A SAMPLING OF WHAT YOU GET BY JOINING THE BERKSHIRE FATHERHOOD COALITION
Rinaldo Del Gallo, III, Esq.
79 Nancy Avenue
Pittsfield, MA 01201
March 7, 2006
SENT TO: editor@...
RE: Speaker illuminates roles of women in history of Burlington
By JOANNA MECHLINSKI, The Bristol Press
Dear Editor of the Bristol Press:
In your article 3/6/06 article, "Speaker illuminates roles of women
in history of Burlington Speaker illuminates roles of women in history
of Burlington," it was stated: "Throughout the 17th century,
Prescott (a history professor at Central State University) said, married
women were controlled entirely by their husbands. They had no legal
status, much as slaves or animals. In the rare instances where divorce
was granted, custody of children automatically went to the husband
because they, too, were considered marital property."
Women were treated poorly in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, and
pioneers such as Lucretta Mott, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady
Stanton who sought equal rights in the family law arena for woman are to
be admired; they are considered heroine's by the modern fathers'
rights movement for their drive to have gender equality in family law.
But there are certainly some things to be considered serious advantages
of 19th century women over 21st century men. Foremost, it was extremely
hard to get a divorce in the 19th century. (It was almost impossible in
the 17th century, save for adultery.) It is true that in the 19th
century, once divorced, the father nearly automatically won custody. But
as a practical matter, the granting of a divorce was an almost
indescribably rare occurrence. The father would have to show that there
was something terribly wrong with the mother in terms of fault, such as
complete abandonment or adultery. If the mother committed adultery, the
adultery of the father was a defense. While in the 19th century almost
always lost their children, and while in the 21st century men almost
always lose their children, the former was tremendously more likely to
In the 19th century, whether there was cause for divorce would have to
be put to a jury in many states (such as Massachusetts), and the
granting of a divorce was given with the solemnity of giving a death
sentence. Moreover, there was a strong social taboo against seeking a
divorce in the first instance, so libels for divorce were hardly
initiated. In those rare few instances where a divorce was granted, as
was the case throughout recorded history, the custodial parent was
required to pay for the upkeep of the childrento grant one party
the children and compel the other party to pay for it was thought
immoral. Today's male will find himself infinitely more likely to
be divorced (by orders of magnitude) and almost certainly likely to pay
a hefty fine to have the other spouse raise his children. The 19th
century woman did not have to worry about a child support amount they
could not possibly afford to pay, or having "imputed income"
where the court literally pretends there is an income that does not
exist when deciding child support. The 19th century woman's right
to travel was not impeded. Now the fathers often lose their
driver's license, and they often are denied their right to work in
their chosen profession by suspension of professional licenses.
Today, woman file for 70% of all divorces, and there is nothing one can
do to stop a divorce from issuing, regardless of the inability to show
fault in the legal sense by the wife. Many states, such as
Massachusetts, have dispensed with jury trials. "No fault"
divorce has been interpreted to mean not only that two consenting adults
can divorce without showing fault, but that the mother may dump the
father just by saying the marriage is not working out. On a point of
historical accuracy, (and this was a historian speaking on historical
matters in her capacity as a historian), while without doubt woman of
the 19th century lacked many of the rights of men, to claim they had a
legal status no different from slaves, animals, or inanimate objects
simply is literary hyperbolethe reader should understand this is a
rhetorical flourish based upon the bona fide inferior treatment of women
and not a literal truth as a matter of the common law at the time.
In some instances, women enjoyed significant superior rights to men, as
the common law presumption that any crimes they committed were done at
their husband's insistence, leaving their husband, and not
themselves, liable for crimes. Husbands were also liable for their
wives torts and breaches of contract. And trust me, you would much
rather be a 19th century woman who sued for divorce based upon the
husband's adultery (which was weighed heavily when alimony was being
determined), rather than a 21st century male based on the same cause
(which is presently completely ignored in terms of child custody,
alimony, or the division of assets). And how many present fathers who
are the subject of divorce action are likely to get their attorney fees
paid by mother under the doctrine of necessaries?
How many women in the 19th century actually found themselves in jail or
on a "most wanted" list due to the ancillaries of divorce? And
while their choice of professions was severely limited in the 19th
century, how many women found that they were legally proscribed from
practicing their legal chosen profession? If the modern divorced father
is delinquent in child support, his right to travel will be severely
hampered (can't drive a car due to license suspension), and he may
even be prohibited from working his chosen profession (by suspension of
Once divorced, the 19th century woman was free to go her own way, albeit
in a prejudiced society where many avenues of opportunity were closed.
But today's 21st century male often finds himself unable to change
to lesser paying but more spiritually rewarding careers, less physically
dangerous careers, or pursue higher education because of the demands for
child support. Many have to report to court officers, where job
applications and career choice is done under the supervision and control
of a state officer.
21st century fathers have to work overtime or take on additional
part-time jobs just to survive.
True, 19th century women had it pretty bad in terms of divorce. But the
present 20th century male is much more likely to be divorced in orders
of magnitude, much more likely to be divorced for insignificant reasons
without a showing of fault, and when he is divorced, he is much more
likely to be treated worse by the courts, with tremendous losses of
child custody and financial derpivations.
Rinaldo Del Gallo, III, Esq.
Spokesperson of the Berkshire Fatherhood Coalition
Practicing Family Law Attorney
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