Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"A Little Excitement...Neighborhood Entertainment"

That is the excerpted headline of a July 20, 1910 story about domestic violence.

Hamilton Avenue resident Anna, or Hannah, Staenke worked as a domestic for local lawyer John Kirk's wife Mary, who had 4 children ranging in age from 17 to 3 at home. Anna walked each morning from Hamilton to the Kirk home at 427 Ballard near Washtenaw. Her husband Frederick worked as a day laborer.

The family was under strain. A month and a half earlier, Anna's 26-year-old son Arthur had deserted his 22-year-old wife of 2 years, Myrtle. She was left alone with their 7-month-old daughter Clara in a small apartment within the home of Edward Hotchkiss and his wife Mary at 704 Congress, between Ballard and Normal.

"[Arthur] Staenke, who is twenty years old, had been in the employ of the construction department of the D. J & C. R. R. Company until recently," noted the May 12, 1910 Ypsilanti Daily Press. "After he lost that position he would go frequently into Detroit, coming home very late. He would act disagreeably sullen after these trips and would vent his ill nature on the seven months old baby. His wife he married about a year and a half ago and until the advent of the child had been a kind and affectionate husband.

"His desertion left his wife destitute. When fuel and food were exhausted, she applied to Justice Gunn for a warrant charging her husband with desertion. She applied for relief also to Poor Commissioner Milo Gage, who assisted her. Kind hearted neighbors also came to her relief.

"On May 9 Mrs. Staenke heard at last from her recreant husband. The first news came on a card giving views of the United States Navy, on which was written: “May 9. Dear Myrtle: This is the place I will be in a few weeks. May never see you again Yours A. Staenke” to the baby he addressed a card reading: “May 9, I leave here today and am going to Texas. Good bye. From so and so” The mother, Mrs. Frank Staenke, like wise was the recipient of a card which ran: “May 9. Dear mother: I leave today for the west. Good bye. A. Staenke.”

"Deputy Sheriff Charles Hipp went to Detroit and at Delray and River Rouge made a thorough search for the missing man. He had had worked in that vicinity, but had not been seen for several days. He had been in the habit of staying at the Central hotel. Mr. Hipp notified the Detroit police of the case and was promised assistance. If arrested in Detroit, Deputy Sheriff Hipp will go after him, and in this event, the man Staenke will face a charge of desertion and a possible state prison sentence."

Anna had even more to deal with, however. After work, trouble awaited her at home. Her husband had already been drinking.

"Considerable excitement was caused among the neighbors on Hamilton Street last evening about 6:30," said the July 20, 1910 Ypsilanti Daily Press. ". . . As she started to enter the house she found the house locked, and 'hubby' refused to unlock it. She sat down on the porch and waited. He finally relented and opened the door. As she started to enter, it is said that he kicked her in the face, and started to strike her." The paper said that Anna's screams attracted the neighbors and police were called.

The paper goes on to say that Officer Ryan arrived and calmed the two down. Frederick was not arrested or detained. Instead, he promised to behave himself thenceforth. Officer Ryan left.

Frederick and Anna disappear from city directories soon after, but Arthur reappears in the 1912 Ann Arbor directory, apparently reunited with Myrtle and Clara. It would be years before incidents like Frederick and Anna's would cease to be called "A Little Excitement...Neighborhood Entertainment."


TeacherPatti said...

Isn't it scary how dependent women were on their husbands? I just don't understand women who, in this day and age, give up jobs, income and so on and are completely dependent on their husband. I love my husband to pieces but if I gotta get gone--I got a bank account, a good job and I can get to steppin'. So scary to me!

I mean honestly, can you imagine getting kicked in the FACE? And then having the dumb mf'er still up in your bed that night? Gack!

I remember my mom telling me that a neighbor was abused by her husband and my grandparents didn't really know how to explain it to my mom. My mom came away from the whole thing thinking that if you were beaten, it was just your lot in life and there was nothing you could do. I'm happy no one in my family is violent!

Dusty D said...

It is scary. If you look at the city directories for this period the glass ceiling was nearly low enough to be a floor. Just about the only "respectable" jobs for women were dressmaker, domestic, or laundress. With a few notable exceptions. But not many.

The conjunction of allegedly getting kicked in the face and, as you say, going to bed with this (unarrested) person pretty much stopped me cold. Frightening.