Sunday, September 4, 2011

“Quick Divorce, Easy Money": The Alimony Racket - 1937

FULL TEXT: Those weepers who like to say, “It’s the woman who pays!” every time the subject of marriage for women, careers for women or life for women comes up, forget one little item of our present way of living – alimony.

When two people who have honestly tried to make their marriage successful find at last that it is impossible to do so, and divorce seems their only way out, it is only just and logical that the husband make some provision for the maintenance and future of the wife and children, if any.

But what there is about marriage that justifies the divorced woman in her demands for alimony is yet to be proved – although the alimony racket is made more legal by the courts every day, in their awards.


A Missouri woman legislator has just put this question on the public records by filing a bill for the “relief of alimony-ridden” men, and those likely to become such. The plan formulated by Mrs. Gladys B. Stewart would prohibit the granting of alimony unless the marriage had existed more than five years, unless children of the divorced couple were living, or unless the wife had become physically disabled since her marriage.

The fact that the subject is going to be aired in legislative chambers is at least encouraging, for alimony has been showing all the earmarks of a big-time racket, and has helped to develop cynicism toward marriage beyond the point at which it makes for levelheadedness.


In the recent notorious Elaine Barrie-John Barrymore case, Miss Barrie filed suit for alimony amounting to more than $2000 a month, although she had remained married to Mr. Barrymore for scarcely more than two months. Even if those two months did seem like years, or whatever the reasoning was, that’s a high interest rate to ask! (The suit was later withdrawn, but is cited here because it was so well known and so sadly typical.)

Women who marry that they may divorce for money are high-class chiselers who have so far got off scot-free. It’s an old con game with streamline trimmings, and even if the men are dumb enough to fall for it, the women are still responsible for it as they who put over the idealistic and romanticized picture of womanhood which still makes a man believe that the little woman really does want a vine-covered cottage when she says, “Yes.”

It’s all too easy these days for a woman to reason along these lines when she is momentarily bored or angry, “Why should I go on putting up with this guy? A divorce, with alimony to take care of the money problem, and I can live my own life as I please.”


Far from being confined to the already married, this easy come, easy go attitude has become the philosophy of many about-to-be-marrieds. It results in a “Why not try being married, anyhow? There’s always the divorce court” principle. A marriage must survive upsets of every kind, and it is not going to if the “Off to Reno!” slogan winds up the first quarrel.

Men can hardly be blamed for shying away from the mere mention of marriage, when it has brought many of their pals nothing but the obligation to pay off a slice of alimony every months. Young people can’t be blamed for their skepticism toward the idea of marriage and a home, when they can see by the papers that a high percentage of marriages hardly outlast the second installment on the furniture.

As long as the home remains the working basis of our society – and no satisfactory substitute has yet been found – it surely deserves some workable protection from such ills as the alimony racket.

[Maxine Garrison, “Blame The Alimony Racket For Marriage Fear In Men – Too Many Girls Enter Matrimony With An Attitude Of “Quick Divorce, Easy Money’,” The Pittsburgh Press (Pa.), Apr. 8, 1937, p. 30]


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


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