatin spined shrimps. All that a woman finds it necessary to do nowadays is to bring a charge against a man and all his neighbors will say: “Well, he’s always seemed a nice fellow, but you never can tell.”

“A woman can even murder her husband in cold blood with the certainty that right after her acquittal she can take her choice of taking a position in vaudeville, or in the office of some longwhiskered billygoat who has been watching the farce of a trial.”

[“Anti-Alimony Leader Finds Self Famous – George Esterling Who Started Crusade Against ‘Endless Punishment” Now Has Many Followers.” The Milwaukee Sentinel (Wi.), Dec. 21, 1912, p. 1]


FULL TEXT (Article 4 of 4): Denver, Dec. 14. When George Esterling, would-be benefactor of all divorced mankind, proposed two days ago an organization of ex-husbands to bring relief to those who have been sentenced to pay alimony to their former wives for the rest of their lives, he forgot that divorced womankind might have something to say.

A woman now aspires to be founder of an organization for the protection of ex-wives who, in her opinion, are the real victims of matrimonial blunders. She is Mrs. Leona Oldham, freed from her fetters after a ten minutes hearing in the county court Thursday.

“It’s a woman in nearly every case that bears the real burden of a matrimonial mistake. She is the one that makes the big sacrifice of her home, her friends, her position and herself,” said Mrs. Oldham.

“What does the man sacrifice? Nothing, except a small part of his weekly salary. He does not give up any of his weekly salary. He does not give up any of his friends. He does not stay at home and wash dishes and mind the baby.

“Too many men regard marriage as a mere pastime. They don’t feel any responsibility about marriage. A man has no business marrying a girl unless he expects to support her as long as she is his wife or his grasswidow.”

[“Calls The Grasswidows To Organize In Defense Of Their Court-Given Rights,” syndicated (United Press), Dec. 15, 1912, p. 14]



Robert Ecob, Early MHRA – 1927 – (Sep. 18, 2013)

Dr. Vernon P. Cooley: MHRA 1927 – (Sep. 6, 2013)

Samuel Reid: The First Fathers’ Rights Activist? – 1925 (Unknown History of Misandry)

Milwaukee’s Anti-Alimony Club – 1927 (Unknown History of Misandry)

Epidemic of gold-digging whores – 1928 – (Nov. 2, 2013)

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