Women Must Refuse to Pay Taxes when They’re Denied Representation

In the edition of The Review of Reviews was a brief article on “Woman’s Duty of Rebellion” that summarized and quoted another article by Elizabeth Clarke Wolstenholme Elmy from the Westminster Review. Excerpt:

Refuse to Pay Taxes

But it is not enough to oppose the Government. Women should refuse to pay taxes on the sound Liberal principle that taxation without representation is tyranny:—

Liberals in general profess to regard taxation without representation as tyranny, therefore let every woman Suffragist who is in a position to do so refuse to pay Income Tax — and let every such woman who occupies a house of more than £20 a year rental refuse to pay House Duty, until the enfranchisement of women has been secured by Act of Parliament, and has become an operative part of the law of the land. Women have been patient far too long. The time for prompt, vigorous, and decisive action is now here — and with such prompt, vigorous, and decisive action our cause, which in its ultimate issues is the cause of justice to half the human race, will be speedily won.

Mother Earth, back in 1906 when it was started by the American anarchist dynamic duo of Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman, included an article “Apropos of Woman Suffrage” by “H. Kelly” (Harry Kelly, probably). It included these thoughts on tax resistance:

The Free Churches, Wesleyans, Baptists, etc., aroused at [the Balfour-Chamberlain government’s sectarian school funding law], organized the so-called Passive Resistance movement, which was really passive enough to suit every one, except the most bigoted Churchman. They refused to pay the school tax, printed and distributed Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience,” and did a great deal of good in claiming freedom for the individual as against the state, especially in matters of conscience. It was during this agitation and inspired, no doubt, by the Passive Resisters that a woman and a Socialist (I think it was Miss Dora Montefiore) conceived the idea of refusing to pay her taxes on the ground that she was disfranchised and treated by the government as an outcast, unfit to vote or participate in the councils of the nation. An Opera Bouffe war took place, lasting several days. The lady barricaded herself in her house and refused to accept the summons thrown over her garden wall; food was hauled over the fence with a string, and the incident was really interesting while it lasted. Just as it happened with Thoreau when he refused to pay taxes — some friend paid them, and the case was closed. The incident described above, small and ridiculous as it seemed, had its effect, however; women in various parts of England took courage and emulated the example set before them…

An Associated Press report, as seen in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune:

Will Not Pay 63-Cent Tax, Goes To Jail

Patrick Quinn, 67, Cambridge stationary fireman, who went to jail yesterday rather than pay a 63 cent income tax he contended he didn’t owe, was released today when an unidentified person paid the amount to the state tax collector.

Had Quinn remained in jail it would have cost the state 50 cents a day for his keep. Authorities could not release him on bail as a state law decrees persons arrested on tax warrants may not be bailed. About 35 cents of the tax bill was interest.

The elderly widower told jailers after his arrest that he would “rot in jail” before he’d pay.

A brief note in the New York Times, not yet freely on-line, quoted Quinn as saying: “If they’re going to keep me in jail until I pay that 63 cents, then they better start measuring me for a wooden box.”

Another report says “an attractive young woman, whose name tax officials declined to reveal,” paid the fine, whereupon the jailers let Quinn (“a little dazed… by the quick succession of events”) go, and, as the reporter’s poetic license would have it, had to “gently, but firmly urge[] Quinn onto the sidewalk” and “unceremoniously shut the doors behind him before he could remonstrate.”

That article also gives a little more detail about Quinn’s beef:

A man who had “political pull,” he explained in jail, cheated him back in out of $3,900, his life savings. He said State officials would not help him get the money back “but it seems the whole State was ready to work on me because they claimed I owed the state 63 cents.”

State tax commissioner Henry F. Long said the tax Quinn refused to pay was the 10 per cent surtax levied by the Legislature on incomes after the regular tax bills had been sent out. He said Quinn paid his regular tax, but refused to pay the surtax, declaring the State had no right to levy the additional sum.

Surprisingly, Quinn’s tax resistance and jailing seems to have been somewhat effective at meeting his grievances:

Attorney General Paul A. Dever said he had assigned an assistant, Maurice M. Goldman, to investigate Quinn’s claim that he had been “cheated” and to determine all the facts surrounding the arrest.

The investigation, Dever added, would include questioning of the Deputy Tax Collector who placed Quinn in jail.