NOTE: Author Dorothy Dix was the Oprah of the 1920s-1930s. She was the most widely read advice columnist of her day, with her writings syndicated in newspapers across the globe.
DEAR MISS DIX — The Ladies Home Journal, in its survey on what the women of America think about the rights of women in broken engagements and divorces, says that 60 per cent of the women questioned did not believe that women should be able to sue for breach of promise; that 66 per cent of the women thought that in case of divorce only women with children should get alimony and that 39 per cent believed when there are no children a woman should not get alimony unless she is over 30; that 43 per cent believed that former husbands who are able to pay alimony should be put in jail if they failed to pay it; that 60 per cent believed that divorce is generally harder on the wife than It is on the husband. What do you think about tills? – A READER.
Answer: I should think this is a fair estimate of the general sentiment of women on the heart balm and alimony questions. Evidently the breach of promise suit that has so long been a profitable racket for predatory ladies will soon cease to be a menace to amorous old gentlemen who are indiscreet letter writers.
Several states have already passed laws abolishing it. Others will follow suit. For it has always been obvious that money could never heal a broken heart, and no girl who really suffered mortification from being jilted would drag her wrongs out into a court for the rabble to jeer at.
Personally, I do not think that an engagement should ever be regarded as a binding contract. It should be only a sort of option that a man and woman take on each other's affections, and that they can take up or let lapse as they please. It should be a time when they can study their own reactions to the party of the other part and find out whether their love is the real thing or not; when they should test out their congeniality and how much of each other's society they can stand without being bored. If they discover that they have made a mistake in their choice, they should be able to call off the wedding without
danger or damage, or any reflection on either one.
As for alimony, one of the profound mysteries of the world is why men, who make the laws, have not long ago done away with the cruel and unjust and medieval status that govern the whole subject of divorce and under which they suffer, whenever they find it impossible to live with their wives, or their wives get tired of living with them.
That many women marry for the sole purpose of getting divorces a matter of common knowledge. The women who practice this hold-up game marry men they don’t love. They don’t make an effort to get along with them, or do their duty as wives in any respect, and in the course of a year or two they pick a quarrel and fly to Reno.
Then their poor dupes have to pay them enough money to live on luxuriously ever after Why should this be possible? Why should a man have to spend the remainder of his life supporting a woman who has made his life a hell on earth? Why should a first husband have to go on supporting his former wife and her second husband? Why should a poor fellow who can't pay his alimony be put in jail where he can't make any money? My own idea is that no young and able-bodied woman without children should ever be given a nickel of alimony. She took her chances on marriage just as the man did, and she should be enough of a sport to be a good loser.
I think that no woman should be able to collect alimony unless she can prove that she has been a good wife and a faithful one. But, on the other hand, I believe that no old wife who has worked and struggled and saved to help her husband get a start should be turned out to starve like a worn out old work horse. She has helped her husband through the years and whatever he has she is entitled to half of it. Believe me, if divorces were made less profitable, fewer people would engage in them. – DOROTHY DIX.
[Dorothy Dix, “When Alimony Is Banned There Will Be Fewer Divorces In America – Too Many Women Rush Into Marriage For The Sole Purpose of Getting Money, syndicated, The Bee (Danville, Va.), Jun. 27, 1939, p. 2]