By Hank Nuwer
Dorothy Rowe, was the author of children’s books in the 1920s. She has taken her stories to China and Japan, including a bestseller, “The Rabbit Lantern”.
She taught children in Nanjing, China, working with her missionary parents, when she met and married Benjamin March in 1925.
March, a preeminent authority on oriental art, was conducting research in Beijing on the Forbidden City, the largest palace in the world.
The couple equipped their Detroit home with Asian splendor. Chinese characters adorned the mantle of the fireplace. Confucius’ words covered their walls. Screens with inlaid artwork, brass ceiling lights, and decorative jade and wood furniture cluttered the living room.
Their constant guests were neighbors Thomas Alfred Newton, a bond trader, and Esther, his wife of nine years. They dined on Chinese cuisine sitting cross-legged on the carpet. The Marches entertained by wearing Chinese clothes.
A convert to Buddhism, Newton found Dorothy attractive in her Cantonese cheongsam dresses.
He and the attractive Mrs. Newton began to meet on their own.
Shortly after Dorothy gave birth to her daughter Judith, Newton alienated Ms. March’s affection.
“Newton was very charming,” Benjamin March later recalled. “He was gay and he easily spent money.”
On February 22, Dorothy and Newton faced March in the living room. They announced the decision to escape together.
The injured husband surprised them with a counter-proposal.
March agreed to bless the couple if they took a “love test,” living together as a man and a woman for 30 days.
At the end of the month, Dorothy agreed to either stay with her husband and child or marry her lover. These were the terms.
Newton agreed to respect Dorothy’s choice
Newton did not share his plans with his wife. He often traveled alone.
Somehow a reporter learned of the meeting. “I agreed on condition that (the case) be seen experimentally,” March told reporters.
For a month, Americans in Darke County – and everywhere else – debated whether Dorothy should choose March or Newton.
At breakfast tables across the country, March has been both vilified as a cuckold jellyfish and praised as a saint, an understanding wife.
The lovers left Detroit together on February 24, 1930.
They have reserved passage on the ship Algonquin for Bermuda.
Mrs. March signed the ship’s passenger list as “Mrs. Dorothée Newton.
Ms. March did not write to her husband again for three weeks, not even to ask him about their daughter’s welfare.
The agreed month of leave arrived. Dorothy sent March a radiogram and letters with the Bermuda postmark.
She wrote that she had made her choice. The woman who sank into her lover’s arms didn’t want part of her arms to be filled with her laundry.
Dorothy and Newton land in Miami. She gave her lover a boost and rushed towards Detroit.
While Dorothy was traveling, Newton committed suicide on March 21. When he died in his hotel suite, he told a police officer that he had committed suicide out of heartache.
Journalists besieged Dorothy upon her arrival in Detroit. Photographers took close-ups of the Havana and Miami luggage tags on her suitcase.
The Marches stood shoulder to shoulder on their steps.
Dorothy was asked about Newton’s suicide. “A man’s life is his and he has the right to end it if he wishes,” she told reporters.
Many friends supported the reunited couple. “Benjamin March taught American manhood a lesson in charity and openness,” Stanley M. Lewis, president of the Detroit Fine Arts Alliance, told a reporter.
“Dorothy is a very remarkable woman. She is as welcome in my house as she always has been. In fact, I think about her more and admire her more than I ever have because she is more honest than 99% of the people we meet.
“If we were to fill our living rooms with women who had never transgressed, I’m afraid our living rooms will be empty.
In Miami, Newton’s heartbroken woman and grieving father authorized cremation.
They threw Thomas Newton’s ashes from a plane, along with 32 red roses, one for each year of his life.
The rejected Mrs. Esther V. Newton received 100 percent of her husband’s estate. A wealthy widow, she flew to the Côte d’Azur, Italy, Switzerland and Paris. She found a playmate and remarried.
Tragically and ironically, March died four years later when his heart broke on December 14, 1934. His writings, lecture notes, and other materials were acquired by the Smithsonian Institute.
Dorothy has never written another children’s novel. She died in the care of the adult daughter she had once abandoned.
What was Confucius saying?
“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated. ”
Hank Nuwer is an author, columnist and playwright. He and his wife Gosia live on the Indiana side of the Union City state border. The views expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these views or the independent activities of the author.