Runaway Husband Problem Big One

by Laurel | March 30th, 2012

30 March 1913

Fifty Women and 150 Deserted Children Being Aided by City of Holyoke

Drink Principal Cause

Usually man Simply Drops Out of Sight with Week’s Pay in Pocket

That Holyoke is not immune from the runaway husband plague, is evident by the records of the relief department. There are at least 50 women and 150 children aided by the municipality, because husbands and fathers deserted their families leaving them nothing by the opportunity to become public charges. How many deserted wived there are who do not appeal to the overseers of the poor is not a matter of record, but the number, it is estimated, would augment materially the total of the relief department.

Those assisted by the city are invariably mothers with little ones in number from 1 to 6, and in few instances 7. The deserted wives not recorded by the overseers of the poor are usually able to care for themselves and have no children, while the few with little ones who do not ask the relief department for assistance have relatives who give them a home.

“Wife desertion is one of the worst evils we have to contend with,” said one actively connected with the relief department yesterday. “The meanest part of it is that the women usually deserted are estimable mothers and are veritable slaves for the sake of their young ones. The husband comes home some night, usually on a payday, gets his supper, goes out and never comes back. He runs away with the pay envelope in his pocket. Sometimes the man will not even go home from the shop or mill, but skips without a word the moment he gets his pay. Then the mother must appeal to the relief department whether she wants to or not.”

It is estimated that of the number of deserted families aided now by the poor department at least 19 were left in this condition since the first of the year, three months ago. Some of the others have been on the lists for a long time, the children gradually becoming self-supporting, but not always aiding the mother and other relatives. However, there are splendid exceptions and these examples bring joy to the relief officers, because of the filial devotion displayed rather from the fact that they have ceased to be a financial burden on the city.

“Ninety per cent of the cases of wife desertion may be directly attributed to liquor,” says the citizen of authority. “Those not controlled by rum are naturally mean and vicious and mainly desert their wives and children because it is their nature. There is no intent to excuse the drinkers, Wife desertion is contemptible no matter from what cause.”

Formerly it was legally impossible for the local authorities to bring back the head of the family from another state on the charge of desertion, the offense not being extraditable. Te man might leave his family in Holyoke and live in Thompsonville and there would be no redress. It is different now and deserters may be brought back from Connecticut or California, if the home authorities wish to act. But the cost is sometimes heavy, and then there is hesitancy on the part of one department or another to incur the expense, so even today some fellows escape the clutches of the law not from any personal consideration, but because of the financial outlay required to bring them back home and the to the police court.

Times have been better in Holyoke, but they might be a great deal worse. Michael F.Walsh, chairman of the board of public works, said this week that never during his 17 years experience as public works commissioner have applicants for employment been so few in number with this department as this spring. There may be as many reasons for this condition as there are individual minds, but Chairman Walsh attributes the showing to activities in other directions, among the mills and contractors.

What influence the industrial conditions have on the cases of desertions though in authority find it hard to determine, but it is certain the increase in the number of runaway husbands cannot be connected with industrial depression.

Occasionally one of these fellows writes from another place, asking his wife to send him money with which he may pay his fare home, more often than not expressing regret for the desertion and promising better conduct in the future. it does not impress the authorities as being wise to respond to these appeals in general, although there are instances where the sorrow is sincere and the tears real. Very frequently, however, the fellows do not even bother even to send a note of appeal and they never come back.

Odd experiences are met with now and again by relief officers. Sometime ago a husband and father left the mother and young child absolutely dependent upon public charity, the young husband skipping by the light of the moon, It being deemed wise after an investigation to remove the new charges to an institution, preparations were made to do so. One of the treasured articles in the bundle allowed the mother by the rules of the institution was the photograph of the runaway.

“He is the father of my little baby,” said the young wife, an attractive woman without a single relative or close friend in the country.

Adapted from The Springfield Republican.

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