Suffragist Tax Resister Kate Harvey Sent to Prison

The Vote

From the issue of The Vote:

First Imprisonment for Insurance Tax Resistance.

Two Months For Mrs. [Kate] Harvey.

Undaunted, Mrs. Harvey has gone to Holloway. The Bromley police authorities, after certain spasmodic efforts to secure payment of the sums claimed from her, have carried the sentence of the court into effect, and, by courteous arrangement, allowed Miss Harvey, Mrs. [Charlotte] Despard, and Miss [Mary] Anderson to accompany her to the gates of Holloway. A plain clothes officer and a woman warder met them at Bromley Station, and two taxi’s [sic] conveyed them to the prison from Holborn. A great meeting of protest is to be held against the vindictive sentence on our brave comrade, for which has been fixed. Trafalgar-square will be the place of meeting, and we hope to have a great rally of the friends of freedom. Meetings also will be held in Bromley Market-place twice a week — Mondays and Wednesdays — at 7.30 p.m., where we hope members will rally when possible.

We venture to foretell that Mrs. Harvey will come out of prison no less resolute a resister than when she went in, and that she will stand to her principle of resisting Government without consent and taxation without representation no matter what Governments may order or police authorities execute. We wish to call attention to another prosecution, that of four farmers in Scotland — we have republished several lately, — of men who also resisted the Act and whose servants resisted the Act by joint conspiracy, the latter not being prosecuted at all. The penalties imposed in none of these cases have been so heavy as those imposed on Mrs. Harvey, whose chief crime is that she acts on principle and not because she desires to evade and obligation. The Scottish farmers’ case is as follows:—

At Aberdeen on four farmers from the Turriff district pleaded guilty to having failed to pay insurance contributions in respect of farm servants in their employ. Their agents stated that the farm servants in this district, believing that they were better off under the former conditions, when the employers provided for them during illness, than they would be under the provisions of the Act, refused to bring their cards, and declined to engage unless the master gave an understanding not only that he would not deduct the money from their wages but would not apply for an emergency card. The Fiscal said that in such cases complaint should have been lodged with the Commissioners, who would have instituted a prosecution against the servants. A penalty of 15s. for each offence in each case was imposed, and on the application of Mr. Gerrard, who appeared for the Scottish Insurance Commissioners, decree was given for the amount of contributions in arrears. — Glasgow Herald, .

C. Nina Boyle.

Letter from Mrs. Harvey.

Comrades, — When you read this you will be much in my thoughts, for I shall be in Holloway Gaol. I will not insult you by asking you to think of me, but when you do, will you remember that if my sentence be the means of bringing home to but one person the kind of justice meted out by vote-protected men to voteless women, the price will be light though the sentence is heavy, very heavy when compared with that passed on men whose only desire is to shirk responsibility when refusing to pay the Insurance Tax, iniquitously heavy when compared with the sentences passed on men who ruin the bodies of our girls, often baby-girls. Since writing the above I have heard that, quite lately, a man was sentenced to a twenty shillings fine or seven days for criminally assaulting two children, the excuse being that his brain was weak. The same authorities do not hesitate to label Suffragettes “mad,” but in their case it is only an added excuse for harsh treatment.

Justice! We have almost forgotten the meaning of the word. “No taxation without representation.” Men made that law, men break that law, then punish women for not breaking it also!

Justice! It is conspicuous by its absence!

Another man-made law, “a man must be tried by his peers”; equally so a woman should be tried by her peers!

One thing I ask. Will you strive by every means in your power to make “Hiawatha” [a dramatic version of Longfellow’s poem that Harvey had put together] a huge success? It is a sore trouble to leave before arrangements are fully completed; help me by letting my absence rouse you to enthusiastic endeavour for our paper! Many doubt as to the wisdom of the step I have taken; none can doubt as to the lack of wisdom in a Government that deliberately turns good citizens into outlaws! — Yours, in the Cause that is nearest to our hearts, the Cause of women — and children, they are inseparable,

K. Harvey.

Mrs. Despard’s Letter to Mr. McKenna

Mrs. Despard has sent the following letter to the Home Secretary:—

2, Currie-street, Nine Elms, London, S.W.

To the Right Honble. Reginald McKenna, M.P.

Sir,— A few months ago you granted an interview to me and several of my colleagues in the Women’s Freedom League. I spoke to you then on what I conceive to be the maladministration of justice in this country and the unequal incidence of punishment.

I desire now to bring before you a glaring instance of that of which I complain, hoping that if your attention has not been drawn to it, you will immediately give it your serious consideration.

Thousands of British men and women are refusing to pay the Insurance Tax or to deduct the Tax from the wages of those whom they employ. Some object to this tax on principle; others desire to shirk responsibility. Suffragists — and I am amongst their number — are, in many cases resisting this in common with other forms of taxation because their rights of citizenship are not recognised.

There have been sundry prosecutions — mostly of men in business.

I wish to quote three cases to show you the different treatment meted out to men and women in our law courts.

Joseph Lister, of Doncaster, defaulter for thirty-one weeks, was given by Mr. Andrews, the magistrate, a fine of 50s., with payment of costs.

Mr. F. Hamblin (Eastbourne), who had conscientious objections, was summoned on twenty counts. He was ordered to pay fines, costs and arrears to the amount of £6 14s., 8d.,

Mrs. Harvey, of Brackenhill, Bromley, Kent — a Suffragist, the first who has been proceeded against for Insurance Tax resistance — was summoned, on , on ten counts in respect of her gardener. She was fined £1 on each count, £4 10s. costs, £2 2s. special costs, and ordered to pay the arrears, 5s. 10d.; total, £16 17s. 10d.

I beg you to compare this sentence with the two previous ones. Mrs. Harvey, deeply conscious of the injustice done to her, has refused to pay the money.

A week later a further fine of £5 was imposed upon her for refusal to pay her gardener’s license. The alternative was a month’s imprisonment on each summons, and she went to Holloway yesterday.

I cannot believe, sir, that you will permit this injustice to be done.

Let me remind you that the woman who, in a Piccadilly flat, used for vile purposes, was drawing young girls to their ruin, had a similar sentence. We hear, moreover, on good authority, that she was released after she had served ten days.

Mrs. Harvey is one whose time, service and money are given to the rescue of little destitute children, and to the help of those not so fortunately placed as herself.

While such injustices as these are permitted by the authorities, can you wonder that women are in revolt? ―Yours truly,

C. Despard

Women’s Freedom League Statement.

The following letter has been sent to the Press from Headquarters:—

Sir,— We write to protest against the extraordinary partial administration of justice in this country. Thousands of persons are resisting the Insurance Act in Great Britain; many cases have been brought before the Courts and nominal fines only have been imposed on the defendants. When, however, it is a case of a woman, and a Suffragist, resisting this Act, who from the point of view of principle, objects to paying taxes because she is not represented in the counsels of the nation, a heavy penalty is exacted.

Mrs. Harvey, of Bromley, Kent, who refused to pay her Insurance dues in respect of her gardener, William David Asquith, or the license for him, was fined as follows:—

For refusal to pay Insurance dues—
£1 fine on each count£1000
Arrears of Insurance amounting to0510
Court fees4100
“Special costs” asked for by the Insurance Commissioners220
For refusal to pay the license—

And since she declined to pay these fines Mrs. Harvey has to-day been conveyed to Holloway Gaol for two months’ imprisonment in the second division. We think these facts speak for themselves.

Mrs. Harvey spends her life in working for the betterment of conditions under which our poorer children live, and has never failed to help those weaker than herself. She believes that until women have a voice in making the laws, no satisfactory legislation will be carried through for the protection of girls and children. For this reason she protests against the exclusion of women from full citizenship rights, and the answer of men’s representatives is two months’ imprisonment in the second division.

For keeping a Piccadilly flat for the express purpose of ruining young girls physically, mentally and morally, another woman was also sentenced to three months’ imprisonment, and it is universally believed that she was released at the end of ten days! ―We are, yours faithfully,

Charlotte Despard.
Florence A. Underwood.

A “Snowball” Protest.

As evidence of the wide interest which is being aroused, Miss Marie Lawson writes from 5, Westbourne-square, London, W., to inform us that she has started a “Snowball” protest on behalf of Mrs. Harvey — a form of protest which she worked successfully in the case of Mr. Mark Wilkes. The “Snowball” letter, which she hopes will be copied and widely distributed, is as follows:—

Dear Madam,— Mrs. K. Harvey, of Bromley, Kent, has been committed to prison for two months for non-payment of a Government tax and for non-compliances with the requirements of the National Insurance Act. Because she refuses to submit to the tyranny of arbitrary taxation and because her conscience will not permit her to comply with conditions which she knows to be wrong and unjust, she has been given this extraordinarily severe sentence.

Passive resistance is a form of protest which has been frequently and successfully used in this country by men. A good part of our constitutional history may be said to have been written in the terms of tax-resistance, and it is largely by such means that some of our greatest reforms have been won. In the case of voteless women it is the only form of protest open to them, short of actual violence. They have to choose between passive resistance and cowardly acquiescence. Mrs. Harvey has chosen the latter [sic], and as a result now lies in Holloway Prison. I earnestly request you to assist the agitation for her immediate release in two ways:—

  1. By copying the accompanying form of protest on to two postcards, adding your name and address, and directing one to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, The Treasury, Whitehall, S.W., and the other to the Home Secretary, Home Office, Whitehall, S.W..
  2. By copying this letter and the form of protest in full and forwarding it to at least three friends, inviting them to join in this “snowball” movement.

Relying on your sympathy and cooperation,

Yours sincerely,
No Taxation Without Representation.

Form of Protest

I write with reference to the case of Mrs. K. Harvey, of Bromley, Kent, who has been committed to prison for two months as a result of her refusal to submit to the tyranny of arbitrary taxation. In seeking to impress upon a Liberal Government the necessity of putting its principles into practice, Mrs. Harvey adopted the time-honoured protest of passive resistance. That being her only offence, I protest against this vindictive sentence, and urge you to use every effort to secure her immediate release.

Also from the same issue:

At Headquarters.

We look forward to a strenuous autumn and winter campaign. We shall begin this in London by holding a demonstration in Trafalgar-square, , to protest against the biased administration of the law and its treatment of women, as instanced in the two months’ imprisonment in the second division which Mrs. Kate Harvey is now undergoing at Holloway because of her refusal to comply with the regulations of the Insurance Act. We urge our readers to make this demonstration as widely known as possible, and to bring all the friends they can to the Square to protest against this excessive sentence. Vote sellers, literature sellers, collectors, and banner bearers will be in great demand, and we shall be glad to have names of volunteers at an early date.

Also from the same issue:

“John Hampden.”

“Would 20s. have ruined Mr. Hampden’s fortune?” “No, but the payment of half 20s. on the principle on which it was demanded would have made him a slave.” So Burke epitomised the attitude of John Hampden towards unjust taxation, and so with equal conciseness might the position of the modern tax-resister be summed up.

Beyond the fact that he resisted Ship Money, the majority of people know little about John Hampden, and we therefore commend the new edition of a pamphlet by Mrs. [Isabella] Darent Harrison, of the Women’s Tax Resistance League. Herself a well-known resister, the writer has depicted with sympathy and force the struggle between Hampden and the King, and with a novelist’s skill has made the events live again.

The character of this “rebel and leader of rebels” was marked by restraint and dignity, by respect for order and good government. Slow to take up arms against the King, he acted directly his duty became clear; he received his death-wound leading his “Green Coats” at Chalgrove Field. Incidently it is interesting to note that the loss of his case against the Crown roused people to see how degenerate the law may become, and paved the way for the Great Rebellion.

It was not the men alone who rebelled, but the women also refused to submit to unjust laws. Among the twenty or thirty people who signed the protest against Ship Money in Great Kimble Church in 1635 were four women — Mrs. Westall and the Widows Bampton, Goodchild and Semple. Women also presented petitions for peace at Westminster Hall. “It may be thought strange and unbeseeming our sex to show ourselves here… but… we are sharers in the public calamities,” so ran the first petition. This deputation was well received by Pym. Not so fortunate was the later one of 5,000 women. Because they pushed their way to the doors of the House of Commons, a cavalry charge was ordered, two women were killed and several injured.

One wonders if there was not a touch of sarcasm about the meek wording of these petitions. One can imagine the lips of these brave women slightly curling with scorn at such words, as “We need not dictate to your eagle-eyed judgment the way,” or “We do this not… as seeking to equal ourselves with men either in authority or wisdom.”

But we forbear from further extracts, and advise all who wish to realise the continuity of the struggle for freedom through the centuries to read this little book.


* “John Hampden” (second edition, with frontispiece). By Mrs. Darent Harrison. (Published by the Women’s Tax Resistance League, 10, Talbot House, 98, St. Martin’s-lane, W.C. Price 1d.)

Also from the same issue:

…some of us have just accompanied to the gates of Holloway the comrade and friend whose letter will be found in the columns of this issue.

Mrs. Harvey, of Bracken Hill, whose splendid work and gracious personality are known to so many of us, having been sentenced to a month’s imprisonment in the second division for refusing to pay her Insurance Tax, and to another month, in lieu of fine, for a license for a manservant, went to prison on Monday.

Our readers will understand that no effort will be spared by the League to make this iniquity known. We have reason to believe that the law has been strained, if not broken, in the infliction of these sentences. That will be ascertained. It is our fervent hope that Mrs. Harvey will soon be with us again. Meantime we hope and believe that every member of the League will help us to the utmost limit of their powers in the battle we are waging against this gross injustice.

In particular, will every member of the League in London and the neighborhood rally round our banners on , in Trafalgar-square, where a big demonstration of protest will be held? We hope earnestly that you will not only come yourselves, but that you will bring others with you. Just and righteous administration of the law is a question which affects men quite as deeply as it affects women.

C. Despard.