It is impossible - and certainly unfair - to judge legal decisions of one era against decisions of another since public morals change every generation. What is politically correct in 2012 could well invite tarring and feathering in 1947.

Reaching deep into the bowels of legal history and bringing forward the occasional case really brings this point home.

Personally, and speaking only on behalf of my gender, I want to thank the majority of the 1947 bench of the New Jersey Court of Errors and Appeals, which set this Will aside before it could give the other gender any ideas.

Admittedly, Miss Louisa F. Strittmater was an odd bird.

She was born in 1896 and never married, living with her parents until their death in about 1928.

By all accounts, Miss Louisa had a normal childhood and appeared very devoted to her parents, and they to her.

Well, there was the time she killed a little kitten but that was all ... wasn't it?

When Ms Strittmater died in 1944, her last will and testament was found and in it, she gave everything to the National Women's Party, a special interest group (women's suffrage) she had been a member of since 1925. For one three-year period, from 1939 to 1941, she had even worked as a volunteer in the NWP's New York office.

When Louisa died, on December 6, 1944, her last will was found, a document she had signed on October 31, 1944.

Not only because they knew her to be eccentric but also because of some of her private writings later discovered, surviving members of her extended family contested the will. They argued that Auntie-Louisa was crazy.

crazy woman, (c) Nomad Soul Fotolia.comIn support of their case, they produced the following tidbit from Louisa's diary:

"My father was a corrupt, vicious and unintelligent savage, a typical specimen of the majority of his sex.

"Blast his worm-stinking carcass and his whole damn breed."

But men, it seemed, were not the sole target of her venom. On a picture of her mother, Louisa had written this on the back:

"That moronic-she-devil that was my mother."

Apparently, and supported somewhat by medical evidence, the New Jersey Court of Errors and Appeals, which heard the case in February 1947, surmised that Miss Louisa Strittmater was crazy, that she had suffered from:

"... incontrovertibly her morbid aversion to men (and) feminism to a neurotic extreme....

"She regarded men as a class with an insane hatred.

"She looked forward to the day when women would their children without the aid of men, and all males would be put to death at birth."

With that Sparta-like preamble, per curiam, the New Jersey Court of Errors and Appeals, 1947, concluded, but not unanimously (2 of the 12 judges voted to probate the Will):

"It was her paranoiac condition, especially her insane delusions about the male, that led her to leave her estate to the National Woman's Party. The result is that the probate should be set aside."


  • In re Strittmater, 140 N.J. Eq. 94 (1947)