“Marriage for alimony only” – 1928

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.


The anti-alimony movement was in high gear when popular novelist Faith Baldwin decided to write a novel exposing the Alimony Racket. The case of California’s “Alimony Sam” was nationally known; prominent judges Selah B. Strong of New York and Harry A. Lewis of Chicago were publicly excoriating the alimony racketeering epidemic practiced by an army of callous and predatory women. The first formal men’s rights organizations focused on fighting the racket across the nation. Faith Baldwin was inspired to expose the scamming activities of the “alimony heiresses” in fictional form.


FULL TEXT: “THE rising tide of divorce has brought us a new industry, the ultimate refinement of golddigging, the perfection of blackmail within the law – marriage for alimony,” said Faith Baldwin, the well-known writer. “Women who do not want husbands or children have found a joker in our marriage laws by which they can establish themselves comfortably for life – free, respectable, rich, safe – without personal cost or sacrifice.


“There are thousands and thousands of women who are being supported by men to whom they are no longer wives. There is no doubt that this business of alimony is getting to be a serious menace, it may be all right when a man has plenty of money. To pay a former wife a few thousand dollars in alimony may mean nothing to him. But, on the other hand, just consider how many men are forced to pay alimony who cannot afford it. You will find in the majority of cases that there is no good reason why they should pay it, either. The women are well able to take care of themselves. If they did not lack pride and self-respect, they would not accept money from men who no longer mean anything to them,” said the writer, with a flash of her deep-blue eyes.

Faith Baldwin is a charming woman whose most striking possessions are her sense of humor and her genuineness. She is as four-square [“marked by boldness and conviction” – ed] as a man and she does not hesitate to speak her mind frankly on any topic that absorbs her.

She was educated at private schools both here and abroad, and at the age of 6 she wrote a play entitled “The Deserted Wife.” It is still extant and covers about two newspaper columns. During the war she worked with the War Camp Community Service, organizing girls’ clubs and military dances, and it was solely for relaxation that she wrote her first novel, “Mavis of Green Hill.” It was immediately accepted and, greatly encouraged, she turned to novel-writing as a career. Or, to be more exact, one of her careers, as she considers her husband and her children as two very important careers.

It is in her recent novel, “Alimony,” that she turns the searchlight on this most engrossing problem of the day. She shows what alimony does, what it does not do, the moral effect upon the women and children it roofs, clothes and feeds, and the burden it places on the man who pays it. Perhaps no writer is better qualified to deal with the subject than she. As the daughter of the late Stephen C. Baldwin, the famous New York trial lawyer, she was forever hearing him discuss the menace of alimony.

“I REMEMBER him telling my mother,” Miss Baldwin related, “that some day he was going to write a book on alimony. He wanted to awaken people to the unfair advantage that many women were taking of the alimony laws. Well, he never did. For a good many years I entertained the idea of getting to work on it. I studied the question in all its phases and discussed it with judges and lawyers. I realized that it was certainly serious enough to deserve consideration.


“The particular phase that interested me, as a writer, is the fact that there are many women who will marry merely with the idea of getting alimony. They know that marriage can be painlessly dissolved and they take their marriage vows with no intention at all of keeping them.

“Chorus girls are the most frequent offenders in this respect. Any number of them will get married with that end in view. They don’t even wait for a year to pass before seeking a divorce and demanding their alimony. They find it easier to do that than to earn the money for the luxuries they crave. In other words, they get a salary every week for having been the man’s wife.

“Judges are most wary of this practice on the part of women and they try to see to it that they do not take advantage of their husbands. But let a woman—particularly a pretty one—get a clever lawyer and she’ll usually get what she wants.”

“I know of one young blond woman who wanted an increase in her alimony. She came to court in her shabbiest frock and told the judge some sad tale of not being able to work because of ill-health. She looked very blond, very childlike and most appealing. The Judge being susceptible to childlike and appealing blondes and the lawyer being quite clever, she got the increase she wanted.” Her former husband, who knew she was nothing but a parasite, stormed at the injustice of it, but he was given the privilege of paying it or going to jail. He paid it. Since he was contemplating a second marriage at that time, it made it particularly difficult for him.”


“There are numerous instances where alimony can even be an incentive to immorality. I remember one case of which my father spoke which epitomizes the whole. A woman who had divorced her husband received alimony of $25,000 a year. She was accustomed to luxury and naturally demanded a sum that would keep her in the same state of comfort. Since her husband could afford it, he willingly gave it to her. But, this woman soon fell in love with another man who was poor in comparison to her former husband. She wanted him, yet she did not want to forgo her alimony. What did she do? She kept her alimony and entered into an illicit relationship with the man. It was that kind of woman for which my father had intense hatred. There are ever so many cases where a woman loves a man desperately enough to desire him and yet not enough to accept less financial comfort than she has always had, and it’s on the cards that she will have it both ways. She will take her cake and she will eat it, too.

“This naturally works a great hardship on the salaried man. He is never freed of his burden. If his salary should be increased, things aren’t any easier for him, for his former wife then has the right to demand an increase in her alimony.

“ONE might think, though, that a woman would be willing to relinquish the alimony if she could be fortunate enough to get a second husband to support her in comfort. But that isn’t always true. You will find, more often, that she prefers to have the independence and the freedom that the alimony gives her to marrying again. Why adjust herself to another marriage and try to make a go of it? Marriage entails too much self-sacrifice. Who knows whether it will be worth exchanging it for the alimony? She can have the man’s love, anyway.”

The writer paused for a moment and then continued thoughtfully:

“I feel that instead of alimony being paid out every week so long as the woman remains unmarried, it would be far better to settle an outright sum on her. At least this procedure would not encourage immorality in any way. The woman could be free to marry again and there would not be the temptation of the alimony to lure her into an illicit relationship.

“Do you believe,” Miss Baldwin was asked, “that alimony should be done away with altogether?”

“Oh, no,” she quickly replied, “I would be the last one to suggest that. There are many, many cases where women are entitled to it. They may have small children, or they may be untrained for any kind of work, or, again, their health may have suffered. And we all know cases of wives who have struggled through poverty with their husbands. Then when these men have attained financial success they divorce their wives in order to marry younger or prettier girls. Such wives certainly deserve alimony.

“However, I do think that if a woman is able-bodied and has no children or any shadow of claim on the man from whom she’s separated, she is not entitled to alimony. Perhaps for a year or so, until she looks around for something to do, she should get it. But after that she should be the last person – even, to want to accept money from a man for whom she no longer feels any affection. And to go on endlessly driving him when he can ill afford it, then depriving him of his chances of remarrying, seems criminal to me. Personally, I would rather scrub floors for a living than take alimony from such a man.

“The whole pitiful part of it is that the women who are badly in need of the alimony are just the ones who don’t get it. One woman for a long time did not want to divorce her husband because of her religious scruples. Finally things became so bad that she secured a divorce. The judge awarded her alimony for her and her two children. The man left the State and the woman is absolutely in poverty.

“Time and again you will find men adopting various tactics to evade paying alimony. Some of them will even prefer to languish in jail. I know one man who’s been in jail for years, and there’s no saying when he’ll ever come out. He simply will not pay his wife alimony.

“It isn’t at all unusual for a man to get a fake mortgage on his property, transfer all his holdings to friends or form a dummy corporation. A friend will go through the form of foreclosing a mortgage, taking over the property and leaving the husband apparently stranded. Then the wife will have to agree to accept a smaller amount than the Court awarded to her.

“One man owns some unimproved real estate which is valued at a good price. But he persists in keeping it nonproductive and is living in poverty rather than risk paying his former wire share of what might be a good income. And that woman is really quite poor.”

Lawyers claim that there is no other class of litigation in which men will go to so muck trouble and take so serious risks as in the alimony cases. An alimony judgment seems to stir up more stubborn resistance and stimulate more resourcefulness than any other kind of conflict that gets people into the courts.

Some old and seasoned alimony-payers of the Alimony Payers Protective Association are pledged to “break up the partnership between the vindictive wife and the shyster lawyer; prevent the misuse of children for the purpose of securing excessive alimony; prevent unwarranted persecution,” and a number of other things.


IN THIS day of numerous divorces it was interesting to learn what Faith Baldwin considers the essential basis of a happy marriage.

“It is important,” she said, “that a man and wife be physically well mated. Of course, no marriage can last on that alone. But if on that basis one can build a community of interests and an intellectual ground of meeting, you can have a happy marriage.

“I have never felt that children make a real difference in the real relationship between husband and wife. They may make the marriage more interesting. But they do not change that inner relationship in any way. That is why I believe that children are not sufficient to hold husband and wife together.

“One of the chief causes of trouble is the ease with which people can get married and divorced. A young couple will go off on a joyride and suddenly decide to get married. Or they will return home from a party quite drunk and think it would be a novel idea to marry. There have been any number of cases where people have even married on a bet. In former days, when one married, no matter what the marriage turned out to be, one had to grin and bear it. But today, if one is at any time bored or dissatisfied, one can take bag and baggage and clear out with very little trouble.

“Here’s a story of one couple I know which is actually true and which illustrates the way some people marry.

“This couple met one Friday at a house party. The man liked the girl and suggested that they get married. ‘I always said I’d never get married on a Friday. Try another time,’ she told him.

”The following week he asked her again. ‘It’s too cold,’ she said.

“Well, the third week he asked her once more, and since it was neither Friday nor too cold, they got married. Incidentally, while the wedding banquet was on it started to rain quite hard. A few months later, when they were divorced, the girl said to me: ‘I always knew our marriage wouldn’t pan out, because is rained the day we were married.’

“She’s been married twice since then, and I often wonder what other reasons she’s been giving for the break-up of her marriages.

“This story may sound far-fetched and exaggerated, and if it were a solitary instance I would not have told it. But it is only one of many which typify the light, frivolous attitude that people have toward marriage today.”

[Genn, Lillian G, “Marriage for Alimony Only a Public Menace Says Faith Baldwin,” syndicated (Public Register), Modesto Bee (Ca.), Sep. 25, 1928]


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