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Profiles in Domestic Violence

August 25, 2009 |  2:00 am

Aug. 25, 1889, E. Adam

Aug. 25, 1889: Prince Albert suits for $14 ($331.36 USD, 2008).

Aug. 25, 1889, Abused Wife

The late 19th and early 20th century newspapers are full of harrowing stories about domestic violence, usually alcoholic men beating their wives and children. The women in these reports typically say that they endure countless beatings because they are unable to support themselves and their children, and because the husbands, once sober and/or in jail or in court, promise to reform.

In fact, the husbands almost never reform and the drinking and beatings escalate until the women end up in the hospital and the husbands are prosecuted, even though the wives refuse to press charges.

I've come across an interesting variant of these stories in the papers of the 1950s. As the abused children grow older, one of them -- usually a son in his mid-teens -- confronts the drunk, abusive father as he's beating the mother and kills him. I haven't read enough of the earlier papers to know if this occurs regularly, but these stories are a fixture of the mid- to late 1950s.