The Reader’s archive is vast and varied, going back to 1971. Every day in Archive Dive, we’ll dig through and bring up some finds.
If reading Maya Dukmasova’s feature on defense attorney Stuart V. Goldberg put you in the mood to learn more about local lawyers, Marianna Beck’s 1988 story on Michael H. Minton should do just the trick. In 1979, the divorce attorney won a landmark case that established a precedent for equitable treatment of housewives in a system that historically did not serve those without the financial wherewithal. His client, the wife of a vice-president of Sears Roebuck, was a homemaker, and it looked like the cards were stacked against her:
The concept of assigning monetary values to the services of a homemaker left Minton in virgin territory. He thought Mrs. Gallagher was indeed entitled to compensation, but how much was “just a housewife” worth? How could he quantify the enormous contributions he felt she had made as a homemaker, mother, hostess, corporate wife, and marital partner?
Not only did Minton need to affix a dollar amount to the nebulous and undefined role of homemaking, but he also had to convince the court that though the duties of her role were taken for granted, they earned Mrs. Gallagher an economic share in the gains her husband had made. After all, she had provided the environment in which he could successfully carry out his activities.
Minton went on to write a book based on the case, What is a Wife Worth: The Leading Expert Places a High Dollar Value on Homemaking. He’s still practicing law.