Tax Resistance in the U.S. Women’s Suffrage Movement

Today is going to be all about tax resistance in the women’s suffrage movement in the United States.

To start off, we take the wayback machine all the way back to , when the Daily Standard of Syracuse, New York, reported on the National Woman’s Rights Convention (). Excerpt:

Miss Anthony read an address to the Convention, written by Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The scope of it was the duty of property-holding women to refuse paying taxes, when not represented in Legislative bodies.

Lucy Stone said she wanted the woman who had wealth, nobly, heroically to refuse to pay taxes. The issue would thus be made, of taxation without representation. She appealed that this nation should be consistent in its declaration that governments derived their just powers from the consent of the governed. Make your practice consistent with your theory. She advised women when the tax-gatherers came, to refuse, and if brought to justice to reply that taxation and representation are inseparable, and keep saying so, in reply to every question they asked. Boston Court House was hung in chains, and Thomas Sims, in the prime of his manhood, was cast down from the platform of freedom, to seethe in the cauldron of slavery, and Boston women were taxed to defray the expenses.

From here, jump forward to , when this short note hit the pages of The Mirror of Bloomville, New York ():

Lucy Stone refuses to pay her taxes at Orange, N.Y., on the old Revolutionary principle of “no taxation without representation,” and the collector is about to levy on her goods.

In , the American Union of Ellicottville, New York, noted ():

Sarah E. Wall, of Worchester, Mass., refuses to pay taxes. In a letter to a local newspaper she says: “If Massachusetts wants my money voluntarily given, she can have it by striking one word from two clauses of her State Constitution. So long as she deems it ‘inexpedient[’] to do that, I deem it ‘inexpedient’ to pay taxes, and she will get them only by process of law.”

, the New-York Daily Tribune reported ():

Mrs. Dr. Lydia Hasbrouck, being unrepresented, refuses to pay taxes at Wallkill. She was ordered to appear on the high road with a shovel to work out the amount, and did so bearing a fire shovel, greatly to the wrath of the authorities, between whom and herself there consequently exists a terrible disturbance.

The Courier and Union of mocked an anonymous suffragette thusly:

The Strong Minded Woman

A New York editor has seen a strong minded woman, a “Bloomer,” in the interior of the State, and he says her port and costume made a strong impression upon him. She wore a brown tunic, a brown vest, bifacations, a broad, coarse straw hat, masculine boots (nines, he thinks, for her feet were very large) and strange to say, carried in her arms a baby. It seemed odd that such a manly looking being should be a mother, but so it was; and the newspaper man was informed that, in contempt of the usages of decency, she was accustomed, when the infant required sustenance in the street, to seat herself on the nearest door step and administer to its wants from the maternal fountain. From all he heard of the lady, she is certainly entitled to the merit of consistency. She is an abolitionist, and a free lover, as such folks are. Her principles and practices agree. When the road that runs by her residence requires repairing, she turns out with her brother laborers and shovels dirt and cracks stone. — She refuses to pay taxes on the ground that she has no vote, and that taxation without representation is an outrage on civil liberty. — Consequently the tax collector seizes her property (she has a small estate of her own, independent of her husband), and sells it to the amount of his claim. On general training days she has ever been promptly on the ground, armed and equipped according to law; but, much to her chagrin, has never been able to find a militia captain ungallant enough to put her through the faceings. Jury duty she also considers a part of her duty; but the Courts “don’t see it.”…

The Naples [New York] Record gave us this brief note in their edition ():

Mrs. Virginia L. Minor, of St. Louis, indignantly refuses to pay taxes unless she is allowed to vote.

From The Lowell [New York] Daily Courier of :

A Woman’s Protest

Sarah E. Wall, one of the Worcester women whose property is to be sold because she refuses to pay taxes until she can vote, writes to the Worcester Gazette: “The idea of the city of Worcester and the state of Massachusetts leaguing to take from me the little I possess, by the right arm of the law, to pay the salaries of men who are fattening on the spoils of the government, in whoso fitness or unfitness I can have no voice, has always struck me as exceedingly funny, more funny for me than for the city of Worcester. For others, however, it has a more serious meaning, those who by years of toil have consecrated a home, around which cluster the holiest joys of the domestic circle, for them it is martyrdom in the general sense of the term.”

On two papers (at least) covered the tax resistance of Mary Anthony. Here, first, is the Syracuse, New York, Evening Herald’s take:

Refuses to Pay Taxes

Objects to Taxation Without Representation

Miss Mary Anthony of Rochester to Make a Test Case in the Interest of Cause of Suffrage — Local Political Equalitists Sympathize.

The rebellion of Miss Mary Anthony of Rochester against paying her taxes has caused a considerable amount of gossip among Syracuse women, and especially among the suffragists of the city.

Miss Anthony, as is known, served a notice upon County Treasurer Hamilton of Rochester, stating that she refuses to pay taxes any longer; that for more than forty years she has paid taxes amounting in the aggregate to thousands of dollars. She is, she states, a “citizen of the United States as well as of the State of New York, and of sound mind and not disfranchised for any crime.” Because she is refused the right of suffrage she is taxed without representation and, therefore, she gave notice that she would refuse to pay taxes on the ground that it is unjust, tyrannical, and unconstitutional.

Miss Anthony’s course is upheld by equal suffragists of Rochester and her course ratified at a meeting of the club held recently in Rochester. Syracuse suffragists are mainly in favor of Miss Anthony’s position, and express themselves as follows:

Mrs. C.C. Hall — I think it is a good idea and if more women would make such an attempt it would be a grand thing. I believe that women should not be taxed without representation. I believe that women should have a vote and voice in the making of laws. The Rev. Anna Shaw has for years protested against paying her taxes. If more women were alive to the fact and protested against it the effect would be wholesome.

This course has been tried years ago. Susan B. Anthony was imprisoned some thirty years ago because she refused to pay her taxes. The case was decided against her. Of course, as to the outcome of the affair it will be difficult to say, but it is a step in the right direction.

Miss Harriet May Mills — It is unjust for women to be taxed without representation. Miss Anthony has all the ethics of democracy on her side. She is simply doing what our forefathers did. We thought it a noble thing in them, and so it is with her. We are so proud to boast of their achievements. They stand for the same principle for which Miss Anthony is working to-day.

It is said that taxation and representation do not go together, because all men vote regardless of whether they pay taxes or not, on most questions. That is true, but it is also true that no tax-paying man is denied representation.

I admire Miss Anthony for her courage and her adherence to principle. It is the principle upon which all government should stand — the consent of the governed. As to the outcome, I have my opinion of what will happen, but I don’t wish to express it.

Miss Ada Hall — I don’t approve of it myself. I should never want to take that course. It doesn’t seem to me that the way to improve laws is to break them, but I shall, of course, be interested as to the outcome of the matter.

The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle put it this way (excerpts):

Taxation, Voting, and Constitutions

These Things Discussed in Their Relations to Women.

Miss Anthony Talks

Miss Mary May Make Test Case of Her Refusal to Pay Tax Bill — Susan B. Quotes the Words of the Forefathers.

When a reporter of the Democrat and Chronicle called at the Anthony home last evening, Miss Mary and Miss Susan B. Anthony consented to talk about the latest move which Miss Mary has made in the political world, to have what she considers her rights as an American citizen recognized.

When it was announced that Mary Anthony had written to the county treasurer protesting against and refusing to pay her taxes, on the ground that it was unconstitutional to tax her without representation in the government, it created a sensation, and several women property owners are awaiting the outcome with interest, with a view to following Miss Mary’s lead if there is the slightest possibility of success or of furthering woman suffrage.

“Miss Mary, is it your intention to carry this matter into the courts?” was asked by the reporter.

“That depends,” was the reply. “The main object of this protest is to arouse agitation on this phase of woman suffrage, and get the public to declare itself. But whether we shall carry it through to the end remains to be seen. Of course, it is expensive, getting into litigation, and it may seem best to avoid this, but we shall be governed by circumstances.”

“Miss Anthony,” said the reporter, “you have been quoted as stating that taxation without representation is unconstitutional, and Miss Mary has implied the same thing in her formal protest to the treasurer. I would like to know if you have been correctly quoted.”

“I don’t think that I stated that taxation without representation is unconstitutional, for I should not dare make such a statement without referring to the constitution, but there has never been any question as to representation being a correlative right of taxation. Taxation and representation are inseparable. It is the basic principle upon which our government is founded. It was the battle cry of our forefathers and a principle of government which has been handed down to us from the Revolutionary period.

“Our government is based upon the Declaration of Independence, and the constitutions of all the states include that principle, if they do not make the exact statement in words. The constitution of New York state says that ‘No member of this state shall be disfranchised, or deprived of any of the rights or privileges secured to any citizen thereof, unless by the law of the land, or the judgment of his peers.’ The pronoun ‘his’ in this article of the constitution, is interpreted to include only male citizens, but in other places where it appears in the constitution, when they want to hang us, or imprison us, or tax us, the pronoun ‘his’ or ‘him’ is interpreted to include women. Therein lies the great injustice. Man has it all his own way, and he interprets the constitution and twists and turns it to suit himself every time, whether it is consistent or not. Why should ‘his’ or ‘him’ in one place mean only male citizens, and in the other places include both men and women.”

The Perry [New York] Herald and News noted:

Miss Anthony’s Protest

Miss Mary S. Anthony, of Rochester, N.Y., who not long ago subscribed the last $2,000 needed to secure the admission of girls to the University of Rochester, has notified the county treasurer that she will refuse to pay her taxes, on the ground that she is not permitted to vote, and that there should be no taxation without representation. Miss Anthony is a sister of Susan B. Anthony. In Rochester alone 9,991 women pay taxes on $28,672,974 worth of property.

To Miss Anthony’s plea it is objected, somewhat lamely, that the property of minors, aliens, and idiots is taxed, although they are not voters. Minors, aliens, idiots, and insane persons were taxed without representation in , but that did not seem to our forefathers a sufficient reason why sane adults should be taxed in the same way, and they fought the war of the Revolution upon that argument. It is not likely that Miss Anthony will get a favorable decision in the courts, but every such incident educates the public and hastens the day of equal rights for women.

The Hudson [New York] Evening Register editorialized as follows on :

No Vote, No Tax.

There is a “No Vote, No Tax” league in Chicago composed of women who are inclined to make trouble if women are not given the ballot.

The women who compose the league give it out that they are going to flatly refuse to pay taxes until the electoral franchise is accorded them.

The right to vote and the duty to pay taxes have no relation to one another. Thousands of foreigners who have not yet acquired the right to vote are assessed taxes upon their property. Women who have not the right to vote are also assessed taxes on their property and for the same reason, and that reason is that they have the protection of the law both in their property and personal rights, and should contribute to the public funds for maintaining the government that protects them.

Women will never win the franchise on any such pretext as this.

There is no good reason why a woman should not be just as competent to vote upon any public question as a man if she is intelligent enough to comprehend it, but that she should claim the right to vote because she pays taxes is claiming a right that is not accorded to the men, even men who own large property and conduct large enterprises.

Under our constitution and laws the “No Vote, No Tax” agitation is the essence of silliness. Woman suffrage cannot rest upon a different basis than manhood suffrage.

The women have too many sound and logical arguments, to resort to unsound ones.

In the Western Mail of Perth, Australia, ran this story:

American Women and the Franchise

American suffragists are beginning to adopt tax resisting as a means of protest against their exclusion from the State franchise. The case of Miss Lucy Daniels, a Vermont property owner, has attracted a good deal of attention. Miss Daniels, who has a summer house at Grafton, Vermont, has put the authorities in a dilemma by refusing to pay taxes while, as she says, denied representation. Last year some of her bank stock was seized, and sold, but the bank refused to honour the sale, and continues to send Miss Daniels the dividends. It appears that the transfer of national bank stock is controlled by Act of Congress, and is not subject to control by Vermont or other State laws. The purchaser of the stock. Miss Daniel’s nephew, has done nothing to enforce his claim, but, as the authorities received more for the stock from him than the amount of taxes due, they may be content to let the knotty point as to legal ownership rest. What proceedings, if any, they will take to recover this year’s taxes is not apparent.

The laws on the Statute Book, Miss Daniels maintains, show that the lawmakers recognise that the person who pays the bill is the person who must “have the say.” So far has this conviction been carried that “pocket-book rights” have been permitted to override, on the statutes, motherhood rights. Yet men are ignoring these same pocket-book rights in the case of women, making them pay without letting her say. This makes Miss Daniels “tired,” and the tax-testers are wondering what will happen next.

The Utica Observer of reported:

Pledged to Fight Income Tax Law

Suffragist Leaders Assert They Have Hundreds of Followers

They Are Encouraged

Congressional Union Will Back All Individuals Who Refuse to Pay — Statement Causes Mild Sensation in Washington

Resistance on the part of women of the country to the federal income tax law despite the Government’s announced intention to impose fines of $1,000 for each failure to report incomes will receive the encouragement of the Suffragists Congressional Union, it is announced in a statement issued by the organization headquarters here.

Resistance to the law, it is declared, would be thoroughly justified from a moral standpoint. The statement, coming as it does upon the heels of the suggestion of the Rev. Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, president of the National Women’s Suffrage Association, that the “unenfranchised” women of the country decline to aid the Government in collecting taxes upon their incomes, caused a mild sensation today in congressional, treasury, and suffragist circles.

The statement issued by the Congressional Union declares that it does not plan to organize a widespread resistance to the income tax law, but says:

“If any society or individual, however, should refuse to pay income tax or to give information as to amount of income the Congressional Union would have every sympathy with such action.”

“Helplessness of women”

Imposition of an income tax on women, the statement says, has made them realize afresh their helplessness under the Government. To tax the women without granting them representation, the statement asserts, would be an act of “intolerable injustice.”

“Resistance to the income tax law,” the statement says, “would have excellent educational value and would be thoroughly justified morally.” It is stated in conclusion, however, that the union will not undertake to organize a protest against the law.

The suffragist leaders assert that they have hundreds of followers pledged to fight the income tax.

Mrs. Ellen Spencer Mussey, honorary dean of the Washington College of Law, in a statement to-day, takes issue with suffragists who would accept Dr. Shaw’s advice of “passive resistance.”

“Women should remember that they receive the protection of the Government,” said Mrs. Mussey, “and it is only right that they should contribute to the support of a system of law and order in which they share the benefits.

“In addition to this reason, the income tax was enacted by the aid of legislators from equal suffrage States and, therefore, suffragists should not hinder its operation.”

The Washington Times led their article with Mussey’s criticism, and continued as follows ():

Treasury officials pointed out that the provisions of the income tax are plain, and that the penalty clause is sufficiently stringent to prevent women from attempting to evade payment of the tax. The law provides that any person liable to make the return or pay the tax “who shall refuse or neglect to make a return at the times specified in each year shall be liable to a penalty of not less than $20 nor more than $1,000.”

Guilty of Misdemeanor.

And it is further provided that any person who “makes any false or fraudulent return or statement with intent to defeat or evade the assessment shall be made guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be fined not exceeding $2,000 or be imprisoned not exceeding one year, or both, at the discretion, of the court.”

Miss Alice Paul, of the Congressional Union, when asked as to the attitude of Washington suffragists on the question of resistance raised by Dr. Shaw, declared that “women shouldn’t be taxed unless they have a voice in making the laws.

“If it were possible to resist the measure, undoubtedly we would,” she added.

Members of Congress expressed interest in the letter written by Dr. Shaw, which was addressed to the “unfranchised American women.” Congressman Frank D. Mondell, of Wyoming, one of he first suffrage States, declared that he “is not a believer in militancy whether It be active or passive as suggested by Dr. Shaw.”

Includes All Persons.

He declared that Congress had enacted the income tax law and that all persons whose incomes are above the exempted amount are required to make returns to the tax collectors and pay the tax.

"Any refusal to make returns, as suggested by Dr. Shaw, would, of course, be a refusal to obey the plain letter of the law,” he said.

The Treasury Department has not indicated whether it will take official notice of Dr. Shaw’ suggestion by making reference, to it in instructions to income tax collectors.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle impatiently commented on the case as follows ():

The Rev. Anna Howard Shaw refuses to pay her taxes without the vote. This is the limit of militancy in this country. The refusal points an argument and maims or kills no one. If a friendly sheriff can be induced to sell out Dr. Anna under spectacular auspices it will advertise the cause far more, than hit-or-miss bomb-slinging. But if the sheriff is not friendly, these tax matters drag over such a long period that they wear out the patience of a press agent.

And The New York Call reported:

Women May Refuse to Pay Tax Bills

Dr. Shaw’s Plan to Demand Representation Meets With Approval in Quaker City.

Dr. Anna Howard Shaw’s appeal to the women suffragist property owners of the country to resist taxation without representation met with sympathy yesterday in this city, but without promise of definite action.

All the women of the Suffrage party holding property who could be reached declared their complete sympathy with Dr. Shaw’s refusal to give the Tax Collector of Moylan, Delaware County, an appraisement of her property. None of them would say they would follow her example here.

Dr. Shaw’s appeal carried particular weight, because she is president of the National Suffrage Association, and is the trusted leader of the party in the United States.

“It’s all right for those who are brave enough to do it.”

This and similar comments greeted the proposition to refuse Tax Collectors any help in making assessments, was submitted to the women of Philadelphia yesterday through Dr. Shaw.

“It has my entire sympathy.” declared Miss Mary Winsor, of Haverford.

“Fine! Splendid!” applauded Mrs. George Morgan, of 4418 Osage avenue, one of the prominent members of the Suffrage party.

Mrs. Henry C. Davis, of 1822 Pine street, with the blood of her Quaker ancestry flowing through her veins, was all she needed to promote her to indorsement of tax resistance.

“It’s the same principle against which my forbears protested,” she said. “They didn’t have to levy a war tax, because the Quakers didn’t believe in war. Resistance to taxation without representation has my entire sympathy.”

The New York Call added this note to their coverage of the tax resistance call:

Colorado suffragists declared today as a whole that they will refuse to pay an income tax because the law is “man-made and unfair.”

, Anna Shaw followed through on her promise to resist, and the Hudson [New York] Evening Register reported ():

Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, president of the National American Woman Suffrage association, has refused to list for taxation her property in Pennsylvania. She declares that thus she intends to prove the impotency of women’s position under existing laws. She will be assessed by a man she had no voice in choosing, punished by a judge she didn’t choose, and will lose her estate at the hands of a sheriff she never helped select but must help to pay. She refuses to pay her income tax also for the same reason, and when asked to fill out a blank stating the amount of her income and from what source it was derived, wrote instead on the official sheet her declaration of principles: that taxation without representation is tyranny.

The New York Call called upon Joseph E. Cohen to give the standard order sensible liberal tut-tutting, in “Militancy in America”:

If there is one thing more than another which throws the conservative papers into hysteria, it is the idea of militancy upon the part of woman suffragists.

They are accustomed to regard the ordinary channels of politics as something with very little sting to it (which is not unjustified from their experience with the Republican, Democratic, and reform parties). The act of the lawless reaches home; it is personally effective.

Experience teaches that “propaganda of the dead” [sic] — where peaceful methods are at hand — is not direct action, but direct reaction. It is not the shortest way to the object desired: it is a boomerang.

But where no peaceful methods may be used, what are those who desire political right to do? The answer is in England.

And if the situation in America were identical with that in England, then the same methods would come to the front in this country. Not all the preaching of all the opponents of woman suffrage would stop it.

But the situation is not the same in America. Consequently, it is very debatable if the suggestion made by Dr. Anna Shaw, to refuse to pay the income tax, is a good one.

It is no longer true that taxes are the basis upon which suffrage is to be had. If only those who pay taxes directly were given the vote, the largest part of the population would be disfranchised.

And we do not think Dr. Shaw would care to place herself with those limited suffragists who think only those should vote who pay taxes.

Still less so would she care to be put in the position of advocating that only such as pay an income tax should have the right to vote.

If extra legal methods are considered advisable in this country, then they should be such as may be adopted by all women, irrespective of economic or other restrictions.

That is to say, the fight on the income tax, from whatever source it comes, is a fight upon the part of people of means — not the masses.

And the Woman Suffrage Association only too recently, at the national convention, placed itself upon record as being a working woman’s movement as much as any one else’s, to now adopt tactics in which the great body of women can take no part and for which they can have no sympathy.

So far as the income tax itself is concerned, it may indeed be taken to be a democratic measure, or a progressive measure. To be sure, it is only an auxiliary of the tariff bill and not independent of it. Its purpose is not to establish the broad principle of taxing the well to do according to their ability to pay, which is the right basis for an income tax. The purpose of the present law is merely to secure to the government such revenue as is lost by shifting the tariff schedules.

More than that, the woman suffrage movement would be in a rather awkward plight if it were to be taken for granted that Dr. Shaw and those who favor her quarrel with the income tax do so for the same reason they favor woman suffrage. If woman suffrage were favored for the same reasons that the income tax is opposed, then something would be wrong with woman suffrage.

Turning the thing around, there is no connection between the suffrage movement and the income tax. The income tax is a measure to reach the wealthy, and those who oppose it must do so because they are against popular government.

That Dr. Shaw and the women generally should feel resentment toward President Wilson and the Democratic party for sidestepping the ballot for women, is quite natural and to be commended. However much one may welcome certain acts of the present administration, the fact remains that these have been done in the general plan to offset the real democratic movements of the time, both for democracy in politics and industry.

The women have every reason for carrying on a vigilant campaign in their own behalf, and placing no reliance in the old parties. But the fight on the income measure is not a necessary part of such a campaign.

Better work would be done if the same spirit and energy were thrown toward securing measures of relief for the working women.

The Casa Grande Valley [Arizona] Dispatch on reported:

Refuses to Pay Taxes

Dr. Anna Howard Shaw sent out from Pittsfield, Mass., a statement regarding her refusal to pay the “exhorbitant” personal tax “unjustly” levied upon her by the assessor of Delaware county, Pennsylvania. Her statement reads in part as follows:

“In the tax assessor of Upper Providence township, Delaware county, Pennsylvania, left at the house of Dr. Shaw a four page, legal size, pink sheet requesting that she make out a detailed statement of all her personal property including bonds, stock, mortgage, etc., giving in minute details the name and character of each.

Dr. Shaw has always believed in the contention of the Colonies that ‘taxation without representation is tyranny’ and has consistently protested along this line when paying her taxes. But when, in addition to imposing an unjust tax, the government demanded that when she make out the list upon which the taxes were to be levied, she respectfully declined, stating that the very act of taxing a citizen of the United States while arbitrarily depriving her of representation was a violation of the National Constitution which declares that the ‘privileges and immunities [of] the citizens of the United States, shall not be abridged or denied by the United States nor by any State.’

“For the State of Pennsylvania to deny to women citizens of the United States the right to participate in the government is in direct violation of this fundamental law of the land.

“Furthermore when the state demands that the citizen thus illegally denies her rights, shall in addition be the state’s accomplice in this unconstitutional act by making out a list upon which taxes may be levied, this is heaping injury upon tyranny. In the spirit of Dr. Shaw declined to be a party to an act which violated the National Constitution. She returned the document without making out the list.

“But in declining to make out the list, Dr. Shaw did not violate any law for the document stated that if for any reason the person failed to make out the list, the assessor should prepare it, but added that in doing so he should as far as possible learn the amount of property in order to make a reasonably fair statement.

Dr. Shaw has witnesses who are willing to testify to the fact that instead of complying with this reasonable provision of the law, the assessor declared he took no pains to inform himself, and boasted that he would make the assessment so large that it would compel Dr. Shaw to make a statement. He therefore assessed her taxable personal property at $30,000.00. Had the assessor, as he was legally bound to do, sought to ascertain the value of Dr. Shaw’s personal property he could easily have done so, and if upon this information he had levied taxes she would have paid them as she always does all other taxes, namely, under protest against the tyranny of taxation without representation.”

Finally, this article from the New York Call:

School Marms Refuse to Pay Missouri Tax

“We don’t vote, and we don’t propose to pay,” is ultimatum of the teachers in Independence, Mo.

Women teachers in the schools of Independence, Mo., today announced they would refuse to pay taxes until given the right to vote. The teachers said they had been notified they were assessed $50 each and must pay taxes on that amount.

Angered at what she called taxation without representation, Miss Anna Baskin, teacher in the Columbia school, together with several other teachers, took the war path to let men know they could not dominate women in any such manner.

“They don’t let us vote and we are not heads of households and we don’t propose to pay taxes,” said Miss Baskin. “When they give us suffrage, then we will be glad to bear our share of the expense of the government.”