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Sane Feminist or Crazy Aunt Louisa? There’s Money At Stake. What Do You Think?

It’s 1944 in New Jersey. Louisa Strittmater died, with some money, or you wouldn’t be reading this. In her Will, she left her entire estate to ……. the National Women’s Party. Mercy! This did not sit well with her cousins (whom she saw very little during the last few years of her life), but who nevertheless said she was crazy, and asked the court to set the Will aside and give them the money. They lost Round 1, then appealed the decision. Per the appellate court:

The deceased never married. Born in 1896, she lived with her parents until their death about 1928, and seems to have had a normal childhood. She was devoted to both her parents and they to her. Her admiration and love of her parents persisted after their death to 1934, at least. Yet four years later she wrote: ‘My father was a corrupt, vicious, and unintelligent savage, a typical specimen of the majority of his sex. Blast his wormstinking carcass and his whole damn breed.’ And in 1943, she inscribed on a photograph of her mother ‘That Moronic she-devil that was my mother.’

Wormstinking carcass? Nice touch. So I’m thinking that maybe her parents were just jackasses? The court went on to say:

The master who heard the case in the court below, found that the proofs demonstrated ‘incontrovertably her morbid aversion to men’ and ‘feminism to a neurotic extreme.’ This characterization seems to me not strong enough. She regarded men as a class with an insane hatred. She looked forward to the day when women would bear children without the aid of men, and all males would be put to death at birth. Decedent’s inward life, disclosed by what she wrote, found an occasional outlet such as the incident of the smashing of the clock, the killing of the pet kitten, vile language, &c. On the other hand — and I suppose this is the split personality — Miss Strittmater, in her dealings with her lawyer, Mr. Semel, over a period of several years, and with her bank, to cite only two examples, was entirely reasonable and normal.

Dead male babies and kittens vs. reasonable and normal with her lawyer and others. What do you think the appellate court decided, sane feminist or crazy lady?


Crazy lady. Here’s the court’s reasoning:

The question is whether Miss Strittmater’s will is the product of her insanity. Her disease seems to have become well developed by 1936. In August of that year she wrote, ‘It remains for feministic organizations like the National Women’s Party, to make exposure of women’s “protectors” and “lovers” for what their vicious and contemptible selves are.’ She had been a member of the Women’s Party for eleven years at that time, but the evidence does not show that she had taken great interest in it. I think it was her paranoic condition, especially her insane delusions about the male, that led her to leave her estate to the National Women’s Party. The result is that the probate should be set aside.

The case is In re Strittmater, 53 A.2d 205 (NJ Ct. of Errors and Appeals 1947).

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