Divorce by murder: France 1930

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.


For a look at the same phenomenon – chivalrous men who just loved to let a woman get away with murder, especially when the victim was an adult male – as it was experienced in the United States, see on this website: “Woman and Her Right to Kill” – 1922


FULL TEXT: A Paris divorce costs £60, a gun costs £1. Europe is in a state of excitement, husbands are worried. The International League for the Protection of Human Rights [Liga für Menschenrechte] is planning to do something. France is the centre of a righteous moral volcano and her entire manhood is going into conference.

Frenchwomen have turned the trick; they have found a substitute for divorce. Cheaper, easier, far more amusing than the antiquated process of legal proceedings, with its hazardous outcome, the new French vogue has taken a firm hold on womanhood in that land of liberty, equality and fraternity.

“If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out”, reads the Scriptures and Madame la Franchaise, with the directness of intuition which her sex boasts, has modernised and applied the lesson; “If thine husband offend thee, snuff him out.”

A simple formula and easy to remember.

Marital freedom a la française is, we repeat, an easily acquired status. The popular method costs only 126 francs or about £1, a little publicity which is invariably gratis, a few hours of good play acting before a jury, and at the very most a brief period of time as a guest of the government.

~ Bright Reading for Husbands. ~

The 126 francs will purchase a small but efficient automatic [weapon]. This be taken to bed and carefully concealed under a pillow. When the offending spouse is quite asleep (preferably from an excessive use of alcohol) a steady hand can do the business in a second. Even the frailest and most timid of the sex can put the tyrant out of commission permanently by using up the contents of the gun. Variation can be obtained by choosing a more dramatic moment, and this is considered preferable, for it makes an acquittal easy for the jury. The procedure which is recommended as ideal is to catch the brute in the act of beating a child or in the company of a friend’s wife. This naturally assures a quick trial, favourable publicity and a speedy release. It is highly approved by the criminal courts and gives a jury an opportunity to enjoy the full pathos and sentimentality of the affair.

The facts are these: In 1920 no less than forty-seven Frenchwomen shot, poisoned or gassed their husbands into oblivion with virtual impunity. During the present year, up to July 1, a total of thirty-eight have taken advantage of the new liberation scheme, and indications are that all records will be broken before the New Year’s bells ring out.

~ Deliriously Spectacular. ~

Reviewing a few of the cases, some are deliciously spectacular. Notable is that of Mme. Desotrat who secured her freedom last December. Her husband was the common or garden variety of drunkard. He beat her, starved, harassed and brutalised her and was generally disagreeable. Knowing that the divorce courts in France are costly and nearly inaccessible since they had been overcrowded by Americans seeking solitary bliss, and that French legislation had made the old-fashioned divorce a difficult business, Mme. Desotrat formed her campaign along the sure and methodical lines outlined above.

She bought herself a gun – a neat, powerful automatic. She applied to a professor of firearms and took seven lessons. With the confidence that comes of familiarity with a weapon she bided her time until one night Desotrat came home in a particularly villainous mood. In the room with the couple was her mother-in-law who was – perhaps fortunately—blind. With this perfect setting for a crime prepared, she allowed his natural disagreeableness to assert itself until she should reach a high point of righteous indignation. Then she fired seven shots, one for each lesson, into the midriff of the cruel man. It was over in a trice. There she was free – save for the short legal formality which must follow.

~ Simple – Efficient – Easy. ~

At the trial her mother-in-law was a witness. She had heard quarrelling but had seen nothing. Mme. Desotrat shed tears in the court. The jury also shed a few tears in sympathy. Her lawyer pleaded crime passionel, the justifiable elimination of a brute. She was forced to pay damages amounting to a few pounds and to meditate a few months in a state hotel of justice. That was that: Simple, efficient, easy.

The International. League for the Protection of Human Rights [Liga für Menschenrechte] with its headquarters in Vienna, is being deluged with letters from French male citizens who are genuinely convinced that it is no longer a matter of protecting the fragile sex against masculine intrusion, but quite the reverse. It is pointed out that not even beauty is necessary to soften the hearts of judges and juries when a woman who kills for love or for her happiness is in the dock. Editorial writers call this new conception of a “right to kill” a menace to civilisation which must at all costs be overcome.

[George Seldes, “Divorce By Murder.” Favoured By Frenchwomen – Sentimental Juries’  Leniency  Menace To Civilisation,” syndicated (A.A.N.S.), The Auckland Star (New Zealand), Nov. 10, 1930, p. 18]

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