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.
Retired Army Major founded his organization in 1960 as Divorce Racket Busters in California. When, in 1961, the organization was incorporated in California the name was changed to U. S. Divorce Reform, Inc. Kidd’s organization was similar to earlier efforts such as American Alimony Payers Protective Association and Alimony Club of Illinois, both founded in 1927, and many others that sprang up in intervening years, but U. S. Divorce Reform, Inc. was the most successful of any that came before.
Kidd and other activists, including the second wives of divorced men, naively believed the passing of no-fault divorce laws would result in better outcomes for divorcing men and their children. They invested great energy advocating the reforms they expected to reduce incivility and broken child-father relationships. It would not be many years before the evidence proved otherwise. In fact, the tactic of false accusations of child abouse and domestic violence served to replace the excised “fault” standard, thus introducing even more complicated, costly and emotionally devastating scenarios for many “divorced children” and divorcing men.
FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 6): New York – The “Divorce Racket Busters” are after me – and I’m not even divorced.
They’re after every man that’s got a wife and want to warn him of the doom they claim is awaiting him.
They’re trying to free husbands from alimony slavery. Especially in California. Where, they claim, it’s scandalous.
They’ve got headquarters on Citrus Heights, Calif., and Reuben P. Kidd writes that “We need to impress upon all ‘happily married men’ that their freedom is in jeopardy and is entirely dependent upon the whims of their wives.”
They’re circulating a cartoon titled “The Alimony Joy Ride” which shows the ex-wife, her lawyer and the judge celebrating her divorce, with the poor husband pushing the car in which all three having their joy ride.
“Don’t be a pushover,” says the cartoon. They then want to change the California laws.
I’d like to show this to my wife – but I’m afraid to.
[Earl Wilson, “Divorce Racket Haters Calling All Husbands,” syndicated, The Hammond Times (In.), Jul. 31, 1961, p. A-7]
FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 6): Sacramento, Calif.— Former Army Maj. Reuben Kidd who survived four years of military combat and came home to face a divorce action, has opened a nationwide attack on alimony, community property and women’s right to custody of the children.
He says he is encouraged by “at least 1,000’” sympathizers in California and “hundreds” elsewhere in the nation, and adds be has begun the initial mailing of membership applications for his new organization.
It is called United States Divorce Reform, Inc. (USDR), and was chartered Nov. 20, 1961, by the California secretary of state.
Kidd contends that divorce laws in many states encourage marital breakups by making them easy, if not downright profitable for women. He is not opposed to divorce, but he favors enforcing “responsibility” on the female partner.
USDR was conceived early last year in a Sacramento attorney’s office. There, Kidd learned that his wife’s divorce action would enrich her by $22,500, or half his total wealth.
He started modestly with letters to the editors of local newspapers, and said he gradually found supporters in California, Nevada. Michigan, Wisconsin, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and the Panama Canal Zone.
Kidd said most supporters are men like himself who believe themselves victimized, by a divorce settlement, but he said “many, many” women had written to him.
Kidd said that USDR would seek changes in current law with the usual political tools: letter writing, lobbying, financial support for sympathetic candidates. Basically, Kidd wants:
—Community property laws that give each partner the property that he or she brought to the marriage.
—Eventual abolition of alimony.
—Recognition of a father’s equal right to custody of the children, based on the father’s equal ability to use modern child care services.
[“Organization Asks Divorce Law Reforms,” syndicated (UPI), Oshkosh Daily Northwestern (Wi.), Dec. 30, 1961; same article with different headline: “Major Declares War on Divorce Laws, Battles Alimony, Right to Custody,” syndicated (UPI), Ogden Standard-Examiner (Ut.), Jan. 5, 1961, p. 9]
EXCERPT (Article 3 of 6): Alimony payers are collectors of injustice stories. They seem to derive some black enjoyment from tales of legal maltreatment. Reuben Kidd, for instance, a big dark-haired man with a vague resemblance to Robert Ryan, begins his bitter narrative by mentioning he was awarded a medal for combat heroism for World War II. “I fought for freedom,” he says. “Freedom for almost all Americans, including my wife – but not including me.”
Kidd consulted a lawyer when his childless marriage began to break up. Listen, said the lawyer, “whatever you do, don’t bring the money question to court. California courts will murder you. Negotiate a private settlement with your wife beforehand. Whatever she asks for, take my word, it’ll be less than a court would award her.”
Kidd’s wife asked for, and got, a substantial share of Kidd’s property. What seems to have stabbed Kidd most deeply is the fact that his settlement included some Army pay he had saved during the war, before marriage. “One of the things we were fighting for in that war,” he notes gloomily, “was the right to own property – freedom from legal confiscation.” Reuben Kidd came out of this experience howling mad and promptly organized U.S.D.R.
[Gunther, Max, “The Fraternity of Crippled Men,” The New York Times Magazine, Sep. 19, 1965, p. 34]
Here is a report from 1964 on one of the regional offices, in West Virginia.
FULL TEXT (Article 4 of 6): (Charleston, W. Va.) – Mrs. Henry Christy of Camden Drive is fighting for men’s rights “against women who are making a racket out of divorce and lawyers who are getting benefit out of this racket.”
An assistant director of the East Coast Woman’s Division for U. S. Divorce Reform, Inc. Mrs. Christy spends a good deal of time studying the problem of divorced people and writing and speaking on their behalf.
“There is no equal justice for a man at all the way today’s laws are written. Just because the law says the man is in the wrong or the wife says so doesn’t make it so. There are always two sides to every story and one can be as bad as the other,” Mrs. Christy said.
Of course, there are times when men aren’t any good at all but laws are ridiculous when they allow a woman to take everything.
“Why should a man pay a penalty for the rest of his life because he has made one mistake? Why should an innocent second family starve because of a grasping ex-wife?
~ RIGHTS AREN’T RIGHT ~
“Why should a man support children he is not allowed to see? Visitation rights aren’t upheld, especially in Kanawah County. A father can’t be a father to a child if he doesn’t see it.” Mrs. Christy continued with fire in his eyes.
Just because a mother is a mother and a woman doesn’t mean she is a good parent and it’s not necessarily right for her to have the children. A father can pay a babysitter just as well as a mother can.
“I don’t say men are always right, but I do say decisions should be made on facts in the case and not because she is a woman and he is a man.
~ NEED FAMILY CENTER ~
Mrs. Christy believes, along with the organization which she represents that “The biggest need in divorce reforms is a family center to which a couple may go when they are faced with the possibility of divorce. The center should have specialists in human relations, psychologists, social workers and clergymen of the couple’s faith. The board would take time to investigate and see if the marriage is workable. Ample time should be taken for consideration. Many demanding divorces are angry and upset and say, ‘I’ll just get a divorce! Rather than say ‘Let’s try to work things out.’”
Mrs. Christy is the daughter of the late H. B. Sheets, a city fireman for 23 years. She likes mixing with people and reading books about children and child psychology.
Her husband works for DuPont’s Belle plant and loves to fly planes. She met him when he asked her son, Roy, if he would like to take a plane ride. Roy and their own son, Scottie, share Dad’s enthusiasm about flight. Mother’s an earthling.
When Mrs. Christy ran for the legislature, Mrs. Christy campaigned right along with him. “We lost this time but we’ll try again,” she said.
Mrs. Christy has been active in the fight for divorce reform for about three years and a director since the women’s division was organized in January, 1964.
She answers mail from people with problems from at least 13 states, Pakistan and Canada.
“Not all people who have joined the fight have divorce problems,” she said. “Many who work with us are happily married and interested in preserving the American home.”
[Wilma Higginbotham, “Divorce Law Reform Sought To Provide Justice For Husband,” Charleston Daily Mail (W. Va.), Jul. 7, 1964, p. 9]
FULL TEXT (Article 5 of 6): San Francisco – Divorce American style, described by its opponents as “trial by combat” and “lawyers’ blackmail,” would go out the window under a proposed amendment to the California State Constitution.
Court actions with their personal battles, high law fees and headline publicity would be replaced by decisions of a state department of family relations run by six elected directors.
Backers of the proposal announced Thursday a drive to get the required 468,259 signatures by April 12 to qualify for a June 7 ballot.
The amendment is sponsored by United States Divorce Reform, inc., an organization with chapters in 43 states, Australia, Germany and West Pakistan. Many of its leaders are losers in state divorce courts.
G. J. Winterfield, 50, California director of the reform group, told a news conference that California was chosen as the pilot state because “it leads the civilized world in divorce.”
“We have got to stop this slaughter of our homes if we are to survive as a nation,” said Winterfield, a doctor of chiropractic medicine and divorced father of four children.”
“We are destroying homes to get rid of relatively minor problems.”
Under the proposed amendment the Department of Family Relations would have exclusive jurisdiction, subject to appellate court review, over divorce, annulment and separate maintenance proceedings.
[“Ending Of American Style Divorce Urged,” syndicated (UPI), The Daily News (Huntington, Pa.), Jan. 28, 1966, p. 1]
PHOTO CAPTION: COURT PICKETS – Lee Blincoe, left, national director of American Marriage and Divorce Reform Inc., and Paul D. Mitchell, U. S. Divorce Reform Inc., picket Pasadena Superior Court to call attention to organizations’ efforts to reform divorce laws.
FULL TEXT: (Article 6 of 6): Pasadena – A nation-wide movement to reform divorce laws gained impetus over the weekend with picketing at the Pasadena and Pomona Superior courts.
Pickets from American Marriage and Divorce Reform and U. S. Divorce Reform, Inc., demonstrated in two cities and throughout California while representatives of similar organizations protested in 20 other states.
Paul D. Mitchell of Eagle Rock, a member of the USDR, and Lee Blincoe of Chatsworth, a national director of AMDR, carried signs here critical of divorce practices.
~ Attorneys Target ~
Chief target of the groups is attorneys, Blincoe said. He charged that the lawyers’ fees are greater when divorce cases go to court.
He urged that marital problems be handled through a family relations counselor, with the parties required to cooperate for a certain period of time.
“If this fails then the divorce proceedings should be carried out similar to a small claims matter in which the issue is settled with the judge and the principals taking part, without attorneys,” Blincoe said.
“And in all divorce matters,” he continued, “the welfare of the children should be given first consideration.”
The organizations urge also that an hour-a-week course in creating a happy marriage should be required in grades seven through twelve.
Blincoe denied a frequent charge of a “sour grapes” attitude toward marriage by members of the organizations. While many have been through divorces, it is far behind them and few if any would gain from changes in divorce laws, he declared.
[“Reformers Would Take Need for Attorneys Out of Divorces,” Los Angeles Times, May 2, 1966, part II, p. 5]
For a detailed history of Reuben Kidd’s history, see: Dads America, “Founding Fathers”