Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wisdom Wednesday - Never Sue Your Mother-in-Law

Not everyone gets along with their mother-in-law. It can be hard to live up to the expectations she had for the spouse of their "princess" or "momma's boy". This can definitely create family tension, conflict and even in some cases divorce.

Here is an unusual case that transpired between my distant cousin, Margarita Fuller, her husband and his mother-in-law, Addie Fuller.

Margarita Fuller and her husband, Stanley Woodworth, were married in 1898. Stanley Woodworth worked for Margarita's father, Andrew August Fuller, as a clerk at The Bass Point House in Nahant,Massachusetts. Andrew Fuller owned and managed The Bass Point House, which was a popular summer resort.  It isn't a huge leap of faith to believe that Stanley expected that he may have had a chance to run the resort one day.

To make things even more complex, Stanley and Margarita lived at The Bass Point House with her parents.

After being married for 12 years, they did not have any children.  This may have put added pressure on the marriage.  Not to mention the fact that Stanley worked for his father-in-law could make things even more stressful.

In 1910, Marguarta filed for divorce citing "cruel and abusive treatment"

It is likely that the divorce would have had a devastating impact on Stanley Woodworth.  Not only does he lose his wife, but it likely meant he lost his job and his home.

Stanley took the very unusual step of responding by suing his mother-in-law for "alienation of affection" with his wife.

He must have felt that his loving wife had been turned against him by Addie.

He even named an amount to what the mental anguish had caused him. He sued Addie Fuller for $25,000. It is important to note this a substantial sum. In today's dollars, $25,000 from 1910 would be equal to approximately $550,000 (according to the Inflation Calculator)

Of course, we shouldn't discount the fact that Stanley might have been an abusive husband. Up until women won the right to vote in 1920, women were often not well treated by their husbands.  Men had little concern of legal ramifications for how they treated their wife and divorce was very rare.

I don't know what happened to Stanley Woodworth.  There is no record of him winning his lawsuit. I am sure that if he had won it would have set a precedent which would have led to a lot more men suing their mother-in-laws.  <Joke>

The episode has a happy ending for Margarita Fuller Woodworth.  She found new love and married Charles Chapman between 1910 and 1920.


  1. What a great find! Family feuds cause so many problems but it's fonder for genealogists!

  2. It came as a surprise to me, but I do love to learn some of the family details

  3. What an interesting find! As a genealogist, you have to love finding feuding ancestors. They generate so much paperwork.