Thursday, September 15, 2011

Reforming New York City’s Domestic Violence Policy: Magistrate Charles W. Appleton -1912

Favors Whipping-Post for Wife-Beaters, But No State Support for Their Victims

Probation System a Failure in Such Cases, Says Magistrate Appleton, While Workhouse Sentence Means Loafing for the Man White His Family May Br Starving But a “Pension” for Their Wives Would Be Incentive to Wife - Beaters, and Many Women Would “Gladly Take Two Blackened Eyes to Get $1 a Day.”

By Nixola Greeley-Smith

FULL TEXT: What shall we do with our wife-beaters?

Pass a bill providing a whipping-post and give a man convicted of wife-beating from five to thirty lashes,” is a drastic remedy which Magistrate Charles W. Appleton proposed yesterday while sitting in Harlem Police Court.

According to Mr. Appleton, they do things better in Delaware, where the whipping-post still a flourishing institution and an aggrieved wife recently was given permission to occupy a front orchestra seat while her husband was being whipped.

“The present method of sending a wife-beater to the workhouse for five or six months deprives the wife and children of support during that time,” Mr. Appleton explained to me yesterday.

“Different philanthropic associations will be sure to send inspectors through the workhouse to see that the convicted wife beater has a comfortable bed, warm clothing and proper food.

“But nobody looks out for the prisoner’s family, which may be starving while he is lodged and fed at the state’s expenses. The whipping-post would punish the man, put the fear of the law into him, without subjecting his family to want.”


Until Mr. Appleton urged the whipping-post from the bench. I had not known that the wife-beater to one of the most flourishing institutions, and the proper method of dealing with him, a vital problem. It appears that while the crest of society is effervescing with suffrage the courts are crowded with men summoned or under arrest for wife-beating.

According to Magistrate Appleton, this pastime inherited from our Saxon forefathers is most popular in Harlem.

“That court is the worst so far as wife betting is concerned.” he said. “That is because there is  here the largest residential section for poor people. I have any number of cases where see at once that it won’t do to send the husband to the workhouse owing to the poor circumstances of the family. Then all can do is to put the man on probation or keep him downstairs in jail for three or four days to scare him. Very often I pretend I am going to send him to the Island, but that I want to defer sentencing him till I can do it in cold blood. By the time he has been in jail three or four days he is trembling and repentant, and when I let him go, follows wife home in a chastened state of mind.

“Putting a wife-beater on probation is seldom successful.

“I had a case when sitting downtown where I let the man go twice on his promise to  behave himself. The wife wrote to the probation officer complaining that he was more violent when ever and asking that some one be concealed in the house to observe the man’s behavior when he came home. This was done, and the husband came in swearing, blustering and breaking furniture.


“I sent him to the Island, and he hadn’t been there three days before the wife came around to ask me to let him off. When I refused she told me I was a cruel, hardhearted man, and a few weeks later came back to tell me the husband had a boil on his back and I must release him so she could take care of him.

“The wife nearly always waste the man let off after her anger has cooled. And it isn’t always because she fears the loss of income. I’ve had women before me who took in washing to support worthless men who bent them, yet who pleaded with me not to send them away. I suppose the beautiful instinct of compassion that survives in all women is responsible for this. A woman extends the maternal instinct even to a worthless husband.”

“But do you think a husband and wife could remain living together after the man had been whipped at the post on his wife’ complaint?”

“Oh, yes,” Magistrate Appleton answered. “The sort of man who whips his wife is not a person of fine sensibilities. You can’t reach this sort by putting him in jail and supporting him for six months.

“Of course there are many cases where the husband has great provocation. The wife taunted has taunted him so that he is no longer responsible, or she is going around with another man. Drink, of course, is the excuse of most wife-beaters. ‘I didn’t know what I was doing, Judge,’ many of them say. But they do know, no matter how drunk they are.”


“I have heard that you are in favor of a State allowance or $1 a day to wives while husbands who beat them or in jail,” I remarked.

“No,” Magistrate Appleton replied. “I suggested that as the only effective alternative for the whipping-post, but I’m not in favor of it.

“That are plenty of wives that come before me who would give themselves two black eyes for $1 a day. A husband who wanted to evade supporting his wife need only give her a good beating to have the State take car of her.

“Very often now in cases of wife desertion there’s a collusion between the husband and wife. The husband goes to Chicago or some other distant city to look for work. He doesn’t find any and wants to come home, but has not money enough. The wife, if she has small children, can have him brought bang at the county’s expense for desertion.

 “So she goes down to the District Attorney’s office and it takes a complaint and the husband come back in state.

Pensioning the wife would promote collusion. The present system of sending the man to jail doesn’t hurt him and deprives the wife of support, so the only thing left is the whipping post; in my opinion, the only effective punishment for wife-beating”

[Nixola Greely-Smith, “Favors Whipping-Post for Wife-Beaters, But No State Support for Their Victims,” The Evening World (New York, N.Y.), Jan. 20, 1912, p. 3]


• You have been told that before the rise of feminism in the 1960s that domestic violence against women was tolerated by society as acceptable behavior and was not taken seriously by police and the courts.

You have been lied to. The people who told you these lies were paid to tell them you. In most cases you paid your own money (taxes and tuition fees) to be lied to.

Here is one of countless pieces of evidence that demonstrate the truth.

• To see more eloquent, vivid evidence proving the lie and giving you the truth, see:

19th Century Intolerance Towards Domestic Violence

Treatment of Domestic Violence Against Women Before 1960this post collects cases classified by the form of punishment or sentencing (whether judicial or through community action)

No, the claim that laws created by males were for the benefit of males is false. Yes, the "Rule of Thumb" myth has been proven to be a marxist-feminist hoax, taking an ancient English common historical notation published in the 18th century and extrapolating it into unsupported claims that 18th and 20th century United States communities, courts and legislatures (laws on the books) were in agreement with the18th century historical notation (Blackstone).


“[O]nly since the 1970s has the criminal justice system begun to treat domestic violence as a serious crime, not as a private family matter.”

From the entry: “Domestic Violence” on

This claim has been proven to be false.


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