[Two Legal Documents with Testimony concerning the Marriage of Lorenzo D. W_____ and his Spouse].
‘Go On, Get the Hell Out’ – Of Infidelity and Venereal Disease
It took Mrs. Lorenzo D. W_____ only three typed pages to describe her 18-year marriage. In short, she married an alcoholic lout. [Nb., surname redacted throughout.]
Now it’s all over, and here Mrs. W_____ is giving a legal deposition, reliving her pain. She describes a now sexless marriage to the court and gives graphic testimony about her husband’s diseased sexual organs. She is now a plaintiff in what appears to be a divorce action.
On the back side of Mrs. W_____’s deposition is a legal interrogatory. A handwritten response from a medical expert answers the question:
…whether, in your opinion, the party [Lorenzo] was suffering from a venereal disease, and what was the nature & character of that disease?
This testimony rehashes the sordid details and suggests that Lorenzo had a motive for hiding his illness — infidelity.
Lorenzo and his wife married in 1902 and over the next 15 years had five children together. Lorenzo had a good job. He worked for the Western Maryland Railway and was eventually promoted to engineer. It seems he was a functioning alcoholic.
Lorenzo’s wife testified that shortly after they married her husband became “addicted to drink.” She stated he frequently came home drunk. He used “pretty rough” language around the children, although she concedes “he did not mistreat the children.” Hers was the pain of a neglected spouse:
I gave him no cause or reason for running around, and I always conducted myself as a kind chaste and affectionate wife to him. Often told my husband that I had a notion to leave and he would say “go on, get to hell out, I don’t care where you go.”
After becoming ill, Lorenzo’s wife stopped having sexual relations with him. It was a good thing. They had been “fussing about his running around at night” when she “noticed blood stains on his underclothes.” Lorenzo refused to see the family’s regular doctor and would not tell his wife much about his disease. He could hardly walk and could not work.
Although another doctor did come to the house to treat him, Lorenzo refused to see the official Western Maryland Railway physician, Dr. Palmer. If Dr. Palmer could examine him, Lorenzo’s family could potentially have received financial relief from the railway. Why did Lorenzo refuse to see the company physician?
The medical interrogatory reveals that Lorenzo was hiding the true nature of his disease: “[Lorenzo] owned and caused to be burned in paper packages the clothes that were soiled from said [bodily] discharge…”
This was not a mere infection. And now the real motive for secrecy comes out:
That there is a provision in…the rules & regulations of the Voluntary Relief Department of the Western Maryland Railway…that benefits shall not be payable for sickness resulting from or produced by immoral practices or from venereal disease…
Lorenzo’s wife found further evidence of infidelity — a condom hidden under the bathtub:
After I had seen his stained clothes last summer, I also found a protector [condom] under one bath tub leg, and $34.00 of his money under another one. I knew that my husband hid his money, and the leg under which this protector was secreted comes out every once in a while, and it came out while I was working around the bath tub…[She continued:] Since this suit was brought my husband told me that he found a cundrum [condom] in his shoe.
Was this Lorenzo’s feeble attempt to deny being unfaithful? The messy details of one marriage gone bad.
Description: [Two Legal Documents with Testimony concerning the Marriage of Lorenzo D. W_____ and his Spouse].
[Cumberland, Maryland, c. 1920]. ll., [i.e. 3 typed pages + 1½ pages in manuscript on verso of two typed sheets; emendations and corrections.] 13 x 8½ inches. One folio crinkled with 4″ closed tear but no loss of sense; final leaf wrinkled and dust-soiled. All clear and legible.