Letters from lonely, unhappy wives (1914)

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Letters from lonely, unhappy wives (1914)

Note: This article may feature affiliate links to Amazon or other companies, and purchases made via these links may earn us a small commission at no additional cost to you. Find out more here.

There have been many lonely, unhappy wives in every era. Here, an advice columnist addresses letters from women who are helpless because they are without hope — a very common type of message in her mailbox.
Emotions of women: Paralysis of soul (1914)

By Winnie Lee – The Day Book (Chicago, Illinois) February 12, 1914

The emotions of women often get considerably mixed up. Sometimes fear, anger, hate and grief are so combined that they nullify each other, and result in a kind of paralysis such as man never knows.

Two letters came to me in today’s mail which serve as illustrations. They are both interesting, but not altogether pleasant.

They are the complaints of wives, protests of women who are helpless because they are without hope. And I wish that these were the first of their kind I had ever received.

One letter is the naive confession of a young woman who does not seem to realize that her marriage license was, to her husband, the same thing as a deed of property.

ALSO SEE: Tips for a happy marriage: Advice for newlyweds, from the 1900s

Stylish sad woman from 1914

Letters from lonely, unhappy wives #1: Husband doesn’t want her to have friends

“My husband is 15 years my senior, and I am 23,” writes a lonely wife. “We have been married five years, but have no children, only a handsome home. And my husband is always kind and good, but I think I am neglected!

“He stays out every night until after 12, and sometimes later. His work keeps him until 8.

“No, he doesn’t come home intoxicated — no, never — but, at 1 or 2 in the morning, he expects me to get up and fix a little lunch for him and to talk pleasantly.

“He doesn’t like me to go out in the evening; says it’s not proper for a woman to be out evenings alone; still he never takes me out.

“He makes an enormous salary, $400 a month, and he gives me all I can possibly want in the way of clothes and fine food.

“He doesn’t like me to have any company; he says women all talk too much.

“He forgets that he has a home until he wants a place to rest. Please don’t think that I am cross. If I was, he’d stay away until I got over it. Can you tell me how to solve this problem: How can I make him come home?”

The columnist replies

The writer, being only 23, cannot be supposed to know that a woman cannot teach a man close to 40 anything! He has arrived at the most forceful period of his life, probably. The world, and its affairs, and the interests of men hold him. Later he will awaken to the needs of his wife as a human being.

Meantime, she would better join the suffragists, or a bridge club, or study languages. She will have time to acquire several of them before he reforms; or perhaps she can invent a workable theory for the comfort and solace of neglected wives.

ALSO SEE: Why did couples got divorced back in the 1920s? See the top reasons

Fashionable woman from 1914 at the park with a girl

Letters from lonely, unhappy wives #2: Her husband’s moods, moods, moods

The next letter is from a woman less fortunate in material things, but better provided for in the way of an engrossing occupation: the care of her children.

“I am a woman married 11 years and have one child. I do my duty in every way that I can see. And I have often asked my husband that if I fail, he must tell me in what way,” writes DESPAIR.

“He does find fault with me, he does criticize me, but he never tells me where I fall short, nor what is the matter. I am at my housework or my sewing week in and week out. I never can take the child or go to a picture show. Even on Saturday, if I go downtown to look around, I never hear the end of it.

“But my husband never gets home one night in a month before 7, though his work is done at half past 5. I would never dare say anything about it, though. As it is, I live through his moods, moods, moods, as best I can. Don’t you think it would be sensible for me to take my child and leave him? Eleven years more of this would drive any woman crazy.

“Please tell me what to do.”

ALSO SEE: Did married couples really sleep in separate beds back in the ’50s?

The columnist replies to these sad letters from lonely, unhappy wives

Society, with the entire approval and co-operation of woman, has so long protected man in his sins by a cover of silence, that it is considered hardly polite to speak of such a disagreeable incident as wife-beating.


MODERN DAY ADVICE: Need help? If you are in immediate danger, call 9-1-1. For anonymous, confidential help, 24/7, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY). You can also visit the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) at ncadv.org/get-help.

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