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Title: Broken Homes - A Study of Family Desertion and its Social Treatment
Author: Colcord, Joanna C.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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No less thoughtful a critic of men and manners than Joseph Conrad has
remarked recently that a universal experience "is exactly the sort of
thing which is most difficult to appraise justly in the individual
instance." The saying might have been made the motto of this book, for
in its pages Miss Colcord--with all the eagerness of the newer school of
social workers, bent upon understanding, upon making allowances--seeks
that just appraisal to which Conrad refers. Marital infelicities and
broken homes are not universal, fortunately, but some of the human
weaknesses which lead to them are very nearly so.

To one who brings a long perspective to any theme in social work, Broken
Homes suggests the successive stages through which the art of social
case work has progressed. Twenty years ago the editor of this Series was
responsible for the following sentences in an annual report: "One of our
most difficult problems has been how to deal with deserted wives with
children.... One good woman, whose husband had left her for the second
time more than a year ago, declared often and emphatically that she
would never let him come back. We rescued her furniture from the
landlord, found her work, furnished needed relief, and befriended the
children; but the drunken and lazy husband returned the other day, and
is sitting in the chairs we rescued, while he warms his hands at the
fire that we have kept burning."

The passage belongs to the first and what might be termed the "muddling
along" period of dealing with family desertion, but the fact that boards
of directors actually were willing to print such frank statements about
their own shortcomings was a sign that the period was drawing to a

This first stage was succeeded by a disciplinary period, in which
earnest attempts were made to enact laws that would punish the deserter
and aid in his extradition whenever he took refuge across a state line.
Laws of the strictest, and these well enforced, seemed for a while the
only possible solution.

Then gradually, with the unfolding of a philosophy and a technique of
helping people in and through their social relationships, a new way of
dealing with this ancient and perplexing human failing was developed.
This third way involved a more careful analysis of relationships and
motives, a greater variety in approach, an increased flexibility in
treatment, a new faith, perhaps, in the re-creative powers latent in
human nature. But it is unnecessary to enlarge upon a point of view
which these pages admirably illustrate. Desertion laws continue to serve
a definite purpose, as Miss Colcord makes clear, but no longer are they
either the first or the second resort of the skilful probation officer,
family case worker, or child protective agent.

Just after the Russell Sage Foundation published a treatise on Social
Diagnosis two years ago, a number of letters came to the author urging
that a volume on the treatment of social maladjustments in individual
cases follow. But this second subject is not yet ready for the large
general treatise. A topic so new as social case treatment must be
developed aspect by aspect, preferably in small, practical volumes each
written by a specialist. This is such a volume, and Miss Colcord breaks
new ground, moreover, in that her book illustrates the whole present
trend of social work as applied to individuals.

Grateful acknowledgment should be made to the social case workers who
have furnished valuable contributions to the body of data gathered for
the present study. Miss Colcord wishes mention made of her especial
indebtedness to Miss Betsey Libbey, Miss Helen Wallerstein and Miss
Elizabeth Wood of Philadelphia; Mr. C.C. Carstens and Miss Elizabeth
Holbrook of Boston; Mrs. A.B. Fox and Mr. J.C. Murphy of Buffalo; Miss
Caroline Bedford of Minneapolis; Mr. Stockton Raymond of Columbus; Mrs.
Helen Glenn Tyson of Pittsburgh; Mr. Arthur Towne of Brooklyn; Mr. E.J.
Cooley, Mr. Charles Zunser, Mr. Hiram Myers, and Miss Mary B. Sayles of
New York. Many others not here mentioned were untiring in answering
questions and furnishing needed information.

_Editor of the Social Work Series_
NEW YORK, May, 1919.


   I. INTRODUCTION                                     7
  IV. FINDING THE DESERTING HUSBAND                   65
  VI. THE DETAILS OF TREATMENT                       106
 VII. THE DETAILS OF TREATMENT (_Continued_)         125
INDEX                                                201




It has frequently been said that desertion is the poor man's divorce
but, like many epigrams, this one hardly stands the test of experience.
When examined closely it is neither illuminating nor, if the testimony
of social case workers can be accepted, is it true. It is true, of
course, that many of the causes of domestic infelicity which lead to
divorce among the well-to-do may bring about desertion among the less
fortunate, but the deserting man does not, as a rule, consider his
absences from home as anything so final and definite as divorce.

In a study of desertion made by the Philadelphia Society for Organizing
Charity in 1902,[1] it was found that 87 per cent of the men studied
had deserted more than once. The combined experience of social workers
goes to show that a comparatively small number of first deserters make
so complete a break in their marital relations that they are never heard
from again, and that an even smaller number actually start new families
elsewhere, although no statistical proof of this last statement is
available. One social worker of experience says that in her judgment
desertion, instead of being a poor man's divorce, comes nearer to being
a poor man's vacation.

    A man who had always been a good husband and father was discharged
    from hospital after a long and exhausting illness and returned to
    his family--wife and seven children--in their five-room tenement.
    Ten days later he disappeared suddenly, but reappeared some two
    weeks later in very much better health and ready to resume his
    occupation and the care of his family. His explanation of his
    apparent desertion was that he was unable to stand the confusion of
    his home and "had needed rest." He had "beaten his way" to
    Philadelphia and visited a friend there.

The reporter of the foregoing remarks that it illustrates "unconscious
self-therapy," and that the patient's disappearance might have been
avoided if the services of a good medical-social department had been
available at the hospital where the man was treated.

It is more difficult to justify the thirst for experience of another
deserting husband who came to the office of a family social agency after
an absence of a few months, with effusive thanks for the care of his
family and the explanation that he "had always wanted to see the West,
and this had been the only way he could find of accomplishing it."

In fact, case work has convinced social workers that there are few
things less permanent than desertion. In itself this provisional quality
tends to create irritation in the minds of many of the profession. It is
upsetting to plan for a deserted family which stops being deserted, so
to speak, overnight. But in their understandable despair social workers
sometimes overlook essential facts about the nature of marriage. The
_permanence_ of family life is one of the foundation stones of their
professional faith; yet they may fail to recognize certain
manifestations of this permanence as part and parcel of the end for
which they are striving. They would see no point in the practice adopted
by a certain social agency which deals with many cases of family
desertion. This society, when it has had occasion to print copies of a
deserter's photograph to use in seeking to discover his present
whereabouts, often presents his wife with an enlargement of the picture
suitable for framing. The procedure displays, nevertheless, a profound
insight not only into human nature but into the human institution called

In the next chapter will be considered some of the causes that make men
leave their homes. To deal effectively with the situation created by
desertion, however, we have need of a wider knowledge than this. Not
only what takes men away but what keeps them from going, what brings
them back, what leads to their being forgiven and received into their
homes again, are matters that seriously concern the social case worker.
What is it that makes this plant called marriage so tough of fiber and
so difficult to eradicate from even the most unfriendly soil?

It is fortunate (since the majority of case workers are unmarried) that
simply to have been a member of a family gives one some understanding of
these questions. The theorist who maintains that marriage is purely
economic, or that it is entirely a question of sex, has either never
belonged to a real family or has forgotten some of the lessons he
learned there.

Many volumes have been written upon the history of marriage, or rather
of the family, since, as one historian justly puts it, "marriage has its
source in the family rather than the family in marriage."[2] In all
these studies the influence of law, of custom, of self-interest, and of
economic pressure, is shown to have molded the institution of marriage
into curious shapes and forms, some grievous to be borne. But is it not
after all the crystallized and conventionalized records of past time
which have had to be used as the source material of such studies, and
could the spiritual values of the family in any period be found in its
laws and learned discourses? We might rather expect to find students of
these sources preoccupied with the outward aspects, the failures, the
unusual instances. It is as true of human beings as of nations, that the
happy find no chronicler. "Out of ... interest and joy in caring for
children in their weakness and watching that weakness grow to strength,
family life came into being and has persisted."[3] It is hardly
conceivable that in any society, however primitive, there were not some
real families--even when custom ran otherwise--in which marriage meant
love and kindness and the mutual sharing of responsibilities. And these
families, today as always, are the creators and preservers of the
spiritual gains of the human race. It has been beautifully said of the
family in such a form, that "it is greater than love itself, for it
includes, ennobles, makes permanent, all that is best in love. The pain
of life is hallowed by it, the drudgery sweetened, its pleasures
consecrated. It is the great trysting-place of the generations, where
past and future flash into the reality of the present. It is the great
storehouse in which the hardly-earned treasures of the past, the
inheritance of spirit and character from our ancestors, are guarded and
preserved for our descendants. And it is the great discipline through
which each generation learns anew the lesson of citizenship that no man
can live for himself alone."[4] It follows that the most trying and
discouraging feature of social work with deserted wives; namely, their
determination to take worthless men back and back again for another
trial, is often only a further manifestation of the extraordinary
viability of the family.

It is true that, into this enduring quality, many elements enter, some
homely or merely material. A desire for support, or for a resumption of
sex relations, may play a part in a wife's decision to forgive the
wanderer. There are many other factors--use and wont; pride in being
able to show a good front to the neighbors; a feeling that it is
unnatural to be receiving support from other sources. Just the mere
desire to have his clothes hanging on the wall and the smell of his pipe
about, the hundreds of small details that go to make up the habit of
living together, have each their separate pull on the woman whose
instinct to be wife and mother to her erring man is urging her to give
in; Home is, in both their minds,

    " ... the place where when you have to go there
    They have to take you in....
    Something you somehow haven't to deserve."[5]

A woman who had left her home town and found clerical work in a strange
city, in order not to be near her syphilitic husband from whom she had
determined to separate, said, "When you've been married to a man, you
can't get over feeling your place is with him."

However we may deplore the results in a given case, the spineless woman
who takes her husband back many times may nevertheless be giving a
demonstration of the thing we are most interested in conserving--the
durability and persistence of the family. And so the social worker who
is enabled by experience or imagination to enter into the real meaning
of family life is neither scornful nor amused when Mrs. Finnegan is
found, on the morning when her case against Finnegan is to come up in
the domestic relations court, busily washing and ironing his other shirt
in order that he may make a proper appearance and not disgrace the
family before the judge.

       *       *       *       *       *

An attempt will be made in this small book to analyze some causal
factors in the problem of the deserter, to touch upon recent changes in
the attitude of social workers toward deserted families, to present
illustrations from the best discoverable practice in the treatment of
desertion, and to suggest certain possible next steps, both on the legal
and on the social side. For lack of space, it will be impossible to
consider the closely related problems of the deserting wife, the
unmarried mother, or the divorced couple. It is assumed throughout that
the reader is familiar with the general theory of modern case work; and
no more is here attempted than to give a number of suggestions which
will be found to be practical, it is hoped, when the social worker deals
with the home marred and broken by desertion, or when he seeks to
prevent this evil by such constructive measures as are now possible.


[1] Twenty-fourth Annual Report of the Philadelphia Society for
Organizing Charity, p. 25.

[2] Goodsell, Willystine: The Family as a Social and Educational
Institution, p. 8. New York, The Macmillan Co., 1915.

[3] Byington, Margaret F.: Article on "The Normal Family," _Annals of
the American Academy of Political and Social Science_, May, 1918.

[4] Bosanquet, Helen: The Family, p. 342. London, Macmillan & Co., 1906.

[5] Frost, Robert: North of Boston, p. 20. New York, Henry Holt & Co.,



"Before the deserter there was a broken man," said a district secretary
who has had conspicuous success in dealing with such men. By this
characterization she meant not necessarily a physical or mental wreck,
but a man bankrupt for the time being in health, hopes, prospects, or in
all three; a man who lacked the power or the will to dominate adverse
conditions, who had allowed life to overcome him. Such an unfortunate
may not be conscious of his own share in bringing about the difficulties
in which he finds himself, but he is always aware that something has
gone seriously wrong in his life. His grasp of this fact is the one sure
ground upon which the social worker can meet him at the start.

We should distinguish between the _causes_ that bring about a given
desertion, and the _conscious motives in the mind of the deserter_. It
is well for the social worker to make the latter the starting point in
dealing with the man, accepting the most preposterous as at least worthy
of discussion. The absconder is often too inarticulate and ill at ease
to give a clear picture of what was in his mind when he went away. If he
was out of work, it may have been a perfectly sincere belief that he
would find work elsewhere, or perhaps only a speculative hope that he
might. (These are not in the beginning genuine desertions, but often
become so later on.) It is possible that, beset by irritations and
perplexities, the thought of cutting his way out at one stroke from all
his difficulties made an appeal too strong to be resisted. Or perhaps he
flung out of the house and away, in a passion of anger and jealousy
which later crystallized into cold dislike. The spell of an infatuation
for another woman might well have been the cause; or he may have been
mentally deranged through alcohol. Simple weariness of the burden which
he has not strength of body or mind to carry and ought never to have
assumed is one attitude to be reckoned with, and failure to realize or
in his heart accept the binding nature of his obligations is another.

His temperamental instability may have been such that the desire for a
change--the "wanderlust"--was driving him to distraction. Or perhaps,
under the urge of his own subconscious feeling of failure, he may have
convinced himself that if he could "shake" the old environment and all
in it that hampered him, he could take a fresh start and make good. "If
I could only get to California," sighed Patrick Donald,[6] "I have a
feeling things would be different." With too much imagination to be
content with the situation in which he found himself, Donald had not
imagination enough to realize that he would have to take his old self
with him wherever he went, and that he might better fight things out
where he stood. Men of his sort yearn constantly for the future, not
realizing that in its truest sense the present _is_ the future.

Only in rare instances will the deserter accept the entire
responsibility for his act. To try to find justification for doing what
we want to do is characteristic of human beings, and the deserter is no
exception. He attempts to "rationalize" his conduct and so regain his
sense of self-approval and well-being by finding excuses and
justifications in the conduct of others. Even when the fault is all his,
he usually succeeds in making himself believe that his wife is more to
blame than he for his having left home.[7] The social worker who
attempts to deal with the situation the deserter creates should know
this attitude in advance and be prepared, through some simple
rule-of-thumb psychology, to attack the obsession and bring him, first
of all, to see and face squarely his own responsibility.

Many blanket theories have been developed to explain desertion--that it
is due to economic pressure; that it is the result of bad housekeeping;
that its causes can all be reduced to sex incompatibility. All these
factors: undoubtedly have their bearing on the problem, but there is no
one cause or group of causes underlying breakdowns in family morale. The
ratio of desertions has been observed to decrease rather than to
increase in "hard times";[8] moreover, it is a matter of common
observation that not all slovenly and incompetent wives are deserted,
and that many married couples in all walks of life whose sex
relationships are unsatisfactory, nevertheless maintain the fabric of
family life and support and bring up their children with an average
degree of success. None of these three factors alone will serve,
therefore, as a fundamental causation unit in desertion. Many
statistical attempts have been made to study the causes of desertion,
and to assign to each its mathematical percentage of influence. The
report of a court of domestic relations gives such an analysis of over
1,500 cases, listing 25 causes, and carefully calculating the percentage
of cases due to each. A summary of these percentages grouped under five
heads is as follows:

1. Distinct sex factors                           39.03
2. Alcohol and narcotic drugs                     37.00
3. Temperamental traits                           15.40
4. Economic issues                                 6.27
5. Mental and physical troubles                    2.30

It would be easy to criticize the foregoing on the score of grouping.
Can alcoholism and drug addiction be separated from mental and physical
disorders? And how distinguish infallibly between sex factors,
temperamental traits, and mental disabilities? But the main defect in
such statistical studies is that they assume in each case one cause, or
at least one cause sufficiently dominant to dwarf the rest; and few of
the causes listed are really fundamental. The mind instinctively begins
to reach back after the causes of all these causes. The social worker
who made the sweeping assertion that there are two great reasons for
marital discord--"selfishness in men and peevishness in women,"--came a
good deal nearer to an accurate statement of fact with infinitely less

Looked at from the point of view of the social worker, desertion is
itself only a symptom of some more deeply seated trouble in the family
structure. The problem presented, if it could have been recognized in
time, is not essentially different from what it would have been before
the man's departure. Without attempting, therefore, any statistical
analysis of the causes of desertion, we may nevertheless be able to
examine one by one a number of possible _contributory factors_ in
marital unhappiness and therefore in desertion. No attempt will be made
in the list that follows to distinguish between primary and secondary
causes, nor to arrange them in any order of importance. An effort to get
from case workers lists so arranged resulted only in confusion, each
person emphasizing a different set of factors. The groupings here given,
therefore, are no more than a placing of the more obviously related
factors together and a leading from past history up to the present.

Considering first the personal as distinguished from the community
factors in desertion, these may be listed as follows:


1. Actual Mental Deficiency.--Character weaknesses such as were spoken
of earlier in this chapter grade down by degrees into real mental defect
or disorder, and not even the psychiatrist can always draw the line.

A physician connected with the Municipal Court in Boston gives as his
opinion that while the percentage of actually insane or feeble-minded
among deserters is no higher than among other offenders they are
extremely likely to present some of the phenomena of psychopathic
personality. Such people have to be studied by the social worker and the
psychiatrist, and not from the behavior side only, but with a view to
discovering what sort of equipment for life was handed down to them from
their family stock.

    The plan for the future of a fifteen-year-old boy which was made by
    a society for family social work was markedly modified when it was
    discovered that not only his father but his grandfather had been a
    man of violent and abusive temper, who drank habitually and
    neglected their family obligations. With this sort of heredity and
    an ineffective mother, whom he was accustomed to seeing treated with
    abuse and disrespect, it was felt important to remove the boy, who
    showed some promise, to surroundings where he could be under firm
    discipline and learn decent standards of family life.

Feeble-mindedness, closely connected as it usually is with industrial
inefficiency in the man, bad housekeeping in the woman, and lack of
self-control in both, is of course, a potent factor in non-support and
probably also in desertion.

2. Faults in Early Training.--To low ideals of home life and of
personal obligation, which were imbibed in youth, can be traced much
family irresponsibility. It is by no means the rule, however, for
children always to follow in the footsteps of weak or vicious parents;
and it is the experience of social workers that such children, taught by
observation to avoid the faults seen in their own homes, often make good
parents themselves. Perhaps even more insidious in its effect on later
marital history is the home in which no self-control is learned. The
so-called "good homes" in which children are exposed to petting,
coddling, and overindulgence--and these homes are not confined to the
wealthy--produce adults who do not stand up to their responsibilities. A
probation officer in Philadelphia tells of the mother of a young
deserter who could not account for her son's delinquency. "He _ought_ to
be a good boy," she complained; "I carried him up to bed myself every
night till he was eleven years old."

3. Differences in Background.--Even though both man and wife come from
good homes, if those homes are widely different in standards and in
cultural background strains may develop in later life between the
couple. Differences in race, religion and age are recognized as having a
causative relation to desertion. Miss Brandt[9] found that, in about 28
per cent of the cases where these facts were ascertained, the husband
and wife were of different nationality. "In the general population of
the United States in 1900 only 8.5 per cent was of mixed parentage, and
for New York City the proportion was less than 13 per cent.... A
difference in nationality was more than twice as frequent among the
cases of desertion as among the general population of the city where it
is most common." Miss Brandt's figures for difference of religion are
less significant, but it existed in 19 per cent of the total number of
cases for which information on this point was available. In 27 per cent
of the families where age-facts were learned, there were differences of
over six years between the two; in 15 per cent the woman was older than
the man.

Other differences which should find mention under this heading are those
that arise when the environment is changed by immigration. The man who
precedes his wife by many years in coming to America has often outgrown
her when she finally joins him, even if he has formed no other family
ties. The handicap is not wholly overcome when the couple come to this
country together, for the much greater opportunities of the man to
learn American ways may drive a wedge between him and his wife. On the
other hand it is a popular saying, particularly among young Italian
immigrants, that girls who have been in America too long do not make
good wives, that when a man wants to marry he had better send for a girl
from the old country; and these marriages seem on the whole to turn out

4. Wrong Basis of Marriage.--Included here should be hasty marriages,
mercenary marriages, marriages entered into unwillingly after pregnancy
had occurred, as well as marriages where coercion was a factor for other

When there have been sex relations before marriage, unless the custom of
the community sanctions such intimacy, there are likely to develop
jealousies, quarrels, and ill feeling. "He do be always castin' it up at
me, but sure, 'twas himself was to blame" is one version of the age-old

There should also be included here those irregular unions called
"common law marriages," which are still permitted in many of our states.
The protection supposed to be afforded to the woman by this institution
is mainly fictitious, as it is practically impossible to secure
conviction for bigamy if one of the marriages was of the common law
variety. A common law husband who deserts, even if he admits his wife's
legal claim upon him, does not feel morally bound; and this fact
undoubtedly plays its part in the causation of such desertions.[11]

5. Lack of Education.--More is included under this title than scanty
"book-learning." Not only the morally undisciplined child but the
mentally undisciplined youth is handicapped as spouse and parent.
Ignorance of the physical and spiritual bases of married life is a
potent cause of desertion. So also is a limited industrial equipment.
Irregular school attendance, early "working papers," a dead-end job with
no educational possibilities in it--these form a frequent background
for later unsuccess in life and in marriage.

    There seemed at first no good explanation for the desertion of
    Alfred West. Both his record and his wife's were good, and their
    mutual fondness for the children seemed a strong bond. They
    constantly bickered, however, over the small income Alfred was able
    to earn, and his wife and her relatives "looked down" upon him as
    being lower than they in the social scale. Inquiry into past history
    showed that he had grown up in a southern community where there were
    no facilities for education, and that he could not even read and
    write until after his marriage. Although of average capacity, he was
    restricted by his early lack of training in his choice of a job; and
    the mortification and sense of inferiority which his wife fostered
    led to discouragement and indifference, which ended in desertion. A
    thorough understanding of the two backgrounds involved enabled a
    social worker to effect a real reconciliation, with the woman's eyes
    opened to her ungenerous behavior and the man taking steps to
    improve his education in a night school.

6. Occupational Faults.--Closely allied to the foregoing, and in some
respects growing out of it, are the shortcomings on the employment side
that contribute to marital instability. Most of these can be referred
back to lack of education or opportunity in youth, or to defects of
character. Laziness, incompetence, lack of skill in any trade, lack of
application, or, on the other hand, the possession by a man with no
business "stake" in the community of a trade at which he can work
wherever he takes a fancy to go, or of a trade which is seasonal and
shifting--all these have a direct relation to desertion.

The wife's competence and willingness to earn often seems to have a
causal connection with the man's failure as "provider."[12]

Corresponding to and complementing the man's industrial defects, and
springing from the same causes, is the woman's failure in the business
of being a housewife. The wife's laziness, incompetence, lack of
interest, and lack of skill and knowledge create, as one case worker
puts it, "the sort of home that tends to get itself deserted." These
faults of the wife are responsible for as many desertions, probably, as
are the faults of the husband. When the man and the wife are both
industrial failures we get the extremity of family breakdown to be found
in records of "chronic non-support" cases.

7. Wanderlust.--As a cause of family desertion this has probably been
overestimated. Some item of this sort appears in every list of causes of
desertion which has ever been compiled, and there are more or less
exceptional cases in which it probably plays a part. The boy who becomes
a vagabond in childhood and early takes to the road does not, however,
seem to be a marrying man; and the instances from case work in which it
is clear that the thirst for adventure was at the bottom of desertion
are rare. The man whose line of work before marriage led him from place
to place seems, in fact, hardly to contribute his quota to the ranks of
wife-deserters, and it is unusual to find sailors or other wanderers
from force of circumstance figuring among them.

8. Money Troubles.--As has already been said, it is impossible to show
any direct relation between small incomes and desertion. The connection
between low wage and non-support is of course a great deal closer. The
inadequate income unquestionably acts indirectly to break down family
morale in much the same way as does lowered physical vitality.

But marital discord that springs from the _handling_ of the family
finances is another matter, and it recurs regularly in the history of
what went on prior to desertion. One deserter, traced to a southern
city, returned voluntarily and begged the assistance of the social
worker interested to reform his wife's spending habits. "I made good
money and I never opened my pay envelope on her," said he, "but the
week's wages was always gone by Thursday." Many men, however, who make a
boast of turning over unbroken pay envelopes to their wives borrow back
so much in daily advances that their net contribution is only a fraction
of their wages.

Some desertions brought about by financial difficulties are not,
strictly speaking, marital problems at all. Debts resulting from his own
extravagance or dishonesty may cause a man to leave home to escape
prosecution or disgrace. One such man kept in touch with his family,
sending money at irregular intervals for some years, but always moving
on to another place before he could be found. It proved impossible to
get in communication with him, and finally he stopped writing and

9. Ill Health: Physical Debility.--All social workers agree that
physical condition plays a part, though usually only indirectly and
secondarily, in causing desertion. In the man, it may lower his
vitality, cause irregular work, and superinduce a condition of
despondency and readiness to give in. In the woman, it brings about
careless housekeeping, loss of attractiveness, and disinclination to
marital intercourse--all factors which contribute directly to desertion.
Continued ill health of the wife brings burdens, financial and other,
which may help through discouragement to break down the husband's

There should be included here some consideration of one of the most
puzzling types of abandonment--the "pregnancy desertion." Attempts have
been made to explain it on the ground of the instinctive aversion of the
male sex for domestic crises. But the impulse that causes the
prosperous householder to move to his club when house-cleaning time
arrives will hardly serve to explain such a custom, and as a matter of
fact other domestic crises, such as illnesses of the children, do not
have any such effect upon the man who habitually absents himself from
home before the birth of each child. Other possible reasons for it are
the well-known irritability and "difficulty" of women in this condition,
and their aversion to sexual intercourse. Some pregnancy deserters take
the step in the hope that their wives will bring about an abortion; but
this is a modern and sophisticated development and the institution of
"pregnancy desertion" is one of undoubted antiquity. Its prevalence
among certain European immigrants would almost point to its being a
racial tradition. Ethnologists who have studied strange marriage
customs, such as the "couvade," ought to turn their attention to
discovering the causes of this other and socially more important marital

10. Temperamental Incompatibility.--It is difficult to catalogue and
appraise the causal factors in desertion that lie in personality. They
are closely related to differences in background and are intimately
involved with the sex relations of the pair. We cannot, however, admit
that they are identical with the latter, as some students of the subject
claim; or that the only incompatibility in marriage is sex
incompatibility. Indeed, two people may be so incompatible as to find in
sex their only common ground.

The commonest of these temperamental differences center about
standards of right and wrong or proper and improper conduct.
Especially is this manifested in the bringing up of the children.
Extreme self-righteousness on the part of one or the other, nagging
and petty criticism, unreasonable jealousy, "sulking spells," violent
quarrels, are some of its manifestations. The idea of _possession_
exercised by either of the couple, and especially a tendency to
dominate or try to control on the part of the woman, may be a causal
factor in desertion. The lack of a saving sense of humor in one or
both is often a complicating factor. These comparatively minor
differences take on a serious complexion in the minds of the couple;
and it is surprising how often a deserting man will give promptly and
with every appearance of feeling justified some cause for his
desertion which falls clearly under this head. "People forgive each
other the big things; it's the little things they can't forgive."

11. Sex Incompatibility.--There comes under this heading a wide range
of causative factors which play an important part in marital discord.
Some of them are better understood by the social worker than was
formerly the case; but many of them are obscure even to the practitioner
of mental medicine, to whom their results come daily. Distasteful as the
task may be, the social worker should familiarize herself, through
reading or through instruction by a qualified physician, in the commoner
forms of these maladjustments. This is not urged because it is part of
the social worker's task to make detailed inquiry into such matters or
to pass judgment upon them, but because they often clamor for attention
and need to be recognized by the first responsible person to whose
notice they are brought. Unless she knows, for instance, what
constitutes excess in sex relations, a worker may misunderstand the
situation described to her and condemn a man for being a selfish brute,
when the trouble is really sexual anæsthesia in the wife. It is well
known that this single cause operates disastrously to disrupt many
marriages or else to render them insupportable. The warning should be
added, however--and it cannot be added too emphatically--that the social
worker must scrupulously refrain from making diagnoses in these cases,
even tentatively; she must refer such data as come to her either to the
general practitioner or to the psychiatrist, selecting one or the other
as the symptoms presented may indicate.

Less well understood by the lay worker are actual maladjustments, both
physical and mental (or spiritual), which prevent the complete
satisfaction of one or both. Some of these are curable by medical care,
others by instruction and education. This instruction should be given,
needless to say, by the physician and not by the case worker. If
uncorrected such maladjustments are apt to result in marital shipwreck.

No attempt can be made here to discuss actual sex perversions in their
relation to desertion. Their effect is obvious; and the social worker
should be sufficiently well informed, not only from a few standard books
on the subject,[13] but from a knowledge of the phrases which are used
in the tenements, to understand them, so that significant symptoms are
not overlooked. So intimately are sex difficulties connected with the
neuroses that the lay social worker should consult the psychiatrist
freely wherever one is available, before attempting to deal with them.

12. Vicious Habits.--Sexual immorality, through its degenerative
effect on personality and the lowered ideals of marriage it induces, has
a real effect in bringing about desertion. The "other man" and the
"other woman" type of desertion, however, is often itself only a
consequence of a previously existing state of temperamental or sexual
incompatibility. If these underlying causes can be attacked and changed
such a desertion may be "repairable."

    A young man deserted his wife and three children and eloped with an
    eighteen-year-old girl who had made his acquaintance in a street car
    flirtation. He had been "an obedient boy with good principles," and
    his later record showed steadiness and ability; but he and his wife
    had been drifting apart--their marital relations had not been "quite
    the same" as formerly. Arrested and brought back, he did not impute
    any blame to her, however, but said he "must have been crazy." In
    spite of the circumstances, the judge decided to give him six months
    in the penitentiary; and a man visitor from the family social agency
    interested began at once to try to secure an influence over him. On
    his release the couple again went to housekeeping. The wife had been
    cautioned on how to receive him; but things went badly at first, and
    the man began again insisting that they were mismated. (He "had the
    other girl still considerably on his conscience and heart.") Tangles
    continually arose which the society's visitor was hard put to it to
    straighten out. Once the wife found a letter from the girl; but
    finally, after the charity organization society in the city where he
    had left the girl reported that she was doing well and not breaking
    her heart about him, the man decided to "cut out" the
    correspondence. A little later the girl eliminated herself by
    marrying. A year after the reconciliation the wife told the friendly
    visitor that the trouble was gone between them, and "it was just
    like a new life." For another year efforts were continued to
    strengthen the attachment and make the home more attractive, at the
    end of which time it was felt that the home was stable enough to
    need no further supervision.

For reasons of convenience we may include here the causal relations
between venereal disease and desertion. In so far as syphilis brings
about mental and physical deterioration, the relation between the two is
obvious. The presence of the disease in the man, if known to his wife,
may lead her to sever relations with him in self-protection, and this
severance, in turn, may lead ultimately to desertion or complete
separation. Often separation is desirable, but the syphilitic who is on
the whole a good family man raises some of the most difficult questions
with which the social worker has to deal. Whether to try to force him
out of the home and thus make an unwilling deserter; whether to violate
the diagnosis given in confidence by passing it on to the wife for her
protection--these are only two of the puzzles that may arise.

The relation of alcoholism to non-support and desertion is too well
known to require discussion. The causative relation between alcohol and
desertion is so direct that it probably ought not to be included under
contributory causes at all. As it is an active poison to the cells of
the nervous system, it may bring about deteriorations of mind and
character that are directly to blame for such anti-social acts as
desertion. The same is true in less degree of the use of narcotics;
though drug habits are far less common in connection with desertion than
alcoholism. What relation drugs and alcohol will hold to desertion after
July 1, 1919, remains to be seen. Alcoholism in the woman is, however, a
real contributory factor, and one frequently met with. The experience of
social workers leads them to believe that alcohol is more devastating in
its effects on character with women than with men, and that there is
less hope of a cure. The great majority of so-called "justifiable
deserters" are the husbands of alcoholic women.

Gambling in its effect on family income will be discussed in connection
with non-support, to which it bears a much more direct relation than to
desertion. In its degenerative effect upon character it may have,
however, a real causal relation to the latter.

The habit of desertion itself is a degenerative one, not only upon the
deserter but upon his home. The "intermittent husband" often weakens and
demoralizes his wife in almost the same ratio as his own progress


1. Interference of Relatives.--The tendency of relatives to take sides
against their "in-laws" is a matter of everyone's observation. It is
frequently found as a serious factor in desertion. Many case stories
which will be used in the following chapters to illustrate other points
show also the harmful interference of relatives in what might otherwise
have been a fairly stable home. Relatives can be a factor in marital
discord without actively interfering. One high-tempered young couple
formed what amounted to a habit of frequent quarrels and temporary
separations simply because the parents of both stood ready to take them
back whenever they chose to live apart. Relatives within the home as
well as outside it may exercise an unfortunate influence on marital
relations. The desertion of a middle-aged man who married a widow was
found to be directly caused by the antagonism which grew up between him
and his grown step-children.

2. Racial Attitude toward Marriage.--The racial factor is important in
desertion. Not only the individual's own background, but the attitude of
the people whence he sprang toward the sanctity of marriage, toward the
position of women, and toward the importance of restraint in sexual
relations, will have an effect upon the desertion rate of a given racial
group. A study was recently made of 480 deserters known to the New York
Charity Organization Society in 1916-17 whose nationality was given. The
results in percentage form are given for what they may be worth,
compared with the same percentage in 2,987 families of known
nationalities which were under care for all causes during the same year.


                        |           |Per cent
                        |Per cent   |among 2,987
Race or place of birth  |among 480  |families under
                        |deserters  |care for all
                        |           |causes
United States--white    |  30.6     |  29.7
United States--colored  |  11.2     |   5.6
Irish                   |   9.7     |  14.7
  Other British         |   5.0     |   4.7
German                  |   6.2     |   6.2
Italian                 |  20.2     |  28.0
Austrian                |   5.5     |   4.8
Russian                 |   2.8     |   1.0
Polish                  |   3.3     |   1.2
Other                   |   5.5     |   4.1
                        | 100.0     | 100.0

3. Community Standards.--It cannot be too emphatically stated that any
tendency in the community to belittle or ridicule the estate of
matrimony has a definite cumulative effect on desertion. The "when a
man's married" series in the comic supplements, certain comic films in
the moving picture shows, the form of drama popularly called "bedroom
farce" are examples of these destructive forces. Most of the people who
laugh at them accept them as a humorous formula and are not seriously
affected by them; but their educational effect on young people is bound
to be bad and false to the last degree. In so far as they overemphasize
romantic love and disparage conjugal love, the theater and the popular
press do this generation great disservice.

Another way in which the community may affect the popular conception of
marriage is in the administration of civil marriage. Lack of care in
enforcing the laws and lack of gravity in performing the ceremonies may
have a decided reaction on respect for those laws and for the
institution itself. Similarly, the administration of divorce laws may
affect the popular conception of marriage. One entire neighborhood
condoned the situation in which a deserted wife immediately went to live
with another man, on the ground that "if they had been rich, they could
have got a divorce."

4. Lack of Proper Recreation.--This may seem a subject to be
discussed under personal factors; but proper recreation, after all,
depends in large measure upon what the community provides or makes
available. The American tendency for the man to get his recreation apart
from his family, in saloons and social clubs, is responsible for many
family maladjustments. Any change in family habits of recreation which
means that the man and wife enjoy fewer things together is a danger
signal the seriousness of which is not always appreciated. Social
workers are inclined to undervalue not only the influence of faulty
recreation as a factor in family breakdown, but also the possibilities
of good recreation as an aid in family reconstruction.

5. Influence of Companions.--As a factor in desertion this is closely
connected with the two just discussed. Neighborhood standards, as they
affect individuals, are apt to be transmitted through the small group
that stands nearest, and a man's companions have the freest opportunity
to influence him during their common periods of recreation. The
influence of companions is not often met as a force deliberately exerted
to bring about desertion; but, on the other hand, a man's own mental
contrast between his condition and that of his unmarried companions
often plays a definite part in his decision to desert, if he has begun
to yearn for freedom. The influence of companions is particularly
connected with the "wanderlust" type of desertion.

6. Expectation of Charitable Relief.--It used to be held that many men
who would otherwise remain at home and support, might be encouraged to
desert if they had reason to believe that their wives and families would
be cared for in their absence. This was no doubt often the case before
social workers had learned to discriminate in treatment between deserted
wives and widows, or to press with vigor the search for deserting men.
At present, it is the experience of social workers that few men
deliberately reckon upon transferring the burden of their family's
support to others, or are induced by these considerations to leave.[14]

       *       *       *       *       *

In trying to determine the cause for any given desertion it is well to
keep in mind from the beginning that there is probably more than one,
and that the obvious causes that first appear are almost certain
themselves to be the effects of more deeply underlying causes. A young
vaudeville actor of Italian parentage married a Jewish girl, a cabaret
singer, and took her home to live with his parents. Was his subsequent
desertion to be ascribed to difference in nationality and religion, to
interference of relatives, to irregular and unsettling occupation, or to
a combination of all three? Would all marriages so handicapped turn out
as badly? If not, what further factors entered to lower the threshold of
resistance to disintegration in this particular case?

This last question is after all the most important one of the foregoing
series. It is one which the social case worker must never be content to
leave unanswered.


[6] All names of deserters given throughout the text are pseudonyms.

[7] For an excellent discussion of the process of rationalization see
The Psychology of Insanity, Bernard Hart, Cambridge University Press,

[8] For a thoughtful discussion of this point see Eubank, E.E.: A Study
of Family Desertion. Chicago Department of Public Welfare, 1916.

[9] Brandt, Lilian: Family Desertion. The Charity Organization Society
of New York City, 1905.

[10] For a fuller discussion of forced marriages, see p. 92 sq.

[11] See also p. 98.

[12] See also p. 154.

[13] Two books may be suggested: Forel on The Sexual Question and
Havelock Ellis on Sex in Relation to Society (Vol. VI of Studies in the
Psychology of Sex).

[14] See p. 70 sq. for a discussion of collusive desertion.



Unconsciously and imperceptibly, the point of view about the treatment
of desertion has been changing during the past fifteen years. The case
worker's attention used to be focussed on the danger of increasing the
desertion rate by a policy of too sympathetic care for deserters'
families. Little study was made of individual causes, and in so far as
there was a general policy of treatment it was to insist, wherever a
desertion law existed, that the deserted wife go at once to court and
institute proceedings against her husband. He was often not seen by the
social worker until he appeared in court. The policy toward the family
meantime was to reduce its size by commitment of the children until
their mother could support herself unaided; or, if relief was given, to
give smaller amounts than to a widow or the wife of a man in hospital.
As soon as the man had been placed under court order or had returned
home, old records generally show that the social worker's efforts were
relaxed, and often the final entry is, "Case closed--family

There were excellent reasons underlying much of the practice. Few laws
were at that time in existence or at all adequately enforced, and any
man who desired was at liberty, so far as the community was concerned,
to walk off and leave his family at any time. The multiplicity of
sources of relief in the large communities and the absence of anything
resembling investigation constituted almost an invitation to men to
desert. It did not occur to the charitable public to draw any line
between the widow and the deserted wife, or indeed to inquire which of
these two a woman was, so long as she was a good mother and "seemed
worthy." No wonder that the pioneering social agencies, busy forging
tools out of the very ore, took a rigid stand on such a question of
social policy as this. Although their deterrents failed to eradicate the
evil of desertion or indeed to touch its sources, there is little doubt
that they did lessen its volume by creating a wholesome respect for the
power of the law in the mind of the would-be deserter and by fostering
in his wife a disposition to stand up for her rights. The more lenient
and more constructive policies now in force have been made possible in
part by these changes of attitude. The very fact that the collusive
desertion, once fairly common, is now seldom met with, illustrates the
salutary effects of the earlier methods of treatment.

But the fact remains that no marked change has been seen in the
desertion rate, that successive desertions have not been prevented in
individual cases. Hardly any statistical figure in the work of family
social agencies shows so little fluctuation from year to year and
between different cities, as the percentage of deserted families. It
generally forms from ten to fifteen per cent of the work of any such

Gradually, therefore, the repressive features of the earlier treatment
have been abandoned, and there has come about a realization of the
complexity of causes that bring about family breakdowns. In particular,
the relation of sex maladjustments to failure in marriage have received
the serious attention of the social worker. On the question of court
intervention there has been almost a right-about face; the best social
practitioners now say, unhesitatingly and unequivocally, that they take
cases into court only as a matter of last resort, after case work
methods have been tried and have failed. In no other case where court
action is undertaken by one individual against another does the relation
between them remain unchanged. One could not conceive of a business
partnership failing to be annulled by one partner who brought suit
against another; yet we expect the marriage relation to survive this. As
a matter of fact, such is its vitality that it often does. But many
times the result of court action is only to deaden once and for all the
tiny spark from which marital happiness might have been rekindled. As
long as it survives, both man and wife feel in their inmost hearts that,
no matter what his offense, to "take him to court" is treason against
the intangible bonds that still hold between them. No matter how far
apart they have drifted, or how unforgivable has been the deserter's
offense, something irrevocable does happen to the fabric of marriage, a
few poor shreds of which may still exist between the two, when his wife
appears in a court of law to make complaint against him. It is an
instinctive realization that she is abandoning hope which underlies many
a woman's reluctance to "take a stand against her husband." Many social
workers (including some probation officers and court workers) now feel
that such a stand should be urged only in the full conviction that the
protection of the woman and children demands it, and that there is
nothing else to be done.

This must not, however, be interpreted as a criticism of the laws
concerning desertion or of the courts which administer them. If they
were not there in the background, ready to be taken advantage of when
all else fails, the social worker's hands would be tied, and the
possibility of a rich and flexible treatment of desertion problems would
be lost to her. It is precisely because they had no such recourse that
the case workers of an earlier day had to adopt a policy which now
seems rigid. It is because they were instrumental in securing better
laws and specialized courts that the latter day social worker can push
forward her own technique of dealing with homes that are disintegrating.

Another great change in emphasis has been upon the question of
interviewing the man, and of being sure that his side, or what he thinks
is his side, has been thoroughly understood. Social workers are under
conviction of sin in the matter of dealing too exclusively with the
woman of the family; in desertion cases it is more than desirable, it is
vitally necessary to have dealings with the man. Many social workers
feel that, at all events with a first desertion, they would rather take
the risk of having the man vanish a second time after having been found,
than have him arrested before an attempt to talk the matter out with
him. More stringent measures, they believe, can be resorted to
later--but the man must first be convinced that he will be listened to
patiently and with the intent to deal fairly. The case worker knows that
the power of the human mind to "rationalize" anti-social conduct is
infinite; and that, besides the few "justifiable deserters," there are
many who have succeeded in convincing themselves that their action is
warrantable. A deserter who could allege nothing else against his wife,
averred that he had placed under the bed two matches, crossed, and a
week later found them in the same position, proving his contention that
she was slovenly and did not keep the rooms clean.

The man who, aided by a sore conscience, has worked himself into such a
state of mind as this must be permitted to talk himself out before he
can be made to see the true state of affairs. In the minds of both man
and woman there is likely to be found a superstructure of suspicion,
jealousy, misinterpretation and distrust, built upon the basic fact of
their incompatibility, which has to be pulled down before the true
causes can be probed. To arrest a man in this state of mind is in his
eyes simply to "take sides" against him. Eventually he may have to be
arrested, but, in the case worker's experience, the chances of success
are ten to one if the man can be induced to take some voluntary step
toward reconciliation without the intervention of the law. In many
instances a real interview with the man, while not exonerating him,
would have thrown new light on the woman's statements.

    A family social work society writes: A young woman with her mother
    and little boy were referred for aid by a medical social department
    because her husband had deserted and she was unable to work. The
    doctors feared that her breakdown would result in insanity, so they
    asked that her wishes be respected in not seeing the man's family.
    She recovered, but it was later found that her husband, while not
    doing all that he might for her, had been living at home a good deal
    of the time and did not know that his family was in receipt of aid.

    Some years ago a charity organization society, which maintained a
    special bureau for treatment of desertion cases, was asked by a Mrs.
    Clara Williams to help her find her husband, John, who had left her
    some years previously and was living with another woman, so that she
    might force him to contribute to the support of herself and her two
    children. Mrs. Williams was a motherly appearing person who kept a
    clean, neat home, and seemed to take excellent care of her children.
    She was voluble concerning her husband's misdeeds and very bitter
    toward him, which seemed only natural. The fact of the other
    household was corroborated from other sources, and Mr. Williams'
    work references indicated that he had been quarrelsome and difficult
    for his employers to get along with, although a competent workman.
    The problem seemed to the desertion agent a perfectly clear and
    uncomplicated one and he proceeded to handle it according to the
    formula. Some very clever detective work followed, in the course of
    which the man was traced from one suburban city to another, and his
    present place of employment found in the city where his wife lived,
    although he lived just across the border of another state. The
    warrant was served upon the man as he stepped from the train on his
    way to work, and he appeared in the domestic relations court. He did
    not deny the desertion but made some attempt to bring counter
    charges against his wife. When questioned about his present mode of
    living he became silent and refused to testify further. He was
    placed under bond, which was furnished by the relatives of the woman
    with whom he was living, to pay his wife $6.00 a week. No probation
    was thought necessary and the case was closed, both the court and
    the charity organization society crediting themselves with a case
    successfully handled and terminated.

    About a year later Mrs. Williams again applied, stating that her
    husband's bond had lapsed, his payment had ceased, and that she had
    no knowledge of his whereabouts. Although her home and children were
    still immaculate she failed to satisfy the social worker who this
    time visited her home with the plausible story which she had told
    before. The children's health was not good and they seemed
    unnaturally repressed and unhappy. Ugly reports that Mrs. Williams
    drank came to the society. The school teacher deplored the effect
    which the morbid nature of Mrs. Williams was having on her youngest
    child--a daughter just entering adolescence. The son, a boy a little
    older, was listless and unsatisfactory at his work, and defiant and
    secretive toward any attempt to get to know him better. He spent
    many nights away from home and was evidently not on good terms with
    his mother. As soon as Mrs. Williams saw that real information was
    desired she began indulging in fits of rage in which she displayed
    such an exaggerated ego as to cause some doubts as to her mentality.
    Baffled at every turn the case worker decided to interview the man,
    if possible, to see if through him any clue to the situation might
    be gained. The first step was to gain the confidence of a former
    fellow-workman and friend of his who now maintained his own small
    shop. This was done after several visits, the deserting husband
    consenting to an evening meeting in his friend's shop.

    A most illuminating interview followed. Mr. Williams was found to be
    an intelligent though melancholy and self-centered man. The couple
    had married somewhat late in life, it being Mrs. Williams' second
    marriage. She had been strongly influenced by her mother to marry
    him and had never had any real affection for him. It became very
    evident from his story that the strongly developed egotism of both
    the husband and wife had made a real marriage impossible between
    them, and the visitor became convinced of the genuineness of Mr.
    Williams' protestations that he endured the constant abuse and
    ill-treatment of his wife as long as it had been possible to do so.
    As her drinking habits took more hold upon her and he had realized
    that the break was coming he had endeavored to place the children in
    homes, and had once had his wife taken into court. There her
    plausible story and good appearance resulted in the case being
    dismissed with a reprimand to the husband. He then left home, but
    continued to send her money at intervals, although as he got older
    he was able to earn less at his trade. Socialism was his religion,
    and it was his preaching of this doctrine in season and out to his
    fellow workmen which had earned him the ill-will of his employers.
    He defended his present mode of living, vigorously putting up a
    strong argument that it was a real marriage, whereas the other had
    only been a sham. He spoke in terms of affection of the woman who
    was giving him the only real home he had ever known, and only wished
    that the state of public opinion would permit his taking his young
    daughter into his home. The boy, he realized, had grown entirely
    away from him and they could never mean anything to each other. It
    was his habit to make frequent trips back to the region where his
    family lived in order that he might stand on the corner and watch
    his children go by. He gave readily much information about his own
    and his wife's past connections, including the addresses of many of
    her relatives whose existence she had denied, and he successfully
    proved that her claims as to his lapsed payments were false by
    producing the entire series of post office receipts covering his
    remittances to her and extending down to the very week of the

There have been striking changes not only in the treatment of the
deserter but in that of his family. Writing in 1910, Miss Breed[16]
deprecates the habit of fostering the deserter's "easy-going conviction
that his family will get along somehow without him" by giving relief.
She approves offering full support in an institution, but is reluctant
to recommend any form of aid in the home, even from relatives. It is
better, she feels, to give entire support to some of the children in
foster homes, leaving the mother only those she can care for.

Much can be said for even so stringent a policy as this. An unstable
home, with a worthless father an intermittent member of the household,
is as bad an environment as children can have--its very fluctuations
making for nervous instability and a wrong point of view later on.
There is a possibility that other would-be deserters may be deterred by
temporarily breaking up the home, and that an occasional absconding
father may be brought back. But the fact remains that social workers
have, in practice, departed far from this point of view. Out of more
than twenty-five case workers of experience who were interviewed or
written to in preparation for this book, only one believed there had not
been a decided change toward a policy of more liberal relief.

    One district secretary told of a woman who had more than once taken
    back a disreputable husband whom she always professed to dislike.
    Aid was given sparingly and intermittently during his absences; but
    finally the woman in a burst of frankness told the secretary that
    she had never felt confident the society would stand behind her.
    Each time the man came back with money in his hand, she cheated
    herself into believing that he meant "a new leaf." A budget was
    worked out with her, and a promise given of an adequate income as
    long as she kept her husband away. She has faithfully kept her side
    of the bargain for over three years.

The extension in many states of "state aid to mothers" to cover
deserted wives is an indication of this changed view. In most states,
however, some safeguards are set up; the wife must take out a warrant,
and a given number of years must elapse during which the man shall not
have been heard from, before state aid can be granted to the wife.

Finally, it is more clearly recognized than formerly that the time to
"close the case" is not just after the man's return.

    A case supervisor speaks of "the strong temptation to close our
    records as soon as relief becomes unnecessary. The man's return to
    the family is often the critical point at which there is need of
    skilful and sympathetic friendship. These cases cry out for
    continued treatment. We need to think more humanely about all the
    unsettling elements in our urban civilization and to see that all
    the nice individual adjustments that as case workers we can make are
    made. If the man's work gives him no opportunity for
    self-expression, what attempt are we making to give him such
    opportunities outside his work, to connect him with a trade union,
    with clubs and with fraternities? How much are we thinking about
    cures for inebriates, psychoanalysis, vocational guidance,

Briefly, then, changes in the social worker's attitude toward treatment
have meant less emphasis on punitive and repressive measures, more
consideration of the man's point of view, less tendency to press court
action, at least in the beginning, fewer commitments of children, a more
liberal relief policy (partly as a preventive of "forced
reconciliations"), and lastly, longer supervision after the man has
resumed support of his family.


[15] Adapted from the writer's article on "Desertion and Non-Support in
Family Case Work," _The Annals of the Academy of Political and Social
Science_, May, 1918, p. 98.

[16] Breed, Mary: Eleventh New York State Conference, 1910, p. 76.



A few years ago a young Jewish woman reported to the National Desertion
Bureau[17] that her husband had left her and their children.

    The couple had never got on well, and the man seemed to have been a
    melancholy and impractical fellow. The usual methods of the Bureau
    brought no results in finding the missing husband. Then the wife was
    more carefully questioned, and urged to tell all that she could
    recall or had heard about her husband's early life, his tastes and
    peculiarities. Among other things the Bureau learned that the man's
    father had died in America years ago, having come here to make a
    home for the family left behind in Russia. The boy had grown up in
    ignorance of the place of his father's death and burial, and, as the
    eldest son, he felt it his duty to find his father's grave. Filled
    with this idea he came to America as soon as he was grown and
    landed in New York, but his few poor clues availed him little
    against the difficulties of poverty and a new and complex
    environment. In the end he gave up the search, married, and settled
    down on the east side. After the sudden quarrel which led to his
    leaving home, his wife thought it possible that his old obsession
    might have reawakened. The Bureau, supplied with the clues in
    question, had little difficulty in discovering the father's burial
    place in St. Louis; and the cemetery authorities promised to send
    word if the missing husband should appear. Sure enough, a short time
    afterward he arrived, and, after visiting the grave, returned, not
    unwillingly, and took up his family duties again under the
    supervision of a probation officer.

The flexibility of method and the readiness to see and utilize new
resources which are displayed in the foregoing account are great assets
to the one who must institute search for a missing husband and father.

The thing that sets desertion cases apart in a class of peculiar
technical difficulty for the case worker is not simply that the man is
away from his family. There is no man to deal with in a widow's family,
but widows' families present comparatively simple problems. The
deserter, though absent, is still not only a potential but also a real
factor in the family situation. The plans of the family are often made
with one eye to his return; he is the unseen but plainly felt obstacle
to much that the social worker wants to accomplish. The children look
forward to his reappearance with dread or with joy (for many deserters
have a way with them, decidedly, and are welcome visitors to their
children). In short, he is usually at the key point in the situation. No
plan can safely be made that leaves him out, but--there's the rub!--you
cannot include him at once for he is not to be reached, certainly not at
the outset. The discovery of the deserter's whereabouts is not only the
first but the most urgent of the problems that confront the worker who
tries to deal with a deserted family. Unless he can be found the whole
plan rests upon shifting sand.

A prompt and vigorous effort to find the absentee is therefore a first
requisite in dealing with family desertion. Unfortunately, many case
workers, having started bravely and exhausted the first crop of clues,
become discouraged and fall back on the supposition that the man is
permanently out of the scene, and that it only remains to make plans for
the family. Numberless case histories attest the unwisdom of this
assumption. It is not making an extreme statement to say that, as long
as the family remains under active care or until the missing man is
proved to be dead, the effort to find him should not be abandoned. Mr.
Carstens, in discussing this point, says:

    To carry on this search persistently is the great safeguard. It is
    rare when in the course of a few months the true state of affairs
    will not have been revealed, though it may have been quite hidden at
    the start.[18]

This is not to say that time must be spent unprofitably in going over
the same ground, or that out-of-town agencies must be badgered to
reinvestigate old clues. But the frame of mind that pigeonholes the
whole matter as having been attended to must be shunned by the social
worker, who should be always on the alert for new clues and prompt to
follow them up. An example of a vigorous and persistent search for a
deserter is taken from the files of the National Desertion Bureau.[19]

    Adolph R. deserted his wife and their six little children on
    September 1, 1912. He was traced to Philadelphia, but had left there
    the day before the tidings reached New York. Information was
    obtained from fellow-employes which led to the belief that he had
    gone to Tampa, Florida. Inquiry was directed to the rabbi in that
    city, but again the information was disheartening, since it
    disclosed the fact that once more R. had "left the day before." The
    rabbi telegraphed that the deserter had evidently gone to Lakewood,
    Florida, and that he could be found in that place. Immediately the
    Bureau dispatched a telegram to its representative there, only to
    find that R. had merely passed through Lakewood en route to Bartow,
    Florida. When the inquiry reached Bartow it was learned that R. had
    left a few days before, and that he was on his way to Memphis,
    Tennessee. The Jewish Charities of Memphis made investigation at the
    cigar factories of that city, but reported that no person bearing
    the name of R. or resembling him had been seen in their city. No
    further clue to his whereabouts could be secured.

    Months later R. applied to the Jewish Charities of Louisville for
    transportation to New York, making an entirely false statement about
    his family.

    This statement was telegraphed to the Bureau and no time was lost in
    securing a warrant. Louisville was notified by wire to arrest, but
    again a telegram came: "Adolph R. left city. Learned from
    Cigarmakers' Union headquarters he went to Cincinnati. Wire Joe
    Rapp, 1316 Walnut Street, Cincinnati Union Headquarters. Man said he
    was going to Cincinnati or Indianapolis. Man joined union Richmond,
    Va., November 19, 1911, and reports to union in all cities." The
    Desertion Bureau immediately telegraphed to Cincinnati and
    Indianapolis. The United Jewish Charities of Cincinnati working
    together with the labor union lost little time in effecting his

Many theories about family desertion have suffered a change in recent
years. One of these relates to the "collusive desertion." Social workers
in training used formerly to be taught that the first place to look for
the deserter was around the corner, where he could slip back into the
house and partake of charitable bounty or, at the very least, keep close
watch of his family and return if any serious danger threatened them.
Although the collusive desertion seems to have been a frequent happening
in the past, there is almost unanimous testimony from case workers at
the present time that it is not common. "I don't come across an instance
once a year," said one case worker.

    Another, after searching her memory, recalled what seemed to her one
    instance of real collusion. A woman, pregnant and seeming to be in
    great destitution, applied to a family social work society in a
    small city for help. Careful search did not discover the man's
    whereabouts--he seemed to have disappeared without leaving a trace,
    and his wife professed ignorance. Some two weeks after this the
    visitor, calling late, met a man on the stairs who proved to be the
    missing husband. Times were hard and he was out of a job, so he had
    taken to the attic of their house, and had kept so strictly
    _incommunicado_ that not only the society but the neighbors had been

Out of twenty or more case workers in different cities whose experience
was sought on this point, nearly all felt that the warnings against
possible collusion which used to be given to young workers no longer
needed to be emphasized. Testimony in the other direction is, however,
advanced by the National Desertion Bureau, which found that about 10 per
cent of the applications made in 1910 to the United Hebrew Charities of
New York for relief because of desertion were collusive.

It should be said, however, that one form of collusion is common to the
experience of case workers--that of the wife who knows where her
husband is, or has a very good idea, but does not want him to return
and so keeps her knowledge to herself. "In two of our regular allowance
families," writes the case supervisor of a family agency, "we
discovered--one quite incidentally, one after the allowance had been
discontinued for other reasons--that the wife had had reports regarding
the man which we might have followed up had we known of them earlier. It
could hardly be called collusion--it was mere indifference." A probation
officer writes:

    "At the present time we have under investigation a family where the
    man has been away from home for two years and his whereabouts during
    the last year have been known to his wife. He has been living in a
    suburb of the city and working steadily during that time. The woman
    has received adequate aid from public and private organizations. She
    has been content to accept that rather than notify the authorities
    and have her husband required to meet the responsibility. The man on
    his part was aware that his family was being supported, and while
    there was no agreement between the parties regarding it,
    nevertheless the arrangement apparently met with mutual approval."

To guard against this and similar omissions on the woman's part, more
than one agency which deals with family desertion requires the deserted
wife to sign an affidavit that she has given all the information she

Although in practice the possibility of a collusive desertion is not the
first and most important thing to keep in mind, it is frequent enough
not to be entirely forgotten. And for yet other reasons it is well to
keep a watchful eye upon the neighborhood in which the family is living
for reports about the man. Often obscure impulses seem to bring him
back; jealousy of the wife or a desire to show himself in a spirit of
bravado, or even sometimes a fugitive affection for the children he has
abandoned may cause him to appear in the neighborhood. "The deserter,
like the murderer, harks back to the scene of his misdeeds" was the
generalization of one district secretary.

Even when he does not appear in the flesh the deserter may seek news of
his family. "One deserter was found through the Attendance Department
[of the public school system] to which he wrote after a three years'
absence asking the address of one of the children of whom he was
especially fond."

There is little in the literature of the subject covering methods of
discovering deserters, nor do case workers generally appear to have
developed a special technique. The decided reaction against detective
methods which has been apparent in the profession during later years may
help to explain this fact. Most social workers feel a subconscious sense
of injustice in having to do this work at all, since it is properly a
function of the police. Prosecutors and police officials generally take
very little interest in following up deserters, and have little idea of
giving any treatment to the deserter who has been found other than
arraignment and conviction. It is difficult for the probation officer or
the family case worker to hold up the machinery of the law, once it has
been started, and to do this long enough to find out whether some other
form of treatment best suits the case. For these reasons the social
worker usually prefers to do or else is forced to do the work of the
detective in desertion cases up to the point where arrest is in his
judgment necessary.

    A probation officer in D---- found that he could not work through
    the local police in searching for a certain deserter, because the
    missing man's political affiliations made them friendly to him. The
    probation officer knew in a general way that the man was likely to
    be in the city of S---- in the same state, so he secured a warrant
    and sent it with such slight clues as were at hand, to a probation
    officer of that city who was successful in the search. Avoiding the
    usual procedure, the warrant was served by the police in S----.
    "Several instances of this kind have occurred lately," writes the
    probation officer at D----.

The necessity of doing the detective's work raises at once the question
of how far the social worker can afford to adopt the detective's
methods. If reformation of the man is the end sought it would seem an
axiom that he must be given from the first every reason to believe that
the social worker will play fair. "We are very careful never to break a
promise we have made to a man," says an agency which deals with many
deserters. The same agency, as illustration of its own methods in
seeking deserting men, instances the case of a man who was being
shielded by his sister, but was discovered by an officer who scraped
acquaintance with her little boy and asked innocently, "Where's your
uncle Jack now?" In another case the officer learned of a man's
whereabouts through his relatives by representing himself as a lawyer's
clerk calling about a legacy which had been left the man. In still
another case, reported by a different agency, a man who had deserted his
family was known to be receiving mail through the general delivery of
another city. It was ascertained that he was writing to a woman in his
home town. A letter was sent to him in care of General Delivery asking
him to meet the writer (who was represented to be the young woman with
whom he was corresponding). The wife was sent to that city and she and
the local probation officer met the man and served the warrant.

There is, of course, something to be said in favor of the use of such
methods. The protection of the weak and helpless may justify, in certain
circumstances, any subterfuge. But the _detective_ who arrests the
criminal in ways like these is seeking his punishment and nothing else.
There is no thought in that case of establishing personal relations and
effecting the long, slow process of reformation. When social workers use
such methods it should be in the full realization that they are
foregoing any future advantage of straight dealing with the man. To
capture a man by a trick is to declare war on him; and, in his mind, the
social worker and the policeman then stand in the same place, "I'd have
him there to meet you," said a deserter's chum to a woman visitor, "if I
wasn't sure, in spite of your straight talk, you'd have a bull waiting
behind a tree."[20]

If it is a first desertion, or if there is room for doubt whether an
accident may have befallen the man, police and hospital records should
be looked up.

    A woman with four children applied to a charity organization
    society, saying her husband had disappeared. There was a rumor that
    someone had seen him fall off the dock while intoxicated, but no
    attempt had been made to confirm this and the family was treated as
    a deserted family for some months, until the man's body was found in
    the river and identified.

If there have been previous desertions, it is extremely important to
secure their history. The reasons that moved the man once are likely to
do so again, and he is apt to return to his former haunts and be seen by
former friends and acquaintances.

The deserting man, unless he elopes with another woman, generally goes
to some cheap lodging house or, if of foreign birth, he may seek out the
quarter where those of his nationality reside and become a lodger in a
family in which his native tongue is spoken. Hence, a canvass of the
lodging houses--armed with a photograph if possible--is a desirable
first step. All of the social worker's casual acquaintance with the
foreign quarters of his city comes into play in the search. If the man
is in the city some "landsmann," some "paesano" has seen him, and knows
where he is to be found. It may even narrow down to finding the
particular house on the particular street where the immigrants from a
particular village in Sicily or Galicia have their abode. The pool-rooms
and saloons of the district can often be made to yield information,
especially if a man visitor can canvass them. In dealing in this way
with mere acquaintances of the man, it is usually not necessary for the
social worker to tell who he himself is or to state the purpose of his
inquiry. In talking with relatives or close friends, however, it is
often best to lay all cards on the table and convince one's listener
first of all that the man sought will have fair treatment and a chance
to state his side of the case before any proceedings are begun against

Even a relative who has never been seen may sometimes be induced to act

    A man who deserted his wife and family was reported to have gone to
    his brother in another city. Nothing definite was known of the
    brother except that he was a telephone lineman. No address could be
    secured through the company, but they agreed to forward a letter to
    this relative. He never answered; shortly, however, the deserter
    reappeared, having been persuaded to return voluntarily by the
    brother to whom the letter had been addressed.

During the war local draft boards were of the greatest assistance in
finding deserting men. Election records too have been of real value in
the case of men who were voters. Passports and immigration records may
in some instances yield information helpful in establishing whereabouts.
Where there is actually a warrant out for the man's arrest, the active
co-operation of the postal authorities can sometimes be secured in
furnishing return addresses on envelopes delivered to persons with whom
the culprit is known to be in correspondence.

Problems of family desertion involving men in service during the war
were in the main handled by the Red Cross Home Service. Before the war,
private case working agencies had learned that the regular Army and the
Navy often seemed desirable havens to would-be family deserters. The
difficulties of finding them there were great, owing to the fact that
they often enlisted as single men under an assumed name. It has usually
been possible to gain excellent co-operation from the military
authorities if there are any clues whatever.

    The desertion bureau of a family social work society learned that a
    deserting man had expressed a desire long before he left his family
    to enlist in the Army. Several letters were exchanged with the War
    Department, and the man was finally found to be with a company
    serving in the Canal Zone. As he had made misrepresentations when he
    enlisted, the War Department was willing to transfer him from Panama
    to a camp within the limits of the city where the desertion had
    taken place and there discharge him. This brought the absconder
    within the jurisdiction of the local courts and made it possible to
    arrest him as soon as he was outside the bounds of the camp.

It will repay the visitor to make not only a careful study of the
deserting man's employment history but also to learn something about the
trade he follows. A cloakmaker, for instance, who deserts in New York
City is likely to be found in Cleveland, for these are the two centers
of the cloak branch of the garment trade. Certain seasonal occupations
give the periodical deserter a great opportunity. Among these are hop
picking, berry picking, and lumbering. The amusement parks near the
large cities also furnish occupation for the seasonal deserter. The case
worker cannot be expected to have such knowledge at his finger-tips, but
he can go to people who know about the fluctuations of particular
trades--to employers, union officials or fellow-workmen who may throw
light on a deserter's movements. The story of Adolph R.[21] is an
excellent illustration of the help that may be obtained from trades
unions and from fellow-workmen. A family welfare bureau in a western
city writes:

    "In one instance a blacksmith's union published the picture of the
    deserting man in its official journal and asked that information
    regarding him be sent to the local unit here. This proved
    successful. In another instance a union gave us access to its books
    and helped us to trace all the men of a given name listed there. By
    this means we found the man we were looking for. One man, a
    vaudeville performer, we traced through the _Bill Board_ (a trade
    paper) by discovering the movements of the show with which he had
    been connected."

Another society succeeded in getting a certain trade union to post a
description and photograph of a missing man on its bulletin boards. This
aided in finding the man. Fraternal orders may be; used in the same way,
though for many reasons they cannot be so helpful as the trades unions.

Employment agencies should not be forgotten in seeking to trace a man
through his industrial record. The extension of the federal employment
service, with free inter-city communication, should be of assistance in
getting upon the track of deserters.

The co-operation of newspapers can be secured to good effect in tracing
missing men.

    Herbert McCann, who had been doing railway construction in Russia,
    returned to this country and disappeared while en route from an
    eastern city to his home in Canada. There was reason to think that
    he might have left the train in an intoxicated condition at an
    important junction point; and the family social agency of that city
    was asked to trace him. No information was secured from the police,
    lodging houses, employment agencies, etc., and finally the following
    advertisement was inserted in the local paper: "_Information
    Wanted_--Anyone knowing the whereabouts of Herbert McCann, Montreal,
    who returned from Russia in June, will confer a favor upon his
    family by notifying Social Service Building, 34 Grand Street." Six
    days later a reply was received from a man in a nearby town, and
    McCann was found at work in a factory there.

More than upon any other method the National Desertion Bureau depends on
the publication of pictures and short newspaper paragraphs. As this
Bureau deals entirely with Jewish deserters, it works chiefly through
the Yiddish newspapers. Its "Gallery of Missing Husbands" is a regular
weekly feature in some of the better known of these journals, and
attracts increasingly wide attention. The Bureau estimates that 70 per
cent of the deserters which it finds are discovered through the
publication of pictures. It should be remembered, however, that this
Bureau is dealing with a selected group, who know a great deal about one
another, live closely together, follow in the main only a few trades,
and read only a limited number of foreign-language newspapers. Whether
anything like the same results could be obtained by the same methods
applied to deserting husbands of many different national and social
backgrounds is open to question.

Since most deserters leave the city, if not the state, the social worker
who is dealing with the family problem is often not the same person to
whom is delegated the task of finding the man. This fact makes necessary
the most careful and sympathetic co-operation between the social workers
or agencies, which must work together at long range upon the problem. In
the case of Herbert McCann, just cited, not less than four family social
work societies were concerned--three in the United States and one in
Canada. This necessitated keeping in the closest touch, by letter and
telegram, so that each was informed of the doings of the others. Such a
piece of work calls for a common body of experience and technique among
the workers concerned, amounting almost to an unwritten understanding
as to how the work should be done. Nothing makes more fascinating
reading than the record of a quick, touch-and-go investigation, such as
is presented in the finding of a deserter conducted by skilled case
workers who are accustomed to work together. Much can, under these
circumstances, be taken for granted or left to the discretion of the
worker or agency whose help is being sought. There are instances,
however, where no such common understanding exists, and where the
home-town agency has to work through people with little social training
or with training of a type which definitely unfits them properly to
approach the deserting man. It is a distressing experience to know that
a man has slipped through one's fingers, been frightened off or
alienated, by poor work at the other end. Are there any ways to reduce
the number of these mischances?

Even with the closest co-operation among case workers of ability in
different cities the results are not always as favorable, for obvious
reasons, as if the person who knows the family were the one to find and
interview the man. More and more it is realized that money and time
spent in going to nearby cities to do one's own investigating is well
spent. There used to be a feeling on the part of the kindred society
whose territory was thus invaded that this action argued lack of
confidence in its work; but as the importance of the personal contact
has been more widely recognized this feeling has disappeared. It may be
said that a worker who goes to a strange city is handicapped by her lack
of knowledge of local conditions. This is of course true, and it may
easily be a question of how great an advantage will be gained by the
journey. The worker from the man's home town can, however, go far toward
overcoming the handicap of unfamiliarity with the place, as well as
toward dispelling any sense of injury in the mind of a professional
colleague, by calling first at the office of the local agency and
talking the problem over thoroughly, consulting the map and getting what
hints the local agency may be able to furnish. The first question to ask
oneself, therefore, is "Will it not be worth while to go myself?"

If for geographical or other reasons this is impracticable, the next
thing that should receive careful consideration is the type of letter to
be written. If the situation is very emergent (as in the case of Adolph
R. cited earlier), the request may have to be sent by telegraph; but
even in a telegram it is possible to convey some detail. To try to save
money by confining oneself to ten words is unwise. If time admits, a
letter is more desirable, and the principle of its construction is as
simple as the Golden Rule--give the other person all the information you
would like to have if you were receiving the letter. Where the
correspondent is not a trained social worker, very specific suggestions
and directions should be given as to how you wish the man dealt with if

There might also be laid down a Golden Rule for recipients of requests
from out-of-town that missing men be traced. "Give the request
right-of-way over your regular work, and send back as prompt and as full
a reply as you would wish yourself" might adequately cover the case. A
reply which contains a history of actual steps taken as well as results
gained, is more satisfactory than one which does not. Good case workers
believe in reciprocity and treat their neighbor's problem as their own.
"We heard that a man we were interested in was in the vicinity of a
certain city, and in the effort to trace him wrote to the charity
organization society in that place, but without success. Several months
later the charity organization society saw an item in a newspaper to the
effect that the man had been interned as an enemy alien, and notified
us. (This shows no cleverness on our part, but good work by the other


[17] The National Desertion Bureau, 356 Second Avenue, New York, acts in
a legal advisory capacity to Jewish organizations in matters of domestic
relations; it also seeks out Jewish family deserters, with a view to
assuring their rehabilitation or, failing this, their punishment.

[18] C.C. Carstens, Proceedings of the Fifth New York State Conference
of Charities and Correction, 1904, p. 196.

[19] See p. 65, footnote.

[20] This paragraph was submitted to the two agencies which furnished
the illustrations. Their replies are in part as follows:

_Agency A._--"Your criticism ... is purely theoretical and has no basis
in fact. The deserter is a knowing violator of the law, and while he
does not welcome it, he regards his arrest as only a question of time.
He is playing the game of 'hide and seek,' and he is applying every
trick and subterfuge to avoid detection. He is not disturbed if he has
been caught in a police trap. Our experience has been that in such cases
where he has tried to outwit the police, and the police finally have
'beaten him to the game,' he compliments his captor. This is a common
characteristic of the criminal, a sort of negative bravado, When the
deserter is arrested, all he can hope for and expect is a fair deal."

What are some concrete suggestions, developed from the experience of
case workers, as to how to proceed in searching for deserting men? A
full and careful talk with the wife is the first requisite, supplemented
by equally thorough interviews with any near relatives who can be
reached. The case worker should be familiar with the Questionnaire on
the Deserted Family in Mary E. Richmond's Social Diagnosis. A
description and if possible a photograph of the man should be procured.
Where several out-of-town clues are to be followed, copies of the
photograph can be cheaply made, and at least one bureau for dealing with
desertion cases makes this part of its routine procedure.

_Agency B._--"I have seen very few individuals in the course of my
experience who could not be brought to see the right viewpoint if they
were intelligently approached, even though the probation officer had
considerable to do with their arrest. It is in my opinion not altogether
important what occurs before the man's arrest but how he is treated
after he comes within the jurisdiction of the probation officials."

[21] See p. 69.



It is evident that the need of finding the man strongly influences the
course of this type of investigation, especially in the early stages.
Are there other considerations, however, that modify the technique of
inquiry into these desertion cases?

There is one crisis in the lives of deserted families which is not
duplicated in the history of any other group suffering from social
disability. This crisis is the period of the first desertion. "If we
could learn what preceded and what immediately followed the first
desertion, we should know much more than we do now about how to deal
with the problem," said a case worker who has studied many court

The _number_ of subsequent desertions may be both interesting and
significant, but the circumstances attending them are not nearly so well
worth study as are those connected with the critical first break. We
should go back to that spot and probe for causes. The common practice of
recording carefully what led up to a chronic deserter's last desertion
before his family applied, and of passing over his earlier desertions
with a mere mention of their number and dates, puts the emphasis in the
wrong place.

We must, however, go further back than the first desertion for a working
fund of knowledge. The importance of knowing what were the influences
surrounding the man and woman in childhood and youth has already been
dwelt upon and is so generally conceded as to need no elaboration here.
Of especial value also is careful inquiry into the period of courtship,
the circumstances of the marriage, and the history of the earlier
married life. "We should seek to know what first drew them together, as
well as what forced them apart," said a thoughtful district secretary.
The notorious unhappiness of "forced marriages" leads case workers to
scrutinize the relation between the date of marriage and the date of
the birth of the first child. It should be remembered, however, that not
all marriages which are entered into during pregnancy are forced
marriages. Studies of forced marriages, so-called, have not always taken
this fact into consideration.

The superintendent of a state department for aid to widows made a study
of the vital statistics of 500 families chosen at random. She states
that "out of these 500 mothers 96, or 19.2 per cent, had conceived out
of wedlock--or rather before wedlock--judging by the date of marriage
and that of the first child's birth. All these women were hard working;
several of good standing in the neighborhood and the mothers of large
families of children." This group of homes represents by no means an
unstable segment of the community, since in most instances the couples
had lived together in reasonable harmony up to the time of the man's
death. But do the 96 represent forced marriages as ordinarily thought of
by the social worker? The study just quoted has no facts bearing upon
this point. The likelihood is that a large number of these marriages,
termed forced, were in reality not brought about by outside pressure at
all, but that the couple were intending to be married at the time the
pregnancy occurred and that the circumstances were condoned by public
opinion in the community where the marriage took place.

The Chicago Juvenile Protective Association, however, has made a study
of 89 forced marriages which were brought about in connection with
bastardy proceedings. In this study there is no attempt to differentiate
as to the _amount_ of unwillingness that had had to be overcome on the
part of either the man or the woman. Fifty-three of the women said that
the marriage had been entered into willingly on their part. Sixty of
them stated that they were well treated by their husbands, and only five
complained of abuse or unkindness. Out of the 89 marriages brought about
after proceedings were instituted 69 of the couples were still living
together from one to two years later, although 20, or nearly one in
five, had separated before the two-year period was over.[22]

    A young woman with four small children was given advice by an
    associated charities about her approaching confinement, and no
    further inquiry was made at that time. She was living apart from her
    husband, who was contributing a small amount regularly. The income
    was inadequate and it was decided to push the matter further.
    Efforts to verify the marriage failed. Finally, a tactful worker was
    able to learn that the ceremony had not taken place until after the
    birth of the first three children, that the couple had had sexual
    relations since the woman was a girl of fifteen, and that her
    relatives had never known the true state of affairs. The man's
    mother finally interfered, and urged her son not to live with his
    wife. After much careful work, and with the assistance of a
    co-operating priest, a plan was worked out which brought the couple
    together and induced them to move away from the region in which the
    man's parents lived.

       *       *       *       *       *

    A probation department tells of a case where, although the man was
    unwilling to marry, a court marriage was brought about; the man made
    his payments promptly and observed the other conditions of his
    probation faithfully. The woman, however, was indifferent to any
    efforts to bring about a reconciliation. It was finally discovered
    that she was immoral. The case culminated in the securing of a
    divorce by the man, who was granted the custody of the children.

    The same department submits a story where good results were obtained
    in subsequently reconciling, after a desertion, a couple whose
    marriage had been of the forced description. The probation
    department arranged for the couple to live apart in the early stage
    of probationary treatment. A careful study was made of each of the
    individuals, and in their sincere attachment a basis was discovered
    for re-establishment of the home under the supervision of the
    probation officer. Five years later the man was found to be at work
    at the same position originally obtained for him by the probation
    officer, his salary had been increased, the family had grown in
    number and were getting on extremely well.

Although the term "forced marriage" has come to have the meaning given
above, unions can be really forced where there has been no sex relation
before marriage. In one unhappy marriage which came finally to a court
of domestic relations, the wife was a weak and timid woman who married
her husband because of her fear that he would carry out his threat and
kill her and himself if she refused him. Another, an Italian girl, was
married at fourteen by her parents against her inclinations to a
well-to-do man, much older than she, who was a lodger in the family. As
she grew to womanhood their incompatibility increased; finally, after
four children had been born, the family was broken up and the children
committed to institutions.

There are compulsions and false motives, operating to bring about
marriages, which spring from within not without; and the discovery of
any motive for the marriage except mutual inclination has significance
to the case worker. Light was thrown on the troubles of one young couple
when the girl confessed that she had married a youth for whom she had no
particular affection, in order to "spite" her relatives and assert her
right to do as she chose. And the unfortunate young woman who married a
street evangelist in a fit of religious enthusiasm, and because of his
promise that they would travel about the world saving souls together,
had a married life both short and stormy. The so-called "slacker
marriages" of the few months preceding the first draft in 1917
illustrate this point. The wreckage of these marriages is already
drifting in increasing amount to the courts of domestic relations.

One of the most important items in desertion cases, and one far too
often neglected, is the verification of the marriage. Much seeming
indifference and confusion on this point is probably caused by the
quasi-legality in many states of common law marriages. The case worker
should not forget, however, that a common law union is often only a
device on the part of one or the other of the two to avoid prosecution
for bigamy. When it is established that the marriage is a common law
union, a strong suspicion should be set up in the worker's mind that
there may be some legal barrier to a ceremony, and careful inquiry
should be directed along this line. Not only does the verification of a
marriage give the worker a sound basis on which to proceed to court
action if necessary, but the copy of the actual marriage record, where
that can be procured, gives much valuable information as to dates,
addresses, and names of relatives and witnesses. A transcript of the
record will usually be furnished by the registrar of vital statistics
in the city where the marriage took place (if in the United States) for
a nominal fee of fifty cents.

It is much more difficult to verify marriages which took place in other
countries, and social workers are often appalled by the prevalence of
the so-called "American marriage" among immigrant deserters, who trust
to our happy-go-lucky methods for protection against a prosecution for

    Such was the case of Orfeo Pelligrini, who came to this country and
    took a new wife when his children in Italy were nearly grown. His
    Italian family came to America through their own efforts a few years
    later, and Orfeo found that he had underestimated the character of
    his eldest son, who traced his father, had him arrested and taken to
    the city where his original family was living. Orfeo, now forcibly
    reunited to the wife of his bosom, walks softly under the threat of
    bigamy proceedings, while the "American" wife refuses to take any
    action on the ground that "he didn't go away from me of his own
    wish, and why should I put him behind the bars?"

       *       *       *       *       *

    Of an altogether more simple mental make-up was the Slovak laborer
    who brought his pregnant "American wife" and two children to the
    district office of a charity organization society, saying that the
    relatives in Europe of Anna, his first wife, had sent Anna to this
    country, and she was on the point of arriving. He added that, as
    manifestly it was not possible to support two families on his wages,
    he would like to provide for his second wife through "the Charity."

A district secretary who has worked for many years with Italians is
authority for the statement that marriages in Italy are always
registered at the man's legal residence, no matter where the marriage
took place. "Careful Italian parents, if they cannot get reliable
information in other ways, write to the 'paese' of a suitor for
information in regard to his conjugal condition. A marriage which takes
place in America is customarily registered with the consul for
transmission to the home town in Italy."

In some countries of Latin America great confusion may be caused by the
fact that a marriage performed in church is not legal in the eyes of the
state unless a second ceremony is gone through before the civil
authorities. A Guatemalan woman, deserted in this country, had no
recourse in law because she had had only the church ceremony in her
country. Her claim to the status of common law wife was invalidated by
the man's producing proof that he was already married at the time the
religious ceremony was performed.

Having established the fact that a legal marriage has taken place, the
case worker must keep in mind the possibility that it may have been
later dissolved. It is not at all uncommon to find that a deserter who
has gone off with another woman has started proceedings to get a divorce
by "publication." This can happen when the two have gone to a state
where such unfair divorce procedure is permitted. Publication in these
cases takes place in local newspapers which there is little or no chance
of the wife seeing; and she may later find herself a divorced woman with
no legal claim for support for herself or children, and suffering under
charges of misconduct without having had a chance of being heard. The
National Desertion Bureau found this proceeding so common an abuse that
it established a clearing bureau in its central office, and its local
representatives in different parts of the country notify this bureau as
soon as any action for divorce is started by a man with a Jewish name
against a wife whose "address is unknown."[23]

What are some of the other points at which the investigation of cases of
desertion may differ from the technique generally accepted? The
superintendent of a desertion bureau, in answer to this question, said
that he emphasized "neighborhood references" more than in the ordinary
case. Social workers have become very wary, of course, of much inquiry
among present neighbors; but where the protection of the woman or the
children is involved it is often necessary to procure the testimony of
people who live nearby or in the same house. A deserted family is
usually so much a center of neighborhood interest or sympathy, or both,
that it is easier than in some other types of cases to secure
information from neighbors, tradesmen, and so on, without augmenting
neighborhood gossip.

Probably the most difficult part of the necessary information to be
secured in desertion cases is an adequate picture of the sex
relationship between man and wife. The part which sex plays in the
causation of desertion has been touched upon in Chapter II.[24] In
getting the information from the people concerned, the case worker needs
no elaborate equipment as a psycho-analyst; but she should know enough
about sex psychology to recognize a pathological problem when she meets
it, and to be able to call on the psycho-analyst or psychiatrist for
specialized service.

The securing of an adequate picture of the sex life of the couple may
have to be delegated, however, to some volunteer whose own sex,
profession, or marital experience makes him or her a suitable person to
secure it.

    "The majority of social case workers are unmarried women under
    forty, and in this particular respect they frequently find
    themselves handicapped by the natural reluctance of the deserter to
    discuss his conceptions of the marital relation in such a way as to
    be enlightening to them, as well as by the chivalrous attitude which
    the woman of the tenements often adopts toward her unmarried
    visitor. The decisive statement, 'You have never been married, so
    you can't understand,' often proves at least a temporary barrier in
    dealing with deserted wives, just as the similar statement, 'You
    have never been a mother so you cannot know the feelings of one,' is
    used to block her efforts in another direction. If it is found
    impossible to carry on the necessary discussions rationally and
    without too serious embarrassment, it is often possible to call upon
    the socially-minded physician or clergyman for help along this

To sum up, the interviews with the family and the supplementary visits
and letters of inquiry should furnish the social worker if possible

1. A clear picture of the home in which the two adult members of the
family grew up, and the factors in their early training which
contributed to their failure as husband or wife; or which can be
utilized as assets in the future plan.

2. A history of how the couple met; the events of their courtship and
marriage, including sex relations prior to marriage with spouse or
others; also previous marriages. Records of marriage, death of previous
spouse, etc., are very important and should be secured if in existence.

3. A picture of the family and its individual members in their other
social relationships--with employers, medical agencies, teachers, their
church, their friends, their relatives. Knowledge of their habits,
tastes, and characteristics, with special attention to period of first
desertion. Analysis of factors leading to the desertion.

4. History of first reconciliation (unless the present is the first
break). History of subsequent desertions. Court record, if any.

A prerequisite to some of the above information is an interview or
interviews with the man. Where this cannot be had as part of the first
investigation, the investigation should leave the worker in possession
of some good clues, at least, to the man's whereabouts.


[22] Bowen, Louise de K.: A Study of Bastardy Cases. Juvenile Protective
Association of Chicago, 1914.

[23] It is the policy of the Bureau, when such a case is discovered, to
help the wife get competent legal advice in the city where action is
being brought, and either to contest the case or start a counter suit.
Where necessary the woman is sent on to appear in person.

[24] See p. 37 sq.

[25] J.C. Colcord in _The Annals of the American Academy of Political
and Social Science_, May, 1918, p. 97.



As in all other problems faced by the case worker, it is impossible to
lay down general rules for the treatment of desertion. There may be
general considerations, however, which it is well to keep in mind, some
of which have been advanced in the last chapter.[26]

On questions of investigation there is closer agreement among social
workers than on questions of treatment. Personal factors here play a
much larger part, and it may very well be that two case workers who
differ in personality but are of equal ability, will choose very
different plans of treatment in a given case and yet each bring it to a
successful issue. It is with a good deal of hesitancy, therefore, that
a case worker ventures upon the discussion of anything so flexible as
treatment. In preparation for this study many consultations were had
with practising social case workers in the fields of family work,
probation, medical-social service, and child welfare. Differences of
opinion were found and this chapter will attempt to express the
composite opinion on how to treat the deserter and his family in the
different situations which confront them.

1. Man's Whereabouts Unknown but Desertion of Recent Date.--It is
better in this case to make no very definite plans for the family.
Emergent plans, both as to relief and medical or other care should, of
course, be prompt and adequate. Now is the time, if it can be done, to
win the confidence and co-operation of the wife. We should, however,
make no promises for the sake of "buying" co-operation, and give no
premature advice either as to prosecution or reconciliation. Everything
possible should be done to strengthen such ties with church, relatives,
and friends as may be helpful, but the social worker should be slow to
encourage the family to form new ties with other social agencies at this
time. She should avoid the possibility of judging the woman harshly in a
period of stress, but be watchful for signs of deterioration and
resourceful to combat them. This is the stage, of course, when all
energies should be bent toward finding the man.

In this as in the other situations about to be discussed, the question
of whether or not the home should be broken up and the children
committed should be decided on other grounds than on the desertion
alone. Under many circumstances, it is the best thing to do. The woman,
worn out with anxiety or abuse, may be unequal to their physical care
for the present; or they may be running wild and in danger of becoming
delinquent. The mother may be morally an unfit guardian, and the
desertion may furnish the long-sought opportunity to interfere for the
children's protection. Commitment may have to be planned, and the
mother's consent won, to save the children from the return of a brutal
father, against whom she cannot protect them. Or she may desire a
temporary commitment in order to give her husband a severe lesson. The
main consideration, however, ought to be what is going, in the long run,
to be best for the children concerned.

2. Man's Whereabouts Unknown, Desertion of Long Standing.--A very
different problem from the preceding may be presented in the family of a
man who disappeared some time ago. Where the desertion is bona fide and
has persisted over a period of years, it is often possible to treat the
family as if the man were dead, and, if other circumstances make this
advisable, to plan comprehensively for the future. There is always the
chance, however, that, until the man's death is established, he may turn
up unexpectedly. If living, he usually manages to hear now and again
about his family and is often able to find them at will. A man who had
neither seen nor communicated with his family during the ten years they
had been maintained by a private family agency, nevertheless sent
promptly for his wife and eldest son by a messenger who knew exactly
where to find them (although they had moved in the interval several
times), when he lay dying of alcoholic excess in the city hospital.

The laws of many states contain a provision that the marriage of a
person who has completely disappeared and not been heard from in a
period of years can be set aside by the proper authorities. This makes
legal the remarriage of the spouse. In nearly all of the states divorce
can be obtained on the ground of long continued desertion.[27] The
wisdom of advising such a divorce, however, should receive careful
individual consideration, particularly in relation to the religious
faith of the client and the attitude of that faith toward divorce.

3. Man's Whereabouts Known; Man Unwilling to Return or Support.--Many
types of deserting men are included under this catch-all heading--the
so-called "justifiable deserter;" the man who has fled to escape his
creditors or is a fugitive from justice; the man who has elected to try
life with another mate; the wandering hobo who means to come back some
sweet day but not now; the cowardly pregnancy deserter; the low-grade
irresponsible--a motley crew. They are grouped together here for
convenience, since they constitute those with whom coercive measures
have most often to be used.

    A good example of the "justifiable deserter" is found in the story
    of Williams.[28] This man, when home conditions became intolerable,
    tried to secure his children's safety through the courts but did not
    obtain a hearing. He left home feeling that he was fully justified.
    The lame point in his self-defense was his failure to support his
    children, and it took a court order to rectify this in part.

       *       *       *       *       *

    Joseph Mellor is in a more logical situation in his refusal to
    provide for his wife, since he is paying the board of his child in a
    good institution. He makes no charge against her character, but
    insists that her quarrelsome and dictatorial disposition makes her
    impossible to live with. She had haled him so many times into court
    and lost him so many positions that Mellor, who earns a good salary,
    will deal with her only through his lawyer, who keeps his client's
    whereabouts secret and will not trust the social worker interested
    even to the extent of arranging an interview.

It is generally impossible in cases of such deep-seated antagonism to
make any plans looking toward reconciliation. The "justifiable deserter"
can usually be reasoned with, and once he understands and admits his
responsibilities, can often be made to live up to them without judicial

    A ship steward deserted his wife, who was both alcoholic and
    paretic, taking with him his only child whom he placed with his
    relatives. The woman was devoted to the boy and broken in spirit
    because she was not allowed to see him. The steward claimed,
    probably correctly, that he was not responsible for the woman's
    syphilitic condition. The following extract from the record of the
    first interview with the man is quoted to show the lines of argument
    which were effective with him:

    "Man at District Office--Visitor started in immediately with the
    subject in hand, thinking he was the sort that would respond to
    absolutely direct dealing. Explained to him that we had been given
    to understand his wife was ill, not only from alcoholism but also
    from other complications; that it was suspected there might be some
    difficulty with her blood and that we had been advised that her
    mental condition was not now as strong as it had been previously.
    Explained to him that he was absolutely responsible for his wife,
    for her support, and for her care and protection, and that no matter
    how far he traveled, his responsibility remained the same; that he
    had assumed this when he married her. Said that he felt no
    responsibility for her whatsoever, that he had done all he ever
    would do for her and intended to devote his efforts toward his
    child. Visitor explained to him that woman's intemperance might
    perfectly well be a disease over which it would be very difficult
    for her to have control; that, moreover, if she were suffering also
    from a blood condition, this should have treatment. Explained that
    he would more nearly meet his responsibilities were he to have her
    examined and send her where she could procure the treatment
    required, even if it meant commitment to an institution. At this
    point man seemed more interested, particularly as visitor told him
    that Arthur would grow up and would want to know where his mother
    was and what had become of her; and if man had left her sick and
    alone, at the mercy of strangers, he would not be able to give an
    adequate accounting to his son. Man's reaction was not what visitor
    had expected--he would be glad to put her away where she could not
    trouble him any more but he did not intend to expend any more money.
    Said he was under too heavy expenses with Arthur. Claimed he was
    making $70 a month, and visitor forced him to add that he got in
    addition his board and lodging on the ship, so that he was under no
    expense except when on shore leave. Visitor repeated that as a
    husband he was required to pay for woman's care, that that was the
    right thing to do; that one way he would be a husband deserting his
    wife, liable to arrest for non-support and desertion, and the other
    way a husband with a sick wife for whom he was willing to provide
    the medical attention and care that every sick person has a right to
    have. He said if it was a question of a few dollars a week, he
    supposed he would be willing to do it, and visitor felt he really
    was willing to do the right thing if he only could be assured that
    woman would not interfere with Arthur. Said he would never let woman
    see the child, but finally admitted, if she were not drunk and was
    in the hospital and it would do any good, he supposed she could."

With persistent or recalcitrant deserters as a group, court action has
very often to be invoked. Procedure in this direction differs so much in
different communities that only general observations can be offered
here. If the man has left his home but not the town and is still within
the jurisdiction of the local court, the magistrate will usually issue a
summons (which in many cities the wife is expected to serve) calling on
the man to appear at court on the date set for the hearing. If he fails
to appear a warrant for his arrest is issued. If he has left the city
but not the state, local courts may issue warrants, which can be mailed
to the city to which the man has gone and served by the police there; or
an officer may be sent from the home town with a warrant to arrest the
man and bring him back.

Prior to his arraignment, the best court practice calls for an
investigation by the probation officer, so that the judge may have
substantiated facts before him when the case comes up. Whether this is
done or not here is the time and place for the social worker who already
knows the family to get his knowledge in usable fashion before the
court. How best to do this varies greatly in different communities.
Sometimes the social worker is permitted to talk the matter over with
the judge personally, sometimes with the probation officer, clerk or
other court official. Sometimes a written report is required, to be
attached to the probation officer's report. Occasionally the social
worker gets no chance to be heard unless he is present to testify in
open court. In the last two contingencies, care must be taken to
safeguard information given in confidence, even by the deserter. Letters
marked "confidential" should not ordinarily be submitted in court except
by consent of the writer, as some judges hold that material so submitted
becomes a matter of public record.

The approach to the court, therefore, is governed by local conditions. A
very important part of co-operation in any community is to see that this
channel is kept free from obstruction. In general, the probation officer
should be the best friend of the other social workers, since he knows
their language. Indeed, many social workers themselves combine the
office of probation officer with their other duties.

After the institution of court proceedings the outside social worker has
usually little chance to affect the disposition of the case. This is
made by the judge on the basis of the testimony he elicits in court, and
on that of any preliminary investigation he may have caused to be made.
Disposition may be:

    1. In rare instances, to dismiss the complaint altogether.

    2. To remand for a later hearing.

    3. To induce the woman to drop her complaint and give the man
    another chance.[29]

    4. To place the man under court order to stay away from home and pay
    his wife a stated amount weekly. Custom differs in different places
    as to whether payment shall be direct to the wife, through the
    probation officer or clerk of court, or through public or private

    5. To order the man to return home and contribute a stated amount.

    6. To place on probation (together with either 4 or 5).

    7. Commitment--usually to jail or workhouse, and for a period of not
    over six months. May be longer for violation of probation or for
    aggravated offense.

When the deserting man has gone without the borders of the state, there
is the added problem of securing his extradition, which is often a
difficult one. Wife desertion is in most states only a misdemeanor (in
New York it is even less serious and constitutes in the eye of the law
only disorderly conduct). Since extradition between states has to be
acted upon by the governors of the states, it is unusual (though not
impossible[30]) to secure extradition for a misdemeanor. The reluctance
of the authorities is understandable, however, when it is realized that
to extradite for wife desertion would be to create a precedent for
extradition for any sort of misdemeanor. There is in most states a law
which makes the abandonment of a minor child or children a felony,
punishable by a long term in state prison, and it is this law which is
generally invoked when the man has been traced to another state.
Complaint then has to be made to the district (or county) attorney, the
matter taken before the grand jury and an indictment secured before
extradition papers can be granted. The man, if captured, must usually be
tried in a higher court than the domestic relations court; if convicted
he is likely to be more severely punished. Extradition means expense to
the state; it is usually difficult, moreover, to get an active interest
taken in extraditing a family deserter who, to the legal eye, has
committed an offense neither against the person nor against property,
and cannot therefore be a serious offender!

If extradition for family desertion is difficult between states, with
other countries it is impossible, as no treaties exist even with
contiguous countries like Canada and Mexico.[31] By special arrangement
with the Canadian authorities, states which touch the Canadian border
can sometimes obtain the person of a deserter without actual
extradition. Information is submitted to the police of the Canadian town
where the man is known to be, who thereupon arrest him as an
"undesirable citizen" and arrange for his deportation. The neighboring
state is notified, and an officer with a warrant meets the Canadian
officer and the prisoner at the boundary, arresting the latter as soon
as he sets foot across the state line.

The testimony of social workers is, in the main, in favor of probation
as against long prison sentence for men of this type. "We have found a
shortened penitentiary sentence, with release on probation, very
successful in a number of instances." "Sometimes the probation has been
more effective by its being a sort of double probation; that is, having
the case pending in juvenile court as well as municipal or district
court. The fear of having his children permanently taken from him if he
again fails to support them has, in one or two instances, had much more
effect with the deserter than the threat of a prison sentence."
"Probation works very well and occasionally a prison sentence; but
probation is better." These statements come from cities where probation
work is well organized. From another city where the probation officers
are notoriously overworked, comes a pessimistic note: "The theory of
probation is fine, but the practice is poor because the officers have
entirely too much to do."

Probation is simply case work with the added "punch" of the law behind
it; so that when it is at all well done it should have the more lasting
results. Probation officers and other social workers agree, however,
that for certain deserters of the complacent type, an unexpected prison
sentence is sometimes a very salutary dash of cold water.

    After having tried one or two short absences, ostensibly to look for
    work and finding that nothing serious happened to him, Andreas
    Gorokhoff walked out one day and did not come back for five years.
    During that time his wife's relatives and the community's family
    agency took care of his family while he led the life of a care-free
    vagabond. He was ready upon his return to settle down again for a
    time; but the family agency and the probation department thought
    differently, and succeeded in having him sent to state prison for an
    indeterminate sentence of not more than two years. He was released
    on parole for good conduct, returned home, went to work, and, during
    the four years which have since elapsed, all has gone well.

Good results may, and probably more often do, follow shorter prison

    A man on probation for intemperance, broke it and deserted. On
    account of the children's keen feeling about the consequent
    disgrace, the wife made no move until urged thereto by the social
    worker interested. Her husband was then arrested in a nearby city
    and brought back, much surprised at the firm stand his wife had
    taken. He was sentenced to four months, served two, and was released
    on parole. Since his return he has not been drinking and has been
    contributing satisfactorily toward the support of his family.

       *       *       *       *       *

    The first step taken by Harvey Brand when released from the
    workhouse after a short prison sentence, was to stop in at a
    furniture store and order a green plush parlor "suit" on the
    instalment plan. Harvey had never been conspicuously interested in
    his home before, and the district secretary and her committee were
    aghast at this new evidence of his irresponsibility. The green plush
    was, however, the outward sign of an inner burgeoning, and it warmed
    the heart of Mrs. Harvey as nothing else could have done. From that
    time, Harvey, with judicious encouragement over a few hard spots,
    has become a good family man and a regular provider.

The particular problem involved in the treatment of the family during
the trial and imprisonment of the deserter is that of encouraging the
woman to stick to her guns. If she withdraws her complaint or secures
his release before his time is up, she not only convinces him of her
lack of firmness but the entry in the court record seriously prejudices
her case should she make complaint there again. Unless the social worker
is convinced, therefore, that the sentence has been unduly severe, the
wife should be encouraged in every way to let her husband serve out his
time. If a policy of relief has been necessary, care should be taken
that it be adequate, so that economic pressure will not induce her to
ask for his release. If the home has been broken up and the children
committed, the mother's loneliness and desire to have her home back is
likely to work in the same way. The hope of making her husband kinder
when he returns often leads a woman to ask for his release. The pressure
of relatives and friends, and sometimes of her church is likely to be
exerted in the same direction and unknown to the social worker.
Chaplains of correctional institutions, interested entirely in the man
and with no knowledge of the family situation, are also likely to appear
in the case; and it is well to acquaint them, in the beginning, of our
interest and our hope that no step will be taken without a consultation.
If it is hoped or expected that the man will return to his home after
imprisonment, he should be earnestly cultivated by the social worker
while he is serving his time. Visits and letters will go far toward
breaking down his resentment at the part the worker is likely to have
played in "putting him behind the bars." Now is an excellent time to
introduce a man as volunteer visitor to the prisoner, if he is to be off
probation when released. If imprisonment or: "stay-away probation" does
not have the desired effect of making the deserter willing and anxious
to return to his family and take care of them, or if for any reason
return is permanently undesirable, the advisability of obtaining a legal
separation[32] should be considered at this point. If, on the other
hand, the man evinces eagerness to return home and support his family,
he comes automatically (though belatedly) into the class to be
considered in the next chapter.


[26] The Questionnaire on the Deserted Family (see p. 395 sq. of
Richmond's Social Diagnosis) has already been mentioned as suggesting
lines of investigation. It will also be found useful at the stage of
summing up knowledge gained and seeing in what direction it points.

[27] The state of New York is an exception, as it grants only limited
divorce for desertion.

[28] See p. 57.

[29] See p. 132 sq. concerning court reconciliations.

[30] See Baldwin, Wm. H.: "The Most Effective Methods of Dealing with
Cases of Desertion and Non-support," _Journal American Institute of
Criminal Law and Criminology_, November, 1917.

[31] See p. 169 sq.

[32] See p. 127.



There remains a fourth classification under treatment, of cases which
demand even more individualized care and therefore more extended comment
than those just considered.

4. Man's Whereabouts Known; Man Willing to Return.--Here the question
to determine is whether it is going to be a desirable thing for the man
to re-enter the home and, if so, when. This does not always lie within
the power of the case worker to decide; the couple may and often do
resolve their differences for the time being without reference to her
opinion. But she can often hasten, defer, or even prevent the
reconciliation. Careful consideration must be given the elements
involved: What causes probably operated to bring about the rupture in
family relations? If there have been other desertions what does their
history show? Is the man's willingness to return a sign of real change
of heart and purpose, or is he merely afraid of punishment? Are his
habits such as to make him a fit inmate of the home? Is he capable of
supporting the family? Can any adjustment of temperaments be made which
will lessen incompatibility? Is the wife willing to have him return?
What are her motives? Has she enough firmness of character to carry out
a plan to which she has agreed? These are only a few of the questions to
which the social worker needs to know the answer, if the decision is to
be a wise one.

If none of the elements is present in the home out of which family life
can be reconstructed, if the man's self-indulgence and cruelty have been
proved beyond any doubt, or if affection is dead or never existed, then
the decision may have to be that no reconciliation be attempted. In many
cases the question then is how best to protect the woman and children
against the man's forcing his way upon them. Court intervention is
usually necessary here, if it has not already taken place; and a first
step is to have the husband placed under a court order to give separate
support and to stay away from his home.[33] The wife should be armed
with a warrant for his arrest, which can be served by the policeman on
the beat if the man appears. Such a man usually considers that his
proprietorship of the home and the family is not affected by his absence
or even by court orders, and when fortified by liquor he is likely to
force his entrance into the home and perhaps do harm. The protection of
the warrant is not absolute; in such cases as this it ought later to be
reinforced by a legal separation. Social workers avail themselves of
this resource far less than they should. It controverts the principles
of no religious sect and gives all the protection of absolute divorce
(including the payment of alimony) to the woman and children. To the
children it is likely to give more protection than divorce; for in the
event of the divorced husband's remarriage the children of the second
wife have prior rights over those of the first, and legal separation
makes this impossible by preventing the remarriage of either party.
Proceedings for a legal separation cannot usually be started if a man is
on probation, but may be while he is undergoing imprisonment. It should
be said that, after a separation, claims for non-payment of alimony
cannot, in many states, be pressed in a court of domestic relations but
must go to a civil court. This is usually more expensive and less

Some social workers even advance the heretical doctrine that support
secured through the court from a cruel and dangerous husband does not
make up for the harm he may do and the anxiety he causes. If to force
him into periodical payments means that he will be continually excited
into seeking out and "beating up" his offending wife, the support she is
able to extort from him comes high. It is sometimes necessary to move a
family to new quarters and actually help them to hide from the pursuit
of one of these insistent gentry. Even if we have some doubt that the
wife's protestations of fear or aversion are genuine, we should hardly
take the risk of revealing her address if she wishes it kept secret.
This precaution applies not only to the man but to anyone whom we
suspect of being interested on his behalf. A district secretary
continued to refuse the address of his family to a dangerous epileptic
deserter who threatened the secretary's life and, in the opinion of
physicians who examined him, was likely to carry out his threat.

    The committee on difficult cases in a family social agency voted to
    refuse to accept voluntary payments from a thoroughly worthless
    deserter and transmit them to his wife whose address he was seeking
    to learn, on the theory that it was better for her and her children
    to be entirely quit of him, and that nothing would make him realize
    the finality of the decision more than to refuse his money. The
    agency, it was felt, would be in better position to protect the wife
    and children if it refused to act as post office for the man.

The same consideration might apply in questions of extradition. When the
whereabouts of a deserter of this type has been discovered in another
city a safe distance away, it may be wiser to sacrifice the money he
might be forced to contribute than to have him brought within arm's
length of his wife and family.

A prime difficulty in dealing with the undesirable husband who is
willing to come home is often the attitude of the wife. Some of the
causes at work when a woman takes her husband back have been discussed
earlier.[35] Unfortunately, hopelessly bad husbands profit by them as
well as hopeful ones. The policy of niggardly relief to a deserted wife
has undoubtedly been responsible for many of these unfortunate attempts
to patch up a life together. "She was worn down by her efforts to keep
the household going, and, when the faint chance of her husband's
supporting her appeared, she took it" is the explanation given by a case
worker of one unpromising reconciliation, and she goes on to say of this
and another similar story: "With both of these it seems that enough
money put into the household to enable these mothers to be with their
children more and to keep up a reasonable standard of health for
themselves might have resulted in their refusing to take back their
husbands.... Our records seem to show that inadequate relief, making
life fairly hard for the deserted mother, does not tend to keep the man
from returning or others from deserting."

    The story of Mrs. Francis shows the effect of adequate relief in
    strengthening her decision not to take her husband back. He had been
    a chronic deserter for years, had drank heavily, been foul-mouthed
    and abusive, while failing to support the family when at home, so
    that Mrs. Francis had only a little harder time when he was away.
    His last desertion took place when she was near confinement. Owing
    to her condition, the church and a family agency co-operated in an
    unusually generous relief policy. This was in a state which gave
    mother's aid to deserted wives. After about a year this was secured
    for her, and the health of woman and children was built up and the
    home improved. Then Mr. Francis sent ambassadors in the form of
    relatives, with whom Mrs. Francis refused to treat. He later
    appeared himself, but she would not consider taking him back. He
    escaped before he could be brought into court. As he has now been
    gone over two years, it seems that her stand is a genuine one.

On the other hand, when the man has been found and interviewed, he may
show signs of repentance, and the earlier history, together with the
opinion which the social worker has been able to form about the
character of man and woman may make it seem that a reconciliation should
be encouraged. A further question then arises: Shall the man return to
his home at once or first undergo a probationary period?

The quick reconciliation has been a feature of the work in domestic
relations courts from the beginning of the movement. In connection with
some courts there are special officers whose duty it is to prevail upon
couples who come to the court to patch up their differences and give
each other another trial. This would be an admirable procedure if the
couples to receive such treatment were selected by a process of careful
investigation, and if probationary supervision were continued long
enough to ascertain whether permanent results could be secured. As it
actually works out it is a little like expecting a wound to heal "by
first intention" when it has not been cleaned out thoroughly, and when
no attention is being paid to subsequent dressings.

    "The wholesale attempt to patch the tattered fabric of family life
    in a series of hurried interviews held in the court room, and
    without any information about the problem except what can be gained
    from the two people concerned, can hardly be of permanent value in
    most cases. It is natural that case workers, keenly aware as they
    are of the slow and difficult processes involved in
    character-rebuilding, look askance at the court-made
    reconciliations. With the best will in the world, the people who
    attempt this delicate service very often have neither the time nor
    the facts about the particular case in question to give the skilful
    and devoted personal service necessary to reconstruction. As a
    result many weak-willed wrong-doers are encouraged to take a pledge
    of good conduct which they will not, or cannot, keep; and other
    individuals who feel themselves deeply wronged go away with an
    additional sense of those wrongs having been underestimated and of
    having received no redress. The results are written in
    discouragement and in repeated failures to live in harmony, each of
    which makes a permanent solution more and more difficult. The case
    worker to whom the results of the externally imposed reconciliation
    come back again and again has reason to be confirmed in a distrust
    of short-cut methods."[36]

       *       *       *       *       *

    A probation officer writes: "Superficial reconciliations invariably
    result unsatisfactorily. In one case a reconciliation was effected
    before the husband was released on probation. This was done
    apparently in the hope that it would influence the court in the
    disposition of the case. After a study of the situation had been
    made by the probation officer, it was found that the wife was
    totally incompetent as a housekeeper, that she possessed an
    antagonistic disposition, had a violent temper, and that no sincere
    attachment for each other existed between the couple. Before any
    constructive measures could be carried out by the probation officer
    to remedy this situation they separated, and it was not possible
    thereafter to adjust the differences with any degree of

    "On another occasion a man who had a previous prison record and had
    displayed criminal tendencies was arrested for desertion. His wife,
    a feeble-minded woman with one child, was being maintained at a
    private institution at county expense. Through the efforts of the
    district attorney a reconciliation was effected before the case was
    disposed of in court, and the man was placed on probation upon the
    recommendation of the prosecutor without the usual preliminary
    investigation by the probation department. The couple began to live
    together contrary to the advice of the probation officer. About two
    months later the man was arrested for committing a series of
    burglaries and the woman was found to be pregnant. Efforts which had
    been made by the probation department to determine her mentality
    disclosed her to be feeble-minded; later she was committed to a
    custodial institution for feeble-minded women of child-bearing age.
    The man was committed to a state prison."

However, when youth and high temper seem to have caused the trouble and
there is real affection to build upon, a speedy resumption of life
together is usually the best thing.

    A young woman with one baby said that her husband had got drunk and
    threatened her with a knife. They quarreled and he went to relatives
    in another city. Neighbors testified how devoted the couple had been
    to each other, describing the young man as handy about the house
    though "lazy about finding work." He was visited by the family
    social agency in the city to which he had gone, and wrote a penitent
    letter asking to come home. The wife agreed; the man immediately
    returned, got work, and succeeded in overcoming his incipient bad
    habits. The death of the baby soon after his return seemed only to
    draw the couple more closely together. The case was soon after
    closed; nothing has been heard in the three years since to indicate
    that any further trouble has developed.

A study recently made under the auspices of the Philadelphia Court of
Domestic Relations seems to show somewhat better results from court
reconciliations than might have been expected. One thousand and two
couples who were reconciled in court during the year 1916 were visited
from six to eighteen months later. Three hundred and ten had separated
or had had further differences which brought them to court; 87 could not
be found, and 605, or about 60 per cent, were found to be still living
together, though with a varying degree of marital happiness, as the
report somewhat drily states.[37]

It should be said that many of these families were probably under the
supervision of a probation officer for a longer or shorter period after
the reconciliation took place. There is no statement as to the number of
repeated deserters among the men, and we cannot estimate how many of the
605 fell within the group which might chance to have the proper basis
for reconciliation.

The practice of the Desertion Bureau maintained by the New York
Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor is as a rule not to
advise reconciliations without a definite preliminary period during
which the man shall contribute regularly and show that he means
business. "The kind of reconciliation that lasts is the one that is
effected with some difficulty to the man," its secretary remarked. The
same probation department which furnished the stories of hasty and
unsuccessful reconciliations,[38] contributes this remarkable account of
the restoration of a family through slow and careful character

    George Latham had shamefully neglected his wife and children for
    several years. He drank to excess, gambled considerably, and
    associated with women of loose character. He came from good stock,
    however, and his early training had been excellent. The differences
    between man and wife seemed impossible to adjust. After the man's
    release on probation, the co-operation of relatives was secured and
    through the aid of his new found employer efforts were made toward a
    reconciliation. The man was gradually led away from his old harmful
    pursuits and tendencies, these being replaced by wholesome
    activities. He was induced to join a fraternal organization, to take
    out insurance for his wife and child, was encouraged to attend
    church regularly, and to open a bank account. When his sincerity was
    appreciated by the wife, she agreed to resume housekeeping. Under
    the direction of the probation officer, new furniture was purchased
    and the home re-established. This man today holds a responsible
    position under the employer who aided in his rehabilitation, and
    occupies a respected place in the community.

Very many processes are indicated in such a story. To bring about the
conviction of wrong-doing, to awaken desire and supply an incentive, to
keep the hope of attainment alive, to encourage weakened nerves in a new
and persistent effort, and all the while to build and strengthen and
develop faculties and powers that had been dormant and well-nigh
destroyed, is a task that demands a high order of skill and

The story just told emphasizes the work which was done with the husband.
Equally careful work had undoubtedly to be done with the wife to carry
her along with the plan. The period of "stay-away probation" for the man
is a difficult time for the woman. Neighbors and friends know that he is
taking steps in the direction of reformation, and often hold the
attitude that it is her duty to let bygones be bygones and receive him
again. The promptings of her own heart are often in the same direction;
and affection not outlived combines with custom, religious precept, and
economic pressure to make it almost impossible to hold to her decision.
The social worker can sometimes slip some of the burden of the decision
off the woman's shoulders to her own by exacting a promise from the two
that they will not try living together until the man has "shown what he
can do" for a certain definite time. The economic pressure can be eased
by a wise policy of relief; but most of all such a woman needs continued
encouragement from a person whose judgment and kindliness she has
learned to trust. This is another good point at which to introduce the
right kind of volunteer visitor, one who will already have established
friendly relations with both when the time of readjustment comes, and
who can help bridge over that difficult period. In some cases it might
be possible and desirable to procure as volunteer visitors to a couple
whose marital relations have come to shipwreck, another married couple
who have learned how to live together successfully.

The use of carefully chosen volunteers in effecting reconciliations by
the case work method has been singularly little developed. In this
respect modern theory and practice have both fallen behind.[39]
Especially is it an opportunity to enlist the service of men, whom it is
easy to interest in a problem that seems to focus about the man of the
family. A man volunteer can search for a deserter in places where a
woman, by being conspicuous, would defeat her own end. "Located man by
mingling with longshoremen on the docks where he usually worked" could
hardly be the entry of a woman visitor. A man can also be very useful in
court cases, to counteract the prejudice that sometimes exists in court
rooms against the testimony of social workers who are women. In the more
subtle processes of winning the man's confidence and helping him to
regenerate his life and recover his home there is no preponderance of
testimony in favor of the man visitor. Sex lines vanish here; the good
case worker, man or woman, volunteer or professional, is the person

Sometimes the difficulty is not to deter the wife from prematurely
taking her husband back but to induce her to relent when the proper time

    Martin Long was intemperate, his wife was high-tempered; her
    relatives advised her to leave him and he deserted, leaving the
    relatives to provide for her and the three children. He was away two
    years; then, becoming homesick and wanting to re-establish his home
    if possible, he returned. The wife caused his arrest when he was
    seeking an interview with her. The probation officer in whose care
    he was released became convinced of his genuine sincerity and
    regret, but the wife, still on the advice of her relatives, refused
    to see him. He persisted in his hope of a reconciliation and made
    extraordinary efforts during a winter of industrial depression,
    putting his pride in his pocket and taking laborer's work, which he
    had never done before. He finally got a good position and saved
    money enough to begin housekeeping. The probation officer kept in
    touch with the wife, first persuading her to receive a letter from
    Mr. Long and answer it through the probation office. He interested
    her in the details of her husband's struggle, and finally, after a
    whole year of probation and with the help of her pastor, he induced
    her to return. The probation officer kept in close touch with the
    family for some months and reports: "Three years have elapsed since
    that time; the family is now in a nearby city where they are living
    harmoniously and in comfortable circumstances."

A case worker who is remarkable for her success in the treatment of
estranged couples, when asked how she did it answered laconically,
"talks and talks and talks." A study of her case records, however, shows
certain points that recur again and again in her treatment.

She encourages man and wife, separately, to talk out their grievances
thoroughly and get everything out of their systems. She then proceeds
(with a lavish expenditure of time, as indicated in her phrase) to
convince each that she is a friend, but an impartial friend. She does
not push for an immediate reconciliation, is much more likely to
recommend a temporary separation until tempers cool down and the true
facts appear. She always advises strongly against "argument" and
"casting up" the past, and tells the couple to come back to her if they
want to discuss their grievances further. Above all, they are not to
retail their troubles to relatives and friends. If either or both are
out of the city during their separation she keeps in close touch with
them by letter. She is quick to utilize their interest in their children
as a means of reawakening their interest in each other. The following
letters illustrate her method. The first was written to a young man who
was serving a six months' sentence for desertion; the others to the same
young man after he had begun a manful struggle to "come back," working
in a munitions plant in another state and later sending money regularly
to the wife, who still obdurately refused to forgive him. (The letters
are part of a series of 27 which were written to him during a ten
months' period.)

    _My dear Mr. Andrews:_

    I was ever so glad to get your letter this week and I am sorry that
    no one has been over [to the workhouse] to see you recently. I will
    surely be over within the next two weeks. I know you are anxious and
    you should have had a letter telling you about the children. They
    are both all right now and the baby is out of the hospital.

    We have had a nice talk with your aunt and she is very anxious to
    come over and see you. We will all get together and try and plan
    what is the right thing to do when you come out. I will arrange it
    so we can have a little longer talk this time if possible.

    Very truly yours,

    _My dear Mr. Andrews:_

    Your long letter has just arrived. I read it with a great deal of
    interest and pleasure. It is fine to know you have already arrived
    and have started out to make good on your promises.

    I got your cards during the week, which brought the news of your
    journey. Also on Tuesday morning came your last letter, expressing
    your appreciation for all we had tried to do for you and enclosing
    two more thrift stamps for the children. I put these in their books.

    Yesterday I had a nice long letter from your father, enclosing one
    for me to give to you. I am sending it on just as it is. I was very
    much tempted to read it but have not done so. The reason I was
    tempted was that I know it must be full of happiness to think you
    have made such a good start. At least that was the tone of the
    letter he wrote to me.

    During the past years I have worked for this society I have seen
    many people "come back" strong, and always it has been because they
    had some big motive in life and reason for making good. But I have
    seldom known a fellow that had so many reasons why he should make
    good. You have the confidence of your father and your aunt. You have
    the children for whom you will do right. You have Clara, whom you
    have wronged and whom you will have to teach all over again to trust
    you. Surely all these things added to your own firm will to try and
    undo all the unhappiness you have given people, ought to help you
    every day as you prove the good stuff that is in you.

    I, of course, telephoned Clara of your starting off and yesterday
    she came to the office and we had a long talk. She is only sorry
    that you did not see the baby and says she will be only too glad to
    have special pictures taken of the children to send you. This was
    after I suggested that she let me take a snapshot of them to send

    Be sure and write to your father and aunt often. And please remember
    my last instructions, which were to let me know fully about
    yourself. When you write, tell me all about the camp life; how they
    arrange the living; how long hours you have to work; what they give
    you for recreation, etc. Pick out for your friends men who can help
    you, not hinder you, in your good determinations, and hope there
    will be at least one man there in whom you can trust and to whom you
    can go for advice.

    I will let you know about the children all the time. Clara says
    Nellie [the small daughter] was expecting to see you again. Don't
    worry, she will never forget you.

    With all good wishes,
    Sincerely yours,

    _My dear Mr. Andrews:_

    I received your long letter this morning and was very glad to hear
    all the details of camp life. It is too bad that your surroundings
    are not more comfortable, but I am sure you can stick it out for
    awhile. If you can raise yourself to be foreman, will you then have
    to live in the same uncomfortable quarters? Although I don't know
    the details, I should think it would be well if you did sign up for
    the six months. It is too bad that your throat is still hoarse.

    Thank you for letting me see your father's letter. I am enclosing
    it. I hope you are keeping in touch with him.

    You asked especially about Clara and whether she asked for you. Of
    course she did, and she wants me to say if there is anything you
    want to say to her you can send the letter here and she will write
    you. She thinks that your ambition and determination to make good is
    fine, and she will try and help you in every way. She has not been
    in this week and I have been very busy, but I shall make it my
    business to see her early next week, and if she has not had the
    pictures of the children taken, I will get that attended to myself.

    So far as I can see there is absolutely nothing for you to worry
    about from this end of the line. Clara is at last, I think, as fully
    self-convinced as I am that you are making a splendid effort, and
    she is perfectly willing to be fair in waiting until you have a
    chance to get turned around financially and in making first payment
    for the children.

    Next week I am going to send you down a book to read. It is one I
    have enjoyed myself, and perhaps some evenings when you are not too
    tired you will get a chance to glance over it. It is small and you
    can put it in your pocket. Be very sure I have not forgotten the
    very satisfactory talks we had and the splendid way you have grimly
    started out to make good. If you can help the Government do their
    work, even down there, give it a good try out. Never mind the
    different nationalities you have to mix with. You have already
    knocked around the world so much that you can just consider this
    another opportunity of getting to know a great variety of people.
    You might even learn to talk Italian and Greek! There is no
    experience in life we have to go through but can be a source of
    great education to us. You are sure to win out and get the respect
    of everybody, your fellow-workmen as well as your superior officers,
    if you continuously day in and day out simply refuse to get
    discouraged and keep up your work and do as you are told. Stick by.

    With all good wishes,
    Sincerely yours,

But when all is said and done, there are no unbreakable rules about
treatment. A form of treatment is sometimes to do nothing at all.

    Charles Morgan, a middle-aged machinist with a wife, a comfortable
    home, and seven children (the two eldest grown), picked up his tools
    and disappeared, after a quarrel over his wife's extravagance. He
    had been earning $50 a week in a shop where he had worked for
    eighteen years and he would not endure having his wages garnisheed
    for debt.

    An experienced case worker to whom furious Mrs. Morgan made her
    complaint, decided, after studying Mr. Morgan's record, that he
    ought not to be prosecuted, and refused to be party to it. As he was
    a man of domestic habits, search was made in a nearby city where he
    had relatives. He was easily traced. Mr. Morgan was both proud and
    reticent, so the case worker made no attempt to approach him, but
    told the woman she must devise some way to get him back, preferably
    to write him and say she was sorry. This she refused to do and on
    her own responsibility adopted the clumsy device of wiring him that
    a favorite child was sick. This brought him "on the run," and, being
    back, he stayed. _The case worker has never seen Mr. M._, nor has
    his wife been encouraged to come any more to the office, although
    reports have been received from time to time through the son and
    daughter that things at home continue to go well.


[33] See p. 179 regarding equity powers of the courts.

[34] Massachusetts social workers succeeded in 1917 in securing the
passage of a law which permits the ordinary non-support law to be
invoked in case of the man's failure to pay the amount ordered after a
legal separation.

[35] See p. 13 sq.

[36] Colcord, J.C.: Article on "Desertion and Non-support." _Annals of
the American Academy of Political and Social Science_, May, 1918, p. 95.

[37] Philadelphia Municipal Court, Report for 1916, p. 64.

[38] See p. 133.

[39] Miss Richmond, writing in 1895, says: "We would rather have a
hundred visitors, patient, intelligent and resourceful, to deal with the
married vagabonds of our city, than the best law ever framed, if, in
order to get such a law, we must lose the visitors."



Many of the case workers consulted in gathering material for this book
urged that a discussion of the treatment of the non-supporter who had
not deserted be included in its pages. In so far as non-support is a
pre-desertion symptom and the non-supporter a potential deserter, much
that has been said applies also to him. But are the two groups
co-terminous, or do they only partially overlap?

The law makes little difference in its treatment of the two, the fact of
failure to support being the chief ground of its interest.[40] Indeed,
in Massachusetts, the law under which deserters are extradited for
abandonment is habitually spoken of as the "non-support law."

No study of which the results are available has been made to learn what
difference, if any, exists between the non-supporter who leaves home and
the one who does not. Miss Breed, in making the point that the true
analogy of the deserted family is with the non-supported family and not
with the widow and her children, says: "The deserting husband is at home
the non-supporting husband."[41]

    A case reader of experience writes: "When I look back over the many
    records I have read and studied, it seems to me that it is very
    difficult to draw a line between desertion and non-support cases,
    either in the kind of problem they present, or in the treatment of
    them. Do we know enough about non-supporters who later become
    deserters; and isn't it possible that every non-support case,
    certainly every beginning non-support case, is a potential desertion

There is no doubt that the two groups grade imperceptibly into each
other; but of the twenty or more case workers who were consulted in the
preparation of this material, nearly all felt that the out-and-out
deserter, if he can be got hold of, is more promising material to work
with than the man who sits about the home and lets others maintain it.
They all recognize a common middle ground where the two groups merge
into each other; but they see decided differences in the two "wings" so
to speak, outside of this common ground.

Seen through their eyes, the non-supporter has less courage, initiative
and aggressiveness than the deserter. "He is less deliberately
cruel--for at least he 'sticks around.'" He has not the roving
disposition, but is apt to be intemperate and industrially inefficient
as compared with the deserter. Often the married vagabond, as he has
been called, is a "home-loving man who simply shirks responsibility and
dislikes effort." He may "sometimes feel parental responsibility even
though he does not support," and he is likely to have less physical and
mental stamina than the deserter. That phrase in which the psychiatrists
take refuge, "constitutional inferiority," is more likely to describe
the stay-at-home than the wanderer. However, one social worker
(non-medical) says "a mental twist more often enters into the problem of
the deserter than into that of the non-supporter, from my experience."

The head of a large probation department writes: "Many of the deserters
with whom we have dealt were non-supporters before coming to our
attention. Among the men convicted of abandonment, however, is a group
which is above the average in intelligence--skilled workers or men in
professional occupations."

If this concurrence of observation is sound the reason for the social
worker's preference for the deserter as material with which to work is
not far to seek. With the deserter as described, the problem is chiefly
to alter his point of view; with the non-supporter it is, in addition,
to stiffen his will and to increase his capacity--a far more complicated

"The deserter is likely to have less justification than the
non-supporter," says an observer of long experience. Studies which have
been made of the relative capacity of the wives of deserters and of
non-supporters seem to agree that the latter have the weaker characters
and are less competent and successful workers. A comment made upon one
such study points out the impossibility of sound conclusions, if both
chronic and incipient cases are included in the two groups. The
progressive demoralization in the family of the "intermittent husband"
makes such a study of little value unless this distinction is taken into

The influence of ill-kept homes in the manufacture of non-supporting
husbands has been widely recognized.

    A drunkard's daughter, who had never known a decent home, married a
    young man who soon began to drink too. Luckily, the young couple
    were brought in touch with a volunteer visitor who, on finding that
    the wife possessed only two kitchen utensils, a teakettle and a
    "frypan," and actually did not know the names of any others,
    undertook to give her lessons in home management. She proved
    teachable, and her husband stopped drinking and braced up. Some
    years later the visitor was able to report a well established home,
    although the family refused to move out of the poor neighborhood in
    which they lived because the husband had been elected councilman for
    that district.

If the inefficient wife contributes her share to this form of family
breakdown so also does the overefficient one. Many a non-supporter got
his first impulse in that direction when his wife became a wage-earner
in some domestic crisis. "There's only one rule for women who want to
have decent homes for their children and themselves," advised a wise
neighbor. "If your husband comes home crying, and says he can't find any
work, sit down on the other side of the fire and cry until he

One case worker comments on the relation that often exists between an
inefficient husband and an unusually competent wife, made up of a
motherly toleration on her side and a tacit acceptance on his that he is
not expected to be the provider. "Sort of a landlady's husband" was the
apt description of one such man, the speaker having in mind the "silent
partner" who does odd jobs around his wife's furnished-room house. The
lovable old rascal portrayed by Frank Bacon in his play "Lightnin'" is
typical of this kind of husband.

There is no ground for outside interference in such an arrangement as
long as both are satisfied and the family as a unit is self-supporting.
It is often a serious problem to the case worker, however, to know how
to treat such a family if the breadwinner-wife becomes incapacitated.
Such was the case when Mrs. Laflin fell ill with tuberculosis. Her
relatives described her husband as "that little nonentity of a man." He
had no bad habits and was pathetically eager to work, but though only a
little over fifty he was prematurely aged and incapable. The solution
had finally to be institutional care for the entire family, Mrs. Laflin
in a hospital for incurables, Mr. Laflin in a home for the aged, and
their two young daughters, through the interest of a former employer, in
a good convent school. "Uncomplicated" non-support, as in the case of
Mr. Laflin, is, however, rare in the experience of the social worker.

Out of a group of 51 non-supporters selected at random from the records
of the Buffalo Charity Organization Society in 1917, 46 showed some
serious moral fault other than non-support. Alcoholism is probably the
commonest of these complications; and, as has been pointed out in the
previous chapter, is probably a primary cause as well. It will be a
matter of great interest to social workers whether the "non-support
rate" is reduced after July 1, 1919. Grounds for hope that it may be are
found in the fact that some remarkable results have been obtained by
moving alcoholic non-supporters and their families from "wet" into "dry"

Another vice that has a direct relation to non-support (much more direct
than to desertion) is gambling. The gambler carries no signs of his vice
upon his person as does the inebriate, and it is therefore hard to
detect. It undoubtedly does not appear in social case records as
frequently as it should. Case workers should have it in mind as a
possible explanation, whenever there is a marked discrepancy between
what a non-supporter earns and what he contributes to the home.

With the non-supporters rather than with the deserters should be put
the group of men whose wives tire of supporting them and either put them
out or leave them. These men are often not only morally, but mentally
and physically, so handicapped that there is nothing to be gained by
constantly pursuing and arresting them, although some wives extract the
sweets of revenge from doing just this. Few courts of domestic relations
are without some wives as regular patrons who pursue their husbands not
for gain but for sport. For the most part, however, the wives of such
men are philosophical. "I only wash for meself now," said one of them.

These men, and the unreclaimed deserters, doubtless make up a large part
of the floating population of homeless men in our large cities. How
large a part it is impossible to say, for they are likely to give
assumed names and deny the possession of families. Mrs. Solenberger[43]
has noted, however, that if they are asked, not "Are you married?" but a
less direct question such as "Where is your wife now?" a story of
unfortunate married life will often be elicited. Until we have some
better method of inter-city registration of homeless men, many of these
who otherwise might be identified and in suitable cases brought back,
will continue to slip through our fingers.

With non-support in an incipient stage,[44] it is sometimes possible to
deal so suddenly and effectively that the man is shocked into a better
realization of his responsibilities.

    A young Irish rigger, with a capable wife and two pretty babies,
    lost his job after a quarrel with his boss rigger. He was a genial,
    popular chap, always "the life of the party" in his circle; and his
    companions encouraged him to feel that he was a much injured man.
    They also helped him to fill his enforced leisure with too much
    beer. When the family received a dispossess notice the wife's
    patience was at an end, and acting on the advice of a society
    engaged in family case work, she put the furniture in storage and
    went to a shelter where she could leave her children in the daytime,
    while she was at work, and have them with her at night. The man was
    told to shift for himself until he could get together sufficient
    money to re-establish the home. The arrangement continued for nearly
    two months, during which the man lived in lodging houses, had an
    attack of stomach trouble, and was altogether thoroughly miserable.
    Every night he waited for a word with his wife on a corner that she
    had to pass in coming from work. Finally, when it seemed to the
    social worker and to the wife that his lesson had gone far enough,
    the home was re-established, with only a small amount of help from
    the society. During the five years since that time, no recurrence of
    the trouble has come to the attention of the agency interested.

This experiment was realized to be a ticklish one, as a man less
sincerely attached to his home might have been turned into a vagabond by
such treatment.

In general, it may be said that, as there is less to work on
constructively with the non-supporter, court action has more often to be
invoked. If the non-supporter is a "chronic," his path must not be
allowed to be too easy. "Sometimes you just have to keep pestering him"
was the way one social worker put it. A Red Cross Home Service worker
successfully shocked one elderly non-supporter into going to work, as
described in one of the Red Cross publications:

    "Well, Mr. Gage," I said, "I see you're not working yet."

    "No, Mrs. Cox, the coal company promised to send for me."

    "Well," I said, "I think you've been pretty fair with that company.
    You've waited on it for three months now. If I had the offer of
    another job I'd feel perfectly free to take it, if I were you."

    "Yes," he said, "I think I should."

    "All right, I have a job for you," said I. "My husband wants a man
    now at his garage, to clean automobiles. The hours are from 6 p.m.
    to 6 a.m., and you'll earn $15 a week."

    His paper fell from his hands to the floor; his jaw dropped, and he
    just looked at me. Then he tried to crawl out of it and began to
    make excuses.

    "I haven't time to argue with you, Mr. Gage," I said. "I'll keep the
    job open till seven o'clock tonight and you can let me know then
    whether you'll take it or not."

    At seven he came to say he'd take the job.[45]

If in desertion cases the interest centers very vividly about the absent
man, in non-support cases the reverse is likely to be true, because he
is often not very interesting per se, and because, moreover, he is
always on the spot and does not have to be searched for. Familiarity
certainly breeds contempt for the non-supporter. Consequently the social
worker may easily fall into the danger of disregarding the human factors
he presents, and either treating the family as if he did not exist or
expending no further effort on him than to see that he "puts in" six
months of every year in jail if possible (since the law usually secures
to him the privilege of loafing the other six). It is not safe, however,
to regard even the most leisurely of non-supporters as beyond the
possibility of awakening. One district secretary who had thus given a
man up had the experience of seeing him transformed into a steady worker
after a few months of intensive effort by a first-year student in a
school of social science, whose only equipment for the job was
personality and enthusiasm. So remarkable are some of the reclamations
that have been brought about with seemingly hopeless non-supporters that
all possible measures should be tried before giving one of them up.

    His Scotch ancestry, a good wife, luck, and a friend with insight
    and skill, pulled Aleck Gray out of that bottomless pit, the
    gutter. Aleck had been a bookkeeper; but he didn't get on well with
    his employers, lost his job, got to drinking, and went so far
    downhill that his wife had to take their two children and go home to
    her people several hundred miles away. Aleck finally drifted into a
    bureau for homeless men, where the agent became interested in him
    and worked with him for six months, getting him job after job, which
    he always lost through drink or temper. He seemed incapable of
    taking directions or working with other people. In all that time the
    agent felt that he was getting no nearer the root of Aleck's
    trouble, though he came back after each dismissal and doggedly took
    whatever was offered. Finally, the agent's patience wore thin, and
    when Aleck had been more than usually dour and aggravating it went
    entirely to pieces. Aleck listened to his outburst apparently
    unmoved; then said, "Very well, if you want to know what would make
    me stop drinking, I'll tell you. If I could see any ray of hope that
    I was on the way to getting my home and family back, I'd stop and
    stop quick." On the agent's desk there happened to be a letter from
    a friend who wanted a tenant farmer. He thrust it into Aleck's hand
    saying, "There's your chance if you mean what you say." The man's
    reply was to ask when he could get a train. At the end of several
    weeks Aleck wrote that he had not drunk a drop and was making good,
    which was enthusiastically confirmed by his employer. He begged the
    agent to intercede with his wife, and a letter went to her which
    brought the telegraphic reply, "Starting tomorrow."

    How they got through the first winter the agent never knew exactly.
    But they pulled through and the next year was easy, as country-born
    Aleck's skill came back. Six years later, during which time the
    agent heard from them once or twice a year, Aleck was still keeping
    straight, the children were doing well in school, and the family,
    prosperous and happy, had bought a farm of their own in another


[40] The deserter who does not fail to support is usually safe from
punishment no matter how aggravated his offense. A man living with his
wife and five-year-old boy in an eastern city eloped with another woman
to a city in the Middle West. The couple kidnapped the boy and took him
with them; and the distracted woman, bereft of both her husband and
child, had no recourse in any court, since the father was continuing to
provide for his son.

[41] Proceedings of the New York State Conference of Charities and
Correction, 1910, p. 76.

[42] Loane, M.: The Queen's Poor, p. 102. London, Edward Arnold, 1905.

[43] Solenberger, Alice Willard: One Thousand Homeless Men, p. 22. New
York, Russell Sage Foundation, 1911.

[44] For a consideration of possible lines of treatment for the
non-supporter and his family, the reader is referred to Chapter VII,
where is discussed the treatment of the deserter who is willing to

[45] Behind the Service Flag, pamphlet ARC 211, American Red Cross,
Department of Civilian Relief.



Any discussion of laws, their application, and enforcement, must
perforce be very general, since the different states vary greatly in
laws governing desertion and in equipment for their enforcement.
Suggestions for a uniform federal desertion law are not considered here;
the term "next steps" should be read as meaning not plans in actual
prospect but rather the increase in legal facilities desirable from the
social worker's point of view. In communities where no such facilities
exist, social workers are in a good position to collect illustrative
material and push for desirable changes in law and law enforcement.
Especially advantageous is the position of the legal social agencies
such as legal aid societies and special bureaus and committees for
increasing the efficiency of the courts, many of which are affiliated
with or maintained by the large family work societies.

1. Measures for the Discovery, Extradition or Deportation of the
Deserter.--The nation-wide registration of males between certain ages,
under the Selective Service Act, was widely utilized by social workers
in finding deserting men, with the hearty co-operation usually of the
draft boards. This fact forms no argument for universal registration as
it was carried on in Germany before the war; no system which meant such
cumbersome machinery or so much interference with the freedom of the
individual ought to be advocated for a moment if it were solely for the
purpose of keeping track of the small percentage of citizens who wish to
evade their responsibilities, marital and other. Even such a
non-military device as that which obligates every person to register
successive changes of address with the postal authorities to facilitate
delivery of mail would be contrary to the American spirit and easily
evaded by people interested in concealing their whereabouts, unless
enforced with all the rigor of the European police system. But though
we can advocate no system of manhood registration, we can avail
ourselves of the incidental benefits of any that may be in force.

The Federal Employment Service offers a promising means of help in
discovering the movements of deserters whose trade and probable
destination are known. It should be entirely possible to work out a
system by which the managers of the local employment bureaus should be
furnished with name, description, copy of photograph, and so on, of a
deserter who is being sought, so that the man if recognized could be
traced or quickly apprehended if a warrant is already in the hands of
the local police authorities. It may even be possible, under the federal
employment service, to develop the long wished for national registration
of casual and migratory labor. Need for some such system has been felt
by all agencies trying to deal constructively with vagrants and homeless
men. Little track can be kept not only of the individual wanderer but of
the ebb and flow of the tides of "casual labor" without some system of
this sort. If employment bureaus were required to forward to a central
registry the names and some identifying particulars of every
non-resident who applied for employment, the problem of finding the
deserter would be rendered ten times easier than it is now.

One present obstacle to this and other improvements is the attitude of
authorities--city, state, and federal--toward wife desertion. We have
already mentioned the way in which the task of tracing the deserter has
been thrust back upon the wife and the social worker, as if he were not
an offender against the community as well as against his wife and
children. Almost as widespread is the reluctance of the proper
authorities to arrest the deserter and bring him back after he has been
found. A general atmosphere of indifference and despair of accomplishing
anything worth while surrounds any attempt to push the prosecution of a
man who has taken refuge outside the community. Hope for the future lies
in socializing the point of view of court officials, police, and
district attorneys--a process in which the social worker must play a
large part. No chance should be lost to drive home the social and
economic waste involved, by using the illustrative material which
abounds in the files of most case work agencies.

The pernicious system by which the wife is required to serve summons and
warrant upon the offending husband who is still in the same city, should
be done away with entirely. The social agency, public or private, which
has had to support or assist the man's family ought to be able to prefer
a charge for non-support, and to take out a summons or a warrant and
serve it without the wife's being present. The agency should in this
case protect itself by securing from the wife a signed affidavit and
authorization to act in her behalf. It may seem unimportant whether the
wife makes such complaint in the court or to a private society. The
psychological effect upon the man is, however, very different. If his
wife initiates the complaint in court, his resentment is directed toward
her--a fact which renders reconciliation more difficult if this is later
attempted. In other cases, for the wife to make the complaint puts her
in actual physical danger from the vindictive husband. If he is brought
into court on the complaint of a social agency, part of that resentment
at least is transferred to the intrusive social worker, who is not
usually seriously troubled thereby and is far better able to bear the
weight of the husband's displeasure than is his poor wife.

The absence of any treaty with Great Britain by which family deserters
can be extradited to or from Canada makes the Dominion a place of refuge
for many American evaders of family responsibilities. The National
Conference of Charities and Correction,[46] at its meeting in Cleveland
in 1912, passed a resolution on the need for such a treaty. As a result,
largely through the efforts of Mr. William H. Baldwin, the treaty was
signed and sent to the Senate for ratification in December, 1916. It was
referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations, where it met with
objection and has remained without action up to the present. The
National Conference of Jewish Charities, at its meeting in Kansas City
in May, 1918, sent urgent representations to the Senate Committee, which
it is hoped may result in ratification after the pressure of war-time
legislation is relaxed.

We should not stop when reciprocal extradition with Canada has been
secured; there is a similar situation on our southern border in states
from which escape into Mexico is easy. While American deserters are not
likely to go to other more remote countries than these two, immigration
into America from other countries creates desertion problems in other
places and presents us with a class of undesirables with whom it is
difficult to deal under existing immigration laws. In 1912 a report was
submitted to the Glasgow Parish Council showing the alarming amount of
dependency created in that one city by the emigration to America and the
Colonies of men without their families, and who subsequently drifted
into the status of deserters. This report makes the interesting
suggestion that no married man be permitted to emigrate without his
family unless he presents a "written sanction of the Parish Council or
other local authority," and further, that he be bound, under penalty of
deportation, to report himself to some authority in the country of his
destination, which would satisfy itself as to his conduct and insure
that he did his duty by wife and family.[47] Such a provision would of
course involve the revision of our own immigration laws, making wife and
family desertion a crime thereunder.

At present the law provides deportation only within five years after
entry, and for "persons who have been convicted of or admit having
committed a felony or other crime or misdemeanor involving moral
turpitude," or who are sentenced to a term of one year or more in this
country, within five years of entry, for such crime (or who may suffer a
second conviction at any time after entry). This would clearly cover
bigamy committed within five years after entry; whether it could be
stretched to cover lesser forms of marital irresponsibility remains to
be determined. (It should be remembered that a man who brings in as his
wife, or later sends for, a woman to whom he is not married, can be
deported under quite other sections of the immigration law.)

2. Improvements in Court Procedure.--A sore point with the social
worker is the often ridiculously inadequate amounts that unwilling
husbands are put under court order to pay. They accuse the courts,
whether rightly or wrongly, of considering first what part of the man's
alleged earnings will be needed for him to live upon comfortably, and
then of making the order for whatever may be left over.

    Onofrio Mancini was under court order to stay away from home and pay
    his wife $6.00 a week for the support of their two children, He
    drove a two-horse truck, and, at that time, must have been earning
    not less than $16.00 a week. Mrs. Mancini fell ill, whereupon
    Onofrio promptly ceased all payments. The social agency interested
    was permitted to make a complaint on producing a doctors certificate
    that Mrs. Mancini could not appear in court; but Onofrio, when he
    appeared, put up such a hard luck tale of earning only $8.00 a week
    that the judge, without investigation, cut the order down to $4.00 a
    week and _ordered Onofrio to return home to live_.

A bulletin issued by the Seybert Institution of Philadelphia gives a
very interesting set of diagrams showing the relation (or lack of
relation) between the amount of man's income, size of family, and the
court order issued in the Philadelphia Municipal Court.[48]

This report gives a series of illustrations, where glaring
inconsistencies between the man's earnings and the court order were
observed by visitors to the court. A sample of the reports made by these
visitors is as follows:

    "Man earning $30 to $40 a week at ammunition factory. Can earn $20
    with no overtime. Has been sending woman $10 a week but has
    threatened to leave town. Judge said: 'You can't keep up $10 a
    week--how much can you give?' Finally ordered $8 a week. Woman said
    she couldn't live on that and Judge told her she had to go to work
    herself then; that they should live together anyway. Woman says she
    is unable to work--is ill. When man stated he was giving $10 great
    consternation seemed to take hold of the entire court force. He did
    not say he couldn't pay $10; the judge simply told him he couldn't
    keep that up."

The practice of assigning less than half the man's weekly earnings to
the wife and children has been defended on the ground that if he is
forced to live too economically, he will disappear and the family will
be left with nothing. This would seem to be a self-confession on the
part of the court that it cannot enforce its reasonable requirements. It
would appear that the first thing to be considered is the minimum needs
of the wife and children, taking into consideration whether the wife can
be expected to contribute anything toward her own support or whether all
her time is needed for her children. This amount should be cut down only
when there is actually not enough left for the man to live on; and his
wife and children should not be pinched for necessities in order that he
may have luxuries or indulge in vices. The habit some judges have of
accepting the man's own statement on oath as to what his earnings are is
responsible for many unjust orders. A man who does not want to
contribute to his family's support is almost sure to understate his
earnings, oath or no oath; and the confirmation of his employer (or when
the employer is suspected of being in league with him, the inspection of
the employer's books by the probation officer) is often needed. Probably
the most difficult form of evasion to combat is that of the man who
deliberately takes a lower salary than he is capable of earning, so as
to have less to give his wife. Surprising as it may seem, this is a
common practice; but skilful probation work can nevertheless find a

In cases of suspended sentence, payments ought always to be made through
the court and not handed by the man to his wife. It is better to have
the amount received and transmitted by some bureau attached to the
court, and so managed that the man can send the money in without
"knocking off work" to bring it and that the woman can receive it by
mail. The probation officer should not be bothered with the actual
handling of the money, but he should be promptly notified of any
delinquency in the payments.

Whether the man under court order is on probation or not, the cessation
of payments should automatically reopen the case. At present, in most
courts, the order goes by default until the wife comes in to make
another charge. This, through discouragement or fear of a beating from
the man, she often neglects; with the result that the orders of the
court mean little in the eyes of the men, and that arrears, once allowed
to mount up, are never cleared off.

This statement applies as well to long term orders for separate support
where the circumstances are such that no reconciliation is contemplated.
These orders are now made for a definite period of months, at the end of
which time the case drops unless the wife renews charges. A case of this
sort ought not to be terminable without a reinvestigation and final
hearing in court. Indeed it would seem, in such cases, that the children
involved should have at least as much protection as the children in
bastardy proceedings, and that the order should be made to cover the
term of years until the oldest child becomes of working age.

The most important step in advance with regard to payments is
undoubtedly the law which has been tried with signal success in the
District of Columbia and in the states of Ohio and Massachusetts,
requiring men serving prison sentences for non-support and abandonment
to be made to work, and a sum of money, representing their earnings, to
be turned over to their families.

In an interesting paper in the _Survey_ for November 20, 1909, entitled
"Making the Deserter Pay the Piper," Mr. William H. Baldwin discusses in
detail how this plan was made to work successfully in the District of

The movement for special courts to consider cases of juvenile
delinquency and marital relations has gained such headway that no word
needs to be said here in its favor. In communities where the volume of
court business permits such courts to be separately organized, they are
generally accepted as the only means of handling these matters. In
smaller communities the need may be met by setting aside regular
sessions of the magistrates' courts for this purpose.

Juvenile courts and domestic relations courts having proved a success
separately, there is a strong movement on foot to combine them into one
court, for which the name Family Court has been proposed.

A leader in this movement is Judge Hoffman of the Family Court of
Cincinnati, which he describes thus:

    "The Court of Cincinnati was organized for the purpose of dealing
    with the family as a unit and to ascertain possibly the cause of its
    disruption. It has exclusive jurisdiction in all divorce and alimony
    cases, and all matters coming under the Juvenile Court Act. It also
    has jurisdiction in cases of failure to provide. The ideal court
    would include in connection with the foregoing functions, adoption
    of children, the issuing of marriage licenses, and bastardy

One advantage of this plan is the economy it effects in the time of
probation officers. It is generally admitted that in children's court
cases it is the parents rather than the children who are really on
probation; and with two courts and two separate probation systems, we
may even have the anomaly of the same family being under the care of
two probation officers at once. Specialization can no further go! Other
leaders in the domestic relations court movement see little merit in the
proposal for a one-part family court. They think that, in the large
cities at least, the need would be better served by having the domestic
relations and juvenile courts under one roof, but as two separate and
distinct parts of the same court. All are agreed, however, that the
powers of one or the other of the two special courts should be enlarged
to cover bastardy cases, where this is not now done.

The domestic relations court, whether separate or as part of a family
court, ought to have equity powers, so that the usual rules of evidence
need not be so closely adhered to and more latitude could be allowed the
magistrate in disposing of cases, not necessarily according to ruling
and precedent but according to the social needs disclosed. A
constitutional amendment now pending in New York is a model for this
sort of legislation. It is in part as follows:

    "The legislature may establish children's courts and courts of
    domestic relations as separate courts or parts of existing courts,
    or courts hereafter to be created, and may confer upon them such
    equity and other jurisdiction as may be necessary for the
    correction, protection, guardianship and disposition of delinquent,
    neglected or dependent minors, and for the punishment and correction
    of adults responsible for or contributing to such delinquency,
    neglect or dependency, and to compel the support of a wife, child or
    poor relative by persons legally chargeable therewith who abandon or
    neglect to support any of them."[50]

Many courts of domestic relations which now exercise equity powers, such
as ordering that a man remain away from home or that a wife allow her
husband to see his children at stated times, do so without actual legal
warrant and subject at any time to appeal of counsel. The conferring of
equity powers on courts of domestic relations is a form of protection
both to the court and to its clients which social workers should stand
ready to work for.

Juvenile courts have in the main outstripped the domestic relations
courts in the use of physicians and psychiatrists. The best examples of
both these courts have, however, facilities for the making of physical
examinations and mental tests, where necessary, before adjudication.
Judge Hoffman says that the fact that so many cases in courts of
domestic relations disclose abnormal or perverted sex habits, makes
important the services of a psychiatrist accustomed to diagnosing these

In most states the jurisdiction of the courts of domestic relations
should be extended and co-ordinated. Few states escape some glaring
inconsistencies in the laws governing desertion and abandonment. There
is, for instance, much confusion between states as to whether a woman
whose husband brings her to a strange city and there deserts her must
prosecute him in the city where their home is or where the desertion
took place. Under certain circumstances the woman is forced to travel to
the city where her husband has gone, and bring action against him there,
if the courts in that place will entertain a suit. In New York state
there is no law which covers the case of a man who abandons his wife
while she is pregnant, if there is no other living child. To constitute
an extraditable crime there must have been abandonment of a child _in
esse_ not merely _in posse_.

But no institution, however carefully established by law, is any more
effective than the people who run it; and the usefulness of the domestic
relations court in any community depends entirely upon the
social-mindedness and freedom from political entanglement of the judge
and the amount and quality of probation service. From a social point of
view, the latter is more important than the former; for a bad decision
of the court can be mitigated by good case work later on, while a poor
probation officer may nullify the effects of the wisest judicial
decision ever made.

The importance of having enough probation officers to handle the work of
the court has already been touched upon. An overworked officer is
perforce an inefficient officer. He has usually to spend at least half
his time in the court and attending to the clerical end of his job. From
50 to 60 cases is probably all that one probation officer can be
expected to handle thoroughly at one time, if, as is to be hoped, he is
required to make careful preliminary investigations to be presented to
the judge _before_ the trial.

In training and in equipment for the job, probation officers should be
the equals of case workers in private agencies. Examinations for
probation officers ought to be conducted by social workers of skill and
high standards. A few months of cramming at a civil service school, or a
few weeks of volunteer visiting with some case working agency, should
not suffice to enable candidates to pass the examinations. The standards
should be high enough and the salaries sufficiently attractive to draw
into this field people who have successfully completed their
apprenticeship in the art of case work. Only then can the status of the
probation officer be raised to what it should be in the court itself.
The relation of the probation officer to the judge ought to be exactly
like the relation of the medical social worker to the physician--that of
a person acting under his direction in a general way, but with a special
contribution to make to the treatment of the case and with a recognized
standing as an expert in his own particular field.


[46] Now changed to The National Conference of Social Work.

[47] Motion, J.R.: Wife and Family Desertion: Emigration as a
Contributory Cause. Glasgow Parish Council, 1912.

[48] Handling of Cases by the Juvenile Court and Court of Domestic
Relations of the Philadelphia Municipal Court. Bulletin 2, Bureau for
Social Research, the Seybert Institution, Philadelphia, 1918.

[49] Hoffman, Charles W.: The Domestic Relations Court and Divorce, _The
Delinquent_, February, 1917.

[50] For a fuller discussion of equity powers see an article by Judge
C.F. Collins in the _Legal Aid Review_ for January, 1919.

[51] Hoffman, Charles W.: Domestic Relations Courts and Divorce. _The
Delinquent_, February, 1917.



At this time of writing it is too soon after the signing of the
armistice to make predictions as to what the Great War may do to
marriage. Whether desertion and divorce will increase or decrease it is
impossible to say, and the experience of Europe is beside the mark. The
war will leave traces on this generation--no doubt about that; but our
losses have not been heavy enough seriously to disturb the balance of
the sexes. The war, which has been to the common people of our country a
war of service and ideals, has erased much that was petty and selfish;
it has also caused nervous shocks and strains incalculable and
unimagined. Years from now we may be able to strike the balance, but
today this cannot be done. It is impossible also to say whether the
growing irresponsibility that was generally recognized to be
threatening married life in the years before the war is still operating
with like effect, or whether the full tide of emotion in which the world
has been lately submerged may have swept at least a part of it away.

We are dealing here, however, not so much with modifications in the
spirit of the times, as with prevention in the individual case.

One very fundamental claim can be made concerning marital shipwrecks;
namely, that the way to prevent many of them would have been to see that
the marriage never was allowed to take place. Marriage laws and their
enforcement form a whole subject in themselves which is now receiving
careful study, the results of which should be available shortly.[52]
This fact precludes any discussion of the subject here, though the
relation of our marriage laws to marital discord is so obvious that some
mention of the matter is necessary.

It was formerly the belief of students of family desertion that the
best way to prevent desertions was to punish them quickly and severely.
It should be said that this plan has never received a fair trial on a
large scale, for legal equipment has always lagged behind knowledge. It
may be true that just as a community can, within limits, regulate its
death rate by what it is willing to pay, so it can by repressive
measures regulate its desertion rate. But measures that keep the
would-be deserter in the home which constantly grows less of a home,
simply through fear of consequences if he left it, seem hardly a
desirable form of prevention from the social point of view. It would be
much better to catch the disintegrating family in whatever form of
social drag-net could be devised, and deal with it individually and
constructively along the lines which case work has laid down.

Is it possible, however, to recognize a "pre-desertion state?" And if
so, what are the danger signals? One case worker answers this question
sententiously: "Any influences which tend to destroy family solidarity
are possible signs of desertion." Another writes: "We have sometimes
found it possible to recognize a 'pre-desertion state' in the
intermittent deserter, where we know the conditions which previously led
to desertion, but I doubt whether we have very often been able to note
it in the case of first desertions. In general, I should say a growing
carelessness or a growing despondency as to his ability to care for his
family are danger signals in the man, of which it is well to keep

The conditions listed in Chapter II as "contributory factors" might in
certain combinations be decided danger signals of impending desertion.
Non-support itself is, indeed, one of the most common of such signals,
though a man who has dealt with hundreds of desertion cases maintained
recently that the best and most hopeful type of deserter is the one who
supports his family adequately up to the time of leaving home.

In the following case the items that led the case worker to suspect an
approaching desertion are set down in the order stated by her. The
couple were Irish; the man had never deserted before.

    (1) He had spoken with eagerness of the wages that were being earned
    in munition plants in a city a few hours away--said he would like to
    go to some of those munition places and see what he could make.

    (2) He was an intermittent drinker.

    (3) His work record was poor; employers said he was irregular and

    (4) Visitor felt he had never earned as much as he was easily
    capable of earning and was rather indifferent to the needs of his

    (5) The woman was willing to work--had applied for day nursery care,
    but visitor had persuaded the nursery not to accept the children.

After the visitor had stated the first two of the above items she
stopped, and did not add the more significant three that followed until
reminded that many workmen who drank intermittently were at that time
thinking enviously of munition factory wages; and that these hardly
constituted danger signals. The cumulative effect of all five items
cannot, however, be denied.

Another statement, similarly obtained, concerns a colored couple,
married about two years and with two children, the youngest less than a
month old. Man had been out of work and family had gone to live with

    (1) Man earns $20 a week but refuses to start housekeeping again,
    although they are seriously overcrowded--seven adults and five
    children in five rooms.

    (2) Woman says he makes her sleep on chairs so that he can get
    better rest.

    (3) He is seeing a good deal of another woman, a friend of the wife
    (wife's statement only).

    (4) Woman had applied for nursery care for both children so that she
    might go to work.

    (5) It transpires that she lived with him before marriage, and that
    the first child was a month old when the marriage took place. He
    "holds it over her."

    (6) Man had been married before and divorced.

    (7) The family's habits of recreation are changed; the man no longer
    "takes her out."

Such attempts to foretell the future are not infallible, of course; but
a listing process is a valuable aid to diagnosis, and, by its help, a
situation may be uncovered which tends toward complete family breakdown.
This may be taken in time and prevented; or, if separation is inevitable
it can be prepared for in advance, the necessary legal arrangements can
be made to protect the family, and the anxiety, suspense, and useless
effort avoided which a sudden and downright abandonment would cause.

But the trouble is that the problem seldom comes to the case worker
until matters have progressed farther than this. The real question
is--not how to recognize pre-desertion symptoms, but how to get hold of
families when these symptoms are in the incipient stage.

Mr. Hiram Myers, manager of the Desertion Bureau of the New York
Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor, who has made a
close study of the subject, holds the theory that the real period of
stress in marital adjustment comes not during the "critical first year,"
about which we have been told so much, but at a later period, which he
sets roughly at from the third to the fifth year after marriage. By this
time there are usually one or two babies, the wife's girlish charm has
gone, and the romance of the first attraction has vanished, while the
steady force of conjugal affection which should smooth their path
through the years ahead has not come to take its place. It is in this
middle period that longings for the delights of his care-free youth
begin to come back to a man; if he ever had the wandering foot, it
begins again to twitch for the road; of else his fancy is captured by
some other girl not tied down at home by children. It is at this time,
too, that endless discords and misunderstandings arise--that the last
bit of gilt crumbles off the gingerbread.

As a result of his observations, Mr. Myers feels sure that the majority
of first desertions take place somewhere from the third to the fifth
year after marriage. Miss Brandt's[53] careful statistical study of 574
deserted families shows that in nearly 46 per cent of the families the
first desertion took place before the fifth year of married life. Of
course the jars that may come in the earlier months of marriage are
seldom brought to the attention of social agencies, as it is usually the
presence of children in the family and the consequent burden upon the
wife which make such agencies acquainted with her.

It is to be hoped that further study will be made upon these points. It
is well known and accepted that the majority of first deserters are
young men; but if certain danger periods in married life can be
definitely recognized, many new possibilities in prevention and
treatment will be opened up.

A number of experiments and suggestions have lately been made which may
prove to be the means of recognizing marital troubles early. The
probation department of the Chicago Court of Domestic Relations some
years ago established a consultation bureau to which people might come
or be sent for advice on difficult matrimonial situations, and without
any court record being made. The Department of Public Charities of New
York City maintains a similar bureau which is, however, so closely
connected with the court that its clients make little distinction
between them.

In addition to such conscious efforts to reach out after marital tangles
in the pre-court stage, there has recently been an interesting though
accidental development in the city of Cleveland. During the thrift
campaign of 1918, several savings banks of that city conceived the idea
that their depositors could be induced and helped to save more money if
the banks opened a bureau for free advice to their patrons on household
management. This bureau is still in the experimental stage but it has
had an increasing clientele so far. One thing that has astonished its
management--but which causes no surprise in the mind of a social
worker--has been the great variety of problems other than those
connected with the family budget that have come to light in the bureau's
consultations. Particularly is this true of marital discord centering
about money affairs.

If such bureaus prove their usefulness there is no reason why they might
not be greatly extended, and why other agencies than banks (insurance
companies, for example) might not be eager thus to serve their
customers. This opens a new field for the home economist, but
incidentally it would appear that, in order to function successfully,
such bureaus would need to have access to the services of agencies
employing highly skilled social case workers. It is conceivable that, if
there are developed in our large cities consultation facilities under
social auspices for people who feel their marriages going wrong, and
want help and advice in righting them, such bureaus as those described
above would be excellent "feeders" for this new form of social service.

Family social agencies have been distinctly backward in some of their
approaches to the fundamental problems of family life. The failure of
most of them, for instance, to study or seek improvements in the laws
governing marriage or in their administration, is difficult of
explanation. Such a consultation service as that suggested does,
however, indicate a new point of departure in dealing with marital
relations which would seem to fall distinctly within the field of the
family case work agencies. It is time that these agencies began to find
means of dealing, not with the dependent family alone but with the
family in danger of becoming dependent--not with the family broken and
estranged only, but with the one whose bonds, even if cracking and
ill-adjusted, still hold.

Concretely, why should not family agencies establish such consultation
bureaus as have just been mentioned, distinct from their regular
activities and hampered by no suggestion in their title of association
with problems of dependency? Dr. William Healy of Boston ascribes much
of his success in getting the parents of defective and backward children
to bring them voluntarily for examination to the fact that the name of
his organization (the Judge Baker Foundation) conveys no hint of stigma
or inferiority. Here is a valuable lesson in right publicity.

A bureau of family advice such as has been suggested should be under
unimpeachable auspices from the point of view of medicine and
psychiatry; it should have the services not only of expert social
workers and experts in household management, but of doctors and
psychiatrists as well. If it could be run as a joint-stock enterprise,
in which courts and social agencies might be equally interested, so much
the better. Its investigations should be searching enough to discourage
applications from curiosity-mongers; but its services, like those of any
clinic, should be given for whatever the patient is able to pay. Its
relations, needless to say, should be entirely confidential, and as
privileged in the eyes of the law as are those of doctor, lawyer, and

It may be objected that people guard their marital infelicities too
jealously and are too loath to discuss them to come willingly to such a
place; that the idea involves a presumptuous interference in the private
lives of individuals. But neurologists know that people in increasing
numbers feel the need, under conditions of modern stress, for a safe
outlet and a chance to discuss their perplexities and find counsel.

Fifty years ago the interest now taken by the social and medical
professions in the question of whether mothers are rearing their infants
properly could not have been foreseen. The establishment of baby health
stations, or the activities of the Children's Bureau, would have been
looked upon as unwarranted interference between the child and its
mother, whose natural instincts could be depended upon to teach her how
to nourish it. This point of view is no longer held; and the community's
duty to take an interest in the upbringing of its children is never
questioned. Is it not conceivable that, before another half century has
rolled around, the community may take the same intelligent interest in
the conservation of the family, and that definite efforts, which are now
almost entirely lacking, may be made to stabilize and protect it?

Educational propaganda would, of course, have to be a definite part of
the work of such bureaus. By this is meant not such modern specialties
as "birth control," "sex hygiene," _et al._, though we may by that time
have enough authoritative information about sex psychology in marriage
to be able to afford some help along these lines. Instruction in the
_ethics_ of married life and parenthood is of even more fundamental
importance. The prevailing cynicism, the present low concepts of
marriage, should be vigorously combatted by such an organization.
Religious instruction would be, of course, beyond its scope; but it
should be able to work sympathetically with all creeds, supplementing
their teachings without seeking to duplicate them.

The services of such a bureau could not, of course, be forced upon
anyone who did not wish to avail himself or herself of them; but
definite though tactful efforts could be made to reach all young couples
(just as are now being made to reach young mothers) with information as
to where advice could be obtained.

No trustworthy figures exist as to the number of families broken by
desertion or divorce in the United States, or as to the burden of actual
dependency caused. Courts, probation officers, psychiatrists, and family
case workers are all dissatisfied with our efforts to patch up the
families which are already disintegrating. One of the three groups
mentioned is likely before long to attempt some more dynamic attack upon
the problem in its inception. If any suggestions herein contained find
use in that program, the labor of compiling them will have been indeed
well spent.


[52] See, for example, American Marriage Laws in their Social Aspects--a
preliminary study by the Russell Sage Foundation, June, 1919.

[53] Brandt, Lilian: 574 Deserters and their Families, p. 23. Charity
Organization Society of New York, 1905.


Adolph R.: case story of, 69-70, 83

Age: relation of differences in, 27

Agencies: N.Y. Charity Organization Society, 44;
  National Desertion Bureau, 65, 69, 71. 101;
  United Hebrew Charities, 71;
  co-operative methods, 72-78, 84, 86-90;
  opinions on methods of arrest, 77, 78;
  N.Y. Association for Improving Condition of the Poor, 136;
  social problems and consultation bureaus, 195-199

Alcoholism: statistics on, 22;
  devastating effects of, 42;
  case story of woman, 57-61;
  and justifiable deserters, 111-114;
  relation to non-support, 156

_American Marriage Laws in their Social Aspects_, study by Russell Sage
    Foundation, 186

Apparent desertions: illustrated, 8, 9

Baldwin, Wm. H., 169, 177

_Bastardy Cases, A Study of_ Louise de K. Bowen, 95

Bastardy, see _Forced marriages_

_Behind the Service Flag_, Red Cross pamphlet, 160

Bigamy: and common law marriages, 98;
  immigrant deserters, 99

Bosanquet, Helen, 13

Bowen, Louise de K., 95

Brand, Harvey: case story of, 122

Brandt, Lilian, 26, 27, 192

Breed, Mary, 61, 150

Buffalo Charity Organization Society: non-support records, 156

Bureaus: National Desertion Bureau, 65, 69, 101;
  for consultation, 193-199;
  Court of Domestic Relations, Chicago, 193;
  Department of Public Charities, New York, 193;
  Children's Bureau, 197;
  importance of educational, 198-199.
  See also _Agencies_

Byington, Margaret F., 12

Canada: extradition treaties sought, 119, 169

Carstens, C.C., 68

Case illustrations: of apparent desertion, 8;
  mental deficiency, 24;
  reconciliation through education, 30;
  incompatibility and the "other woman," 40;
  interviewing the man essential, 57-61;
  liberal relief policy, 62;
  agency co-operation, 69, 75, 82, 83, 84;
  accident case, 79;
  traced through letter, 81;
  reconciliation after court marriage, 95;
  "American" marriages, 99;
  justifiable desertion, 111, 112-114;
  antagonism, 111-112;
  prison sentences helpful, 121, 122;
  adequate relief rids wife of chronic deserter, 131;
  adjustment impossible, 134;
  real affection a basis of reconciliation, 135;
  rehabilitation of a deserter, 137;
  wife reluctant to return to man who reformed, 141;
  non-support and ill-kept homes, 153;
  re-establishing non-supporters' homes, 158, 160, 161-163;
  inadequate court orders, 172, 173

Case work, see _Social workers_

Causal factors: analysis of study, 10, 15;
  motives and theories, 17-49;
  rationalization discussed, 17-22;
  summary of statistics, 21-22, 26-27, 45;
  feeble-mindedness, 24-25;
  training and self-control, 25-26;
  nationality, 26-27;
  religion, 27;
  age, 27;
  environment, 27-28;
  wrong basis of marriage, 28;
  common law marriage, 29;
  ignorance, 29;
  incompetence, 31;
  wanderlust, 32;
  inadequate income, 32;
  financial mismanagement, 33;
  physical condition, 34-35;
  temperamental differences, 36;
  sex incompatibility, 37-39;
  vice and disease, 39-43;
  relatives, interference of, 43-44;
  racial studies, 44-45;
  community standards, 45-46;
  recreation, 47;
  companions, influence of, 48;
  shifting responsibility, 48;
  underlying causes, 49;
  seeking a working basis, 91-105

Charitable relief: desertion in expectation of, 48, 61;
  Mary Breed on, 61;
  immigrant's interpretation of, 99-100.
  See also _Collusion_

Chicago Court of Domestic Relations, bureau for marital advice, 193

Chicago Juvenile Protective Association: study of forced
marriages by, 94-95

Children's Bureau, 197

Closing the case: extended treatment recommended, 63

Colcord, J.C., 61, 104, 133

Collins, C.F., 180

Collusion: infrequency of, 52, 70;
  case stories of, 71, 72;
  statistics of National Desertion Bureau, 71;
  preventive measures, 73-80

Common law marriages: legal protection under, 29;
  confusion of state laws, 98

Community ideals, see _Standards_

Companions: influence, and wanderlust, 47-48;
  aid in finding deserters, 77, 80

Co-operation of agencies, 68-78, 84, 86-90;
  suggested methods of finding deserters, 78-90;
  probation officers, 116, 122-124

Corrective treatment: legislative recommendations, 164-184;
  military systems aid in tracing deserters, 165-166;
  obstacles, 167;
  serving a warrant or summons, 168;
  extradition treaties recommended, 169;
  dependency through emigration, report on, 170;
  deportation laws, 171;
  court orders to pay, Seybert Institution report on, 172-177;
  special courts for juvenile delinquents, 177, 178, 179;
  Family Court of Cincinnati, 178;
  domestic relations court, 178, 179-180, 181-182;
  probation officers, 182-184

Court intervention: policy of treatment in past, 50-51;
  reasons, and laxity of laws, 51-52;
  social agency statistics, 52;
  a last resort, 53-54;
  effect of, 55, 95;
  for persistent deserters, 114-117;
  extradition, 117-119;
  probation, 119-124;
  warrant served by wife, 127;
  effecting reconciliations, 132-140;
  domestic relation courts effect reconciliations, 132;
  volunteers, 139-140;
  inadequacy of orders, 172-177;
  for juvenile delinquents, 178, 181;
  domestic relations, 179-182, 193

Department of Public Charities, New York City, bureau of domestic
    relations, 193

_Deserters and their Families_, 574.
  Lilian Brandt, 192

_Desertion and Non-Support in Family Case Work._ Joanna C. Colcord,
    61, 104, 133

Detectives: methods objectionable, 74, 77

Disease: statistical analysis, 22;
  and psychiatry, 24;
  effects of physical debility, 34;
  venereal disease, 41;
  alcoholism, 42.
  See also _Medical-Social work_

District of Columbia: non-support laws, 177

Divorce: relation to desertion, 7, 8;
  not considered, 16;
  administration of laws, and respect for, 46;
  by publication, 101;
  clearing bureau for, 101-102;
  for long continued desertion, 110;
  legal separation to protect wife, 127;
  bureaus might prevent, 193-199

Domestic relations courts: to combine with juvenile, 178, 179;
  Family Court of Cincinnati, 178;
  equity powers for, 179, 180;
  amendment pending, 179;
  facilities, 181

_Domestic Relations Court and Divorce._ C.W. Hoffman, 178, 181

Donald, Patrick: case story of, 19

Drug addiction, see _Narcotics_

Early influences: and self-control, 25-26;
  educational, 29, 30, 46, 92, 153, 198

Economics: ratio of desertions in "hard times," 21, 32;
  family finances, 33;
  service bureaus, 194

Education: social studies of family life, 11-14;
  early training and delinquency, 26;
  background for failures, 29-30;
  destructive forces, 46;
  suggestions for case workers, 63;
  Attendance Department traces deserters, 73;
  non-support and inefficiency eliminated by, 153;
  propaganda, 198

Ellis, Havelock, 39

Environment: and immigration, 27-28;
  neighborhood standards, 46, 102

Equity powers, of domestic relations courts, 179, 180

Eubank, E.E., 21

Extradition: state problems, 117-119;
  for dangerous men, 129-130;
  non-support law, 150;
  treaties essential, ratification pending, 169, 170;
  N.Y. state law, 182

Extravagance: family finances, 33

_Family as a Social and Educational Institution, The._ Willystine
    Goodsell, 11

Family Court of Cincinnati, 178

_Family Desertion._ Lilian Brandt, 26

_Family Desertion, A Study of._ E.E. Eubank, 21

Family life: permanence of, 9, 11-15;
  spiritual values of, 12, 29;
  consultation service to solve problems of, 195-199

_Family, The._ Helen Bosanquet, 13

Fear of bodily harm from dangerous deserters, 128-129

Federal Employment Service, 166

Finding deserters, 65-90;
  National Desertion Bureau, 65, 69, 71;
  urgency of finding the man, 67;
  C.C. Carstens quoted, 68;
  example of, 69-70;
  collusion, instances of, 70-73;
  literature lacking, 74;
  detective methods, illustration of, 74-77;
  suggestions for, 78-80;
  through military authorities, 81-82;
  trade places, 82-83;
  publications, 83, 84, 85;
  bulletin boards, 84;
  employment agencies, 84;
  agency co-operation, 86-90

First desertions: temporary character of, 8;
  medical-social work a preventive, 9;
  accident records aid in tracing, 79;
  critical nature of, 91;
  when apt to occur, 191-192

First problem in desertion, 67, 91

Forced marriages: irregular unions, 28;
  investigation of, and statistics, 92-96;
  study by Chicago Juvenile Protective Association, 94;
  case illustrations, 95-96

Forel, August, 39

Francis, Mrs.: case story of, 131

Frost, Robert, 14

Gambling: effect upon character, 43;
  relation to non-support, 156

Glasgow Parish Council, report on dependency, 170-171

Goodsell, Willystine, 11

Gorokhoff, Andreas: case story of, 121

Gray, Aleck: case story of, 161-163

Hart, Bernard, 20

Healy, Dr. William, 196

Heredity: psychopathic personality, 24;
  feeble-mindedness, 25;
  racial differences, 26-28

Hoffman, Charles W., 178, 181

Illustrations, see _Case illustrations_

Immorality, see _Sex factors_

Inadequate relief: legal separation, and the law, 128;
  wife's attitude, 130;
  illustrated, 131;
  court orders, inconsistency of, 172-176;
  recent legislation to correct, 177.
  See also _Non-support_

Income: economic issues, 21, 22, 30;
  wages and non-support, 32-33

Incompatibility: temperamental differences, 36;
  sex relations, 37-39, 40

Industrial deficiency: in husband and wife, 25, 31;
  national registration to correct, 166

Insanity: study of defectives, 20, 24

_Insanity, The Psychology of._ Bernard Hart, 20

Instability: forms of, mental and physical, 17-22;
  factors that induce, 24-43, 47-49

"Intermittent husbands," 43, 153

Interviewing the man: importance of, 55-57, 105;
  case story, 57-61

Italy: marriage registration in, 100

Judge Baker Foundation, of Boston, 196

Justifiable deserters: and alcoholism, 42;
  case illustration, 57-61, 111;
  procedure with, 112

Justification: thirst for experience, 9, 19;
  process of rationalization, 20;
  venereal disease and separation, 41;
  alcohol, and "justifiable deserters," 42;
  Williams case illustrates, 57-61, 111;
  and the non-supporter, 152-154

Juvenile courts: movement for special, 177, 178;
  Juvenile Court Act, 178;
  combine with domestic relation courts, 178;
  Family Court of Cincinnati, 178;
  facilities, 181

Laflin, Mrs.: case story of, 155

Latham, George: case story of, 137

Legal separation to protect wife, 127-129

Legislation: irregular unions, 29, 98;
  pioneering methods, 50-52;
  state aid to mothers, 63;
  common law unions, legality of, 98, 101;
  Italian, 100;
  divorce for permanent desertion, 110;
  for justifiable deserters, 111-112;
  court action for persistent deserters, 114-117;
  extradition, 117-119, 129;
  probation, 120-124;
  legal facilities to promote efficiency, 164-184;
  serving a warrant, 168;
  extradition treaties, 169-170;
  deportation, 171;
  court procedure, 172-177;
  juvenile delinquency, 177, 178, 180;
  domestic relations, and special courts, 177, 178, 179, 180-182;
  marriage laws, 186, 195

Loane, M., 154

Long, Martin: case story of, 141

_Making the Deserter Pay the Piper._ W.H. Baldwin, 177

Mancini, Onofrio: case story of, 172

Marital vagaries: possible reasons for, 35

Marriage: spiritual values of, 11, 12, 29;
  homelier elements in, 13-15;
  wrong bases of, 28;
  common law unions, 29;
  disparagement of ideals condemned, 45-46, 198;
  verification, and state legislation, 98-100;
  registration in Italy, 100;
  American marriage laws, 186

McCann, Herbert: case story of, 84-85, 86

Medical-social work: preventing desertion, 9;
  summary of case analyses, 22;
  psychiatry and mental deficiency, 24;
  physical debility, 34;
  "pregnancy desertion," 34-35;
  sex incompatibility, 37-39;
  bureaus of advice recommended, 193-196.
  See also _Psychology_

Mellor, Joseph: case story of, 111

Mentality: irresponsible agents, 17-20;
  psychology of insanity, 20, 24;
  educational handicaps, 29

Mexico: and extradition, 119, 170

Morgan, Charles: case story of, 147-148

Motion, J.R., 171

Myers, Hiram, 191, 192

Narcotics: percentage of influence, 22, 42

Nationality: statistical facts about difference in, 26-27, 44-45;
  racial attitude, and percentages of deserters, 44-45;
  case problem, 49;
  Jewish desertion bureau, 65, 69, 71, 101-102

National Conference of Jewish Charities, seeks extradition treaty, 169

National Conference of Social Work, extradition treaty urged, 169

National Desertion Bureau, Jewish legal aid, 65;
  story of tracing a deserter, 69-70;
  collusive desertion cases, 71;
  clearing bureau established, 101-102

Neighborhood influence, see _Standards_

Newspapers, see _Publicity_

New York Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor: practice
    of Desertion Bureau, 136

New York Charity Organization Society: study of racial groups, and
    percentages, 44-45

New York State Conference of Charities and Correction, Proceedings, on
    non-supporters, 150

Non-supporters: as potential deserters, 149-163;
  legal treatment of, 149-150;
  analogous to deserters, 150-153, 188;
  characteristics, 151, 189, 190;
  wife's influence a factor, 152-154;
  illustrations, 155, 158, 160;
  reclamation, illustrated, 161-163;
  approach to desertion, 188-191

Non-support Law: in Massachusetts, 149-150

_Normal Family, The._ Margaret F. Byington, 12

_North of Boston._ Robert Frost, 14

_One Thousand Homeless Men._ Alice W. Solenberger, 157

Overindulgence: teaching self-control, 25-26;
  wage-earning wives, 154

Pelligrini, Orfeo: case story of, 99

Permanence of family life, 9, 11-15

Permanent desertions, see _Divorce_

Philadelphia Court of Domestic Relations, report on reconciliations, 135-136

Philadelphia Society for Organizing Charity: report of, 7

Photographs of deserters: society presents to wife, 10;
  tracing out-of-town clues, 78, 84, 85

Physical condition: ill health, 34;
  "difficulty" of pregnant women, 35;
  maladjustments, 38;
  recreation essential, 47;
  recommendations, 196-199

"Pregnancy desertion": how explained, 34-35

Preventive treatment: past opinions, 187;
  non-support leading to desertion, 188-192;
  for first desertions, 192-193;
  bureaus for advice and consultation, 193-199;
  suggestions for, 196-199

Probation: testimony of social workers, 119-120;
  and imprisonment, 121-124;
  legal separation proceedings during, 128;
  officers effect reconciliation, 132;
  illustrations, 133-134, 137, 141;
  "stay-away" probation, 138;
  economy plan for officers, 178;
  number and efficiency of officers, 182-184;
  consultation bureau, 193

Provisional quality of desertions, 9

Psychoanalysis: mental deficients, and heredity, 24;
  incompatibility and sex perversion, 37-39.
  See also _Sex factors_

Psychology: rationalization process, 20;
  mental defectives, 24;
  sex incompatibility, 37-39;
  studies on, 39;
  knowledge of, essential, 103

Publicity: photographs a medium of, 10, 78, 84, 85;
  agencies and newspapers, 84-90;
  divorce by "publication," 101;
  illustration, 196

_Queen's Poor, The._ M. Loane, 154

Questionnaires: liberal relief policy, 62;
  searching for deserters, 78;
  treatment of desertion, 106

Ratio of desertions: economic factors, 21, 31, 32-33

Reconciliation: factors that prompt, 13-14;
  and the "other woman," 40-41;
  following court marriage, 95-96;
  after prison term, 121-122;
  considerations involved, 125-132;
  unwillingness of wife, illustrated, 131;
  criminal tendencies prevent, 134;
  affection a safe basis of, 135;
  practice of N.Y. Association for Improving Condition of the Poor, 136-137;
  volunteer visitors helpful, 139-140;
  case worker's success in effecting, illustrated, 142-148;
  bureaus to promote, 193-199

Recreation: why essential, 47

Red Cross Home Service, 81, 159, 160

Relatives: interference of, 43-44, 49

Religion: differences in, a study of, 26, 27

Repeated desertions: frequency of, 8;
  "intermittent husbands," 43, 153;
  suggestions for tracing the man, 79;
  relative nature of, 92

Responsibility: self-therapy illustrated, 8;
  deserters disclaim, 19-20;
  essentials of early training, 25-26;
  education promotes, 29, 198;
  and charitable relief, 48, 100;
  wage-earning wives, and non-supporters, 154

Richmond, Mary E.: on volunteers in case work, 78, 106, 140

Ridicule: of matrimony, by press and films, 45-46

Russell Sage Foundation, study, American marriage laws, 186

Selective Service Act, 165

Sex factors: determine forgiveness, 13-14;
  statistical summary, 21-22;
  "pregnancy desertion," 34-35;
  incompatibility, 37-40;
  immorality, 39, 96;
  knowledge of sex psychology essential, 103

_Sex in Relation to Society._ Havelock Ellis, 39

_Sexual Question, The._ A. Forel, 39

Seybert Institution, Philadelphia, on relation of income to court order, 173

Slacker marriages, 97

Social workers: opinions of, 7-8;
  appreciative faculties of, 11;
  knowledge of sex relations imperative, 37-38;
  diagnoses referred to specialists, 38;
  undervalue recreation, 47;
  questionnaires on treatment, 62, 78, 106;
  detective methods, 68-90;
  agency co-operation, 78-90;
  sex problems, 103;
  necessary information for, summarized, 104-105;
  protection of legal separation, 127;
  successful case records, 142-148

Solenberger, Alice W., 157

Spiritual values: of family life, 11-12, 29

Standards: and temperamental differences, 36;
  community concepts, 45-46;
  neighborhood influence, 47, 102

State aid to mothers, 63;
  vital statistics, 93

Temporary desertions: report of Philadelphia Society, 7-8;
  domestic crises and vagaries, 34-35.
  See also _Reconciliation_

Theories to explain desertion, 20.
  See also _Causal factors_

Treatment of desertion: policy, past and present, 50-64;
  court intervention, 50-54;
  interviewing the man, 55-60, 105;
  relief to families, 61;
  opinions of case workers, 62;
  case story, 62;
  state aid, 63;
  closing the case, time for, 63;
  changes in worker's attitudes, 64;
  whereabouts known, willing to return, 125-148;
  Philadelphia Court of Domestic Relations, study by, 135-136;
  N.Y. Association for Improving Condition of the Poor, practice of, 136;
  family restoration illustrated, 137;
  volunteers recommended, 139-140;
  wife relents, illustration of reconciliation, 141;
  study of successful worker's records, 142-148

United Hebrew Charities, 71

Vagaries: marital, 34-35

Venereal disease: relation to desertion, 41

Verification: of marriage, 98-99;
  in Italy, 100;
  Latin-American custom, 100

Volunteers: service valuable for effecting reconciliation, 139-140

Wanderlust: instability of temperament, 19;
  relation to desertion, 32

Warrant for arrest: protection afforded wife, 127;
  system inadequate, 168

West, Alfred: case story of, 30

_Wife and Family Desertion: Emigration as a Contributory Cause._ J.R.
    Motion, 171

Wife who deserts, not considered, 15

Williams, Mrs. Clara: case story of, 57-60, 111



Many people have general views in these days upon almost any matter
which affects social welfare; we all know how easily such views find
expression. On the other hand, only a few have the patience and the
insight to gather the specific facts and find out what they mean. Still
fewer--having done so much as this--can explain the meaning lucidly and
in brief compass.

It is the ambition of the Social Work Series to embody, in the field of
social service at least, the message of a representative group of these
few. The first three volumes are as follows:

Disasters and the American Red Cross in Disaster Relief. By J. Byron

Household Management. By Florence Nesbitt.

Broken Homes. By Joanna C. Colcord.

Price, Cloth, 75 cents each. Other volumes in preparation.

Write for announcements to be forwarded as these books are issued.


130 E. 22d ST., NEW YORK CITY

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