Irene Von Rissen

Family historyIrene Von Rissen is our first cousin, twice removed—our paternal grandmother’s first cousin on her father’s side.  She was born in 1897, in Cincinnati, to John and Rose Von Rissen.  She worked as a bookkeeper, an inspector (of what we do not know), a beauty shop operator and a clerk, and died at the age of 86 in 1984.

Why write about Irene?  Irene was married in February 1916 to 35-year-old William Collins, a railroad engineer.  They separated in April and divorced in July.  The July 21, 1916 Cincinnati Post article about the divorce is worth posting in full:

‘Most Liberal’ Husband Wins Divorce Decree

Wm. F. Collins, 35, of 1409 Pleasant-st., was referred to as the most generous husband who had ever appeared in the Court of Domestic Relations Friday.

Collins testified in the divorce suit brought against Mrs. Irene Von Rissen Collins, 18, of 1505 Linn-st., that he married on Feb. 25. He said that on Feb. 23 he gave his bride a check for $50 for wedding clothes and on Feb. 24 $150 for a wedding cloak, another check for $840, one for $75 for more wedding clothes and a check for $205 for wedding and engagement rings.

Gives Blank Check

He further testified that on Feb. 28 his wife asked him for $10 and he presented her with a signed blank check, which she filled in for $50.

On March 9, he said, he gave his wife a check for $4500, which she asked him to put in another bank on a time deposit.

He said his wife packed up her clothes and left him April 4, leaving a note.

Collins said his wife remained away from home until 1 or 2 a. m., stating she was taking music lessons.

Collins testified that on the day his wife left she sent a moving wagon around to his home and carried off the pianola he purchased her as a wedding gift.

Note Refers to Piano

Mrs. Collins refers to a pianola in her farewell note. It reads as follows:

“Do not try to find me, as it will be useless, as I have gone for good. Please pay Aunt Lillie, as I need the check. I took only what belonged to me. Do not say one word to Aunt L. or Uncle W., [Lillie and William Von Rissen—more on them in a future post.—P.T.] as they haven’t anything to do whatever with this. I am leaving on my own accord. I cannot live with you any longer. I am taking the piano, as it is mine. It was given me before I was married.”  “IRENE.”

When summoned to court Mrs. Collins appeared with an eye blackened and one shoulder and an arm in splints, injuries she sustained in a motorcycle accident Sunday.

She told the Judge she spent $2500 of her husband’s savings in “buying clothes and having a good time.”

Collins was granted a divorce on the ground of neglect.


According to an article in U.S. News & World Report, in 1915 (a year before Irene and William’s marriage):

  • Men made an average of $687 a year (women about half that).
  • The average house cost $3,200.
  • A new car cost $2,000.
  • A loaf of bread cost 7 cents.
  • Women’s shoes cost $7-$10.


Irene went back to her maiden name, and lived with her mother Rose (her father John died in 1917 at the age of 42) on Linn St. until she married Paul Devanney, a plumber, in the early 1940s.  The only subsequent newspaper mentions of Irene are society notices when she visited relatives in Clarksburg, Indiana, and her obituary in 1984.

About Pat Tully

Librarian exploring effective leadership, local history and community service.
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2 Responses to Irene Von Rissen

  1. chmjr2 says:

    It is amazing what we can learn from old newspapers. I bet she was the talk of the family for years.


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