Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The Wives of Spanking Husbands' Club

Raven Red turned up this quite fascinating account from the Los Angeles Times of the 26 January 1938 about the wonderfully named Wives of Spanking Husbands' Club, and its lovely offshoot, the Daughters of Spanking Parents. Raven thought that someone had created a fake newspaper and she asked me to have a look at her scan, which I did.

If you enlarge the main page on the left you immediately see the Library of Congress sticker which covers part of the newspaper title. It is possible that someone went to the trouble to fake such a small detail, but my guess is that this is a genuine scan of the Los Angeles Times for that date. Looking at the story, my eye was drawn to the fact that it was not written by the Times, but is an agency report - in this case the Associated Press, hence the AP initials after the headline and date. All the Times did was scan the agencies for a short story to fill some space on their page. The paper had form in the 1930s for its spanking stories as just a few months later it ran an account of how a father spanked his 34 year old daughter, so that is yet more evidence that the page has not been faked.

Does that mean that the story is true? No, of course not, and my guess is that someone was hoaxing the Press Association. The report tells of a woman named Rita Rae with an address noted as "general delivery." That means that you wrote to her care of the main post office in her town and she would pick up her mail at the office. Rita claimed to be the president of the Wives of Spanking Husbands' Club, but if that organisation really existed would she not have used a real address for it? We are talking about a group that claimed to have fifty-nine chapters across the country, when all is said and done.

Secondly, the AP account relies totally on that letter which seems to have arrived at their office one fine morning. As the story says, everything hinges on Rita's "own figures" as to the club's membership and the like. Clearly this is a quick story that was cobbled together from a letter which the AP office in South Dakota found interesting that day. They put it into a story which they sent out over the wires to the agency's subscribers and the Los Angeles Times ran with the tale - but that doesn't mean that  any of it is true.

Which is a pity because it is a lovely tale and the notion of  "Spare the hairbrush and spoil the wife" is one that most of my readers will agree with.

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