Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Alimony Racket: "Matrimonial Grafters" in 1933

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.

FULL TEXT: I see in the papers, as Will Rogers would say, that the validity of the alimony decrees of Reno are to be contested. This is the first real body blow that has ever been struck at divorce. For, as all honest people will admit, it is not so much bad husbands as easy money that sends so many women to the divorce courts, and if you would delete the alimony you would stabilize matrimony.

There is nothing in our alleged modern civilization that is so disgraceful as the fact that divorce has become just as much a racket among unprincipled women as bootlegging has among men. A large class of women as bootlegging has among them. A large class of women have made a gift wrecking homes and breaking up men's lives. They enter into the most binding of all human contracts with no intention whatever of fulfilling it. They perjure their souls without even a qualm of conscience by taking upon their lips the most solemn of all oaths that they do not even mean to keep.

In former days the woman who married for money expected to make some return for it. She expected to live with a man as his wife, to tear him children, to keep his house and make him comfortable. But the woman- who marries for money nowadays doesn't intend to make any return for the support that the man gives her. She doesn't intend to even be bothered with him any longer than it will take her to establish an alibi that will go with some senilely sentimental judge before whom her trial for divorce takes place.


So after a very brief span of matrimony she discovers that she and her husband are incompatible in temperament, or that he inflicts mental cruelty upon her by protesting at her extravagance or criticizing her pies. Or he trumps her ace in a bridge game, or he objects to having her entire family saddled upon him, and forthwith she takes her woes to the divorce court and is granted a decree absolute with alimony that enables her to live in comfort and often to support a second husband as long as she lives.

No one can deny that there are plenty of woman who marry for the sole purpose of acquiring alimony.

They have no affection for the men they marry, no intention of sticking to their bargains, and they never make the slightest effort toward making their marriages a success because their real desire is not for a loving husband, but for an ex-husband whom they can hijack into supporting them.

Aside from these matrimonial grafters, there are the women who marry in good faith, but who throw up their hands and quit cold when they find out that their husbands are he-men instead of godlings, and that marriage isn't a fairy-story romance.

Nobody can deny that the number of these fair-weather wives would be greatly diminished and that there would be very few divorces if there was no alimony.

If every woman knew that when she left her husband she would have to go out and support herself, that she would have to walk instead of riding in a car that she would have to live in a cheap room in the boarding house instead of having a comfortable home, she would think a long, long time before she divorced her husband just because she had lost her taste for him or he had some little peculiarity that irritated her. It is the old human desire to get something for nothing, to get money that you didn't have to work for, that lures many and many a wife into the divorce court.

There seems no fair and just reason why men should be penalized more in marriage than women are. nor why a man should be compelled to continue to support a woman who has perhaps made his life a hell on earth. After all, marriage is a sporting proposition in which a man takes as much risk as the woman does, and if it turns out badly and they find out that they are maladjusted and cannot live in peace together. she no more loses out than he does. Many women are honest and gallant enough to accept this view of the situation and refuse to ask for alimony, but most of them demand the last cent they can wring out of their husbands as payment for the wreck or a marriage that they did as much to ruin as he did.


The original justification for alimony was a poor, helpless creature who would starve if her ex-husband did not provide for her. But nowadays that contention is not valid. Nearly every woman in these days of feminine emancipation is trained to ail occupation by which she can earn her own living. Many women have money of their own. Many have better paying jobs than their husbands and are more competent. And there is no reason why these financially independent women should collect money from men who are literally enslaved by having to pay them alimony. Often second wives and little children, as well as the men themselves, are denied the necessities of life because most of a man's earnings have to go as tribute to the alimony racket.

Of course, if a woman has given the best of her life to a man and if she has worked by his side and helped him build up his fortune, she has a valid claim on all that he has, and if they decide to separate she has a right to half of his property, the community property they have earned together and which is as much hers as his. It is unthinkable that a good old wife should be turned out to starve like a worn out old work horse because her husband falls for a flapper. But this kind of couple seldom want a divorce, and when they do, the husband rarely refuses to make a generous settlement on the wife.

I think that before every young couple marry they should make a contract in which it would be definitely set forth what proportion of the property the woman is to receive in case of divorce. And I believe that no woman should be given alimony unless she can establish that she has done her duty as a wife and made an effort to make the marriage a success.

Kill the graft in alimony and you will see a decline in divorce. --- Dorothy Dix.

[Dix, Dorothy, “Kill the Graft in Alimony and You Will See a Decline in Divorce – Matrimonial Grafters and Fair-Weather Wives Would Then Hold On to Hubby With Both Hands,” The Hartford Courant (Ct.), Mar. 31, 1933, p. 12]

For more revelations of this suppressed history, see The Alimony Racket: Checklist of Posts


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