Raymond was 30 years old when he married 29-year-old Cecelia in 1932. A little over a year later, when he noticed she was not acting normally, he took her to Charles V. Chapin Hospital in Providence …
Raymond was 30 years old when he married 29-year-old Cecelia in 1932. A little over a year later, when he noticed she was not acting normally, he took her to Charles V. Chapin Hospital in Providence for observation. Upon her admission, and out of her husband’s hearing, she informed the doctors that she had previously been diagnosed with syphilis.
Cecelia was soon to be diagnosed with a mental disorder as well and transferred to the hospital’s psychopathic department. The following day, it was determined that her disorder was schizophrenia. Four days later, a test was performed to see if syphilis was playing any part in her mental issues.
Doctors found no signs of active syphilis but felt the disease may be lying dormant in her body. Two days later, against the advice of physicians, Raymond signed for his wife’s discharge. It was only then that he was informed his wife had been afflicted with and treated for syphilis the year before their marriage.
Upon leaving the hospital, it was decided they would go and stay with Cecelia’s mother. There, they shared a bed for about six weeks before Raymond felt the need to return his wife to a hospital for more help with her mental situation. He brought her to Butler Hospital where she remained for nearly a year. Finally, they discharged her. The facility only worked with patients whose illnesses could be alleviated. Cecelia, they explained to Raymond, was incurable.
With that information in hand, Raymond had his wife committed to the RI State Hospital for the Insane in Cranston. She was still a patient there when Raymond filed a petition for a marriage annulment on Feb. 6, 1940. His grounds were that Cecelia had not told him of her syphilitic condition prior to marriage. By this time, he was living with his sister and widowed mother in Pawtucket, and working as a chemist in the laboratory of a textile mill.
As she was deemed unable to speak on her own behalf, Cecelia fought the annulment through a guardian ad litem which had been assigned to her.
The court was confused as to why Raymond had waited seven years to have the marital union obliterated on the grounds that Cecilia had committed fraud by not disclosing to him previous to the marriage that she had contracted syphilis. They were further confused as to why he continued sharing a bed with her after the disclosure if the situation was so unacceptable.
“The realization that he was to be burdened with an incurably insane wife seems to us to have been the motivating cause for his petition for an annulment,” Cecelia’s attorney told the court.
The judge decided that the fraud had been condoned by Raymond when he did not file for annulment immediately after discovering it. The annulment petition was thereby dismissed. Cecelia remained hospitalized. Raymond remained married to her and died 15 years later at 52 years old. His institutionalized wife lived to the advanced age of 94.
Kelly Sullivan is a Rhode Island columnist, lecturer and author.
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