Mary Stone McDowell is a rare — perhaps unique — example of someone who took a war tax resistance stand during World War Ⅰ and was also part of the post World War Ⅱ revival of war tax resistance in America.
From the New York Herald (excerpt):
Miss Mary S. McDowell, Member of Society of Friends, to Face Trial.
Miss Mary S. McDowell, a teacher of Latin in the Manual Training High School, was suspended from duty without pay as a result of charges of pacifism brought against her several weeks ago by the Board of Superindendents.
The order suspending Miss McDowell, issued by Dr. Gustave Straubenmuller, acting Superintendent of Schools, was approved formally by the Board of Education at its meeting. In the formal notice the cause for suspension is given as “conduct unbecoming a teacher.”
Miss McDowell will be called before a special committee of the School Board to show cause why she should not be dismissed from the service. No date has been set for the trial.
Miss McDowell, who lives with her mother at No. 20 Crooke avenue, Brooklyn, is a member of the Society of Friends and declares that by reason of her faith she conscientiously is opposed to war and all its activities. It is alleged she repeatedly refused to sign loyalty pledges circulated among the teachers and refused to take part in Red Cross work and Liberty Bond sales.
Miss McDowell has been a teacher in the public schools for thirteen years and, in the opinion of Dr. Straubenmuller, is “a very estimable woman and an excellent Latin teacher, with unfortunate views regarding the war.”
(The New York Times, always jealous in defending its own freedom of speech, though it so rarely has anything to say that the government would find any need to censor, editorialized that “it becomes the Friends to retire from and to keep out of positions which in their very nature involved the declaration and teaching of patriotism as it is understood by a majority of human beings so large that its members have a right to consider themselves normal and everybody else abnormal. For these reasons it seems to us that a Friend, at this time, is distinctly out of place as a teacher in a public school — that if well advised such a teacher will resign, and that if not docile to good counsel, he or she, as the case may be, should be dismissed.”)
From the Brooklyn Eagle:
, but 70 pacifists throughout the country, including a former school teacher in Brooklyn, will refuse to pay Uncle Sam who, they say, is spending his money preparing for a war.
The group has grown since when about 40 pacifists, objecting to the “war preparations,” refused to pay either all or a part of their taxes.
Mary McDowall of 555 Ocean Ave., a Quaker who taught Latin at Abraham Lincoln High School until her retirement five years ago, is a member of the group, known as the Tax Refusal Committee of Peacemakers.
“I’m Not Stingy”
Miss McDowall has withheld one-third of her total tax, claiming “at least that proportion is used for war preparation.” The withheld amount, she points out is donated to the American Friends Service Committee (Quakers).
“I don’t want the money I withhold,” she says. “I’m not stingy. I merely won’t help in construction for war.
Miss McDowall’s Quaker principles caused her suspension from the faculty of Manual Training High School in . She was suspended for “disloyalty and insubordination,” having refused to take part in the school’s patriotic aid program of World War Ⅰ.
She was cleared and reinstated in when it was officially admitted that her Board of Education trial had been held “at a time of great public excitement.”
Has Jaile[d] Confrere
The 70 “tax refusers,” in a statement issued at their headquarters, 2013 5th Ave., Manhattan, announced they “hail the courage of Katsuki James Otsuka,” who drew a three-month Federal sentence and a $100 fine in Indianapolis earlier this month for refusing to pay $4.50 in income taxes.
Otsuka also refused to pay the fine, choosing instead an additional sentence.
Among the organization’s Manhattan members is Sander Katz, 25, who served 19 months in jail for refusing to report for induction in World War Ⅱ and who was sentenced to another year and a day for refusing to register under the Draft Act.
Another Brooklyn Eagle article, from, I think, around :
Mary S. McDowell, 74, retired public school teacher of 555 Ocean Ave., wants it known that again this year she is paying only two-thirds of her Federal income tax.
The reason, she advised during a call at the Brooklyn Eagle office, is that she is opposed to war and refuses to finance the manufacture of war materials.
“An estimated third of income tax collections goes for defense,” she said. “So one-third of my tax payment, or what would be a third of it, I am giving to a charity. I did it last year on my own initiative and this year I am withholding one-third as a member of the ‘Peacemakers’.”
From its Manhattan office at 2013 5th Ave. the Peacemakers issued a press release in which it described itself as “a national pacifist movement” and listed “27 men and 19 women in scattered parts of the United States” who are not paying income taxes because they “refuse to finance war preparations.” Miss McDowell is among those listed.
“I am a Quaker,” said Miss McDowell, the only Brooklynite on the Peacemakers’ list. “I have always been opposed to war. Not paying income tax is a practical Way of expressing opposition to war.
“I was opposed to the first World War. I was teaching at Manual Training High School then. Because of my expressed opposition I was fired. It wasn’t until that I was reinstated as a teacher.”
She was at Abraham Lincoln when she retired in .
The Peacemakers’ list of tax rebels includes the names of the Rev. A.J. Muste of 21 Audubon Ave., Manhattan, described as secretary of the organization, and the Rev. Ernest R. Bromley of Wilmington, Ohio, named as chairman of the Tax Refusal Committee.
“One omission from the list,” the release explains, “is the name of Katsuki James Otsuka, an earlham college student of Richmond, Ind. He was released on after serving nearly five months in the Federal Correctional Institution, Ashland, Ky., for his refusal to pay $4.50 income taxes. He was released even though he continued to refuse to pay. His name does not appear because his imprisonment prevented his earning a taxable income for .”
The Eagle covered her protest again in :
A retired Brooklyn Latin teacher was one of 41 “Tax Refusers” across the nation who deducted from their Federal returns — due — percentages they said would be used for present and future wars.
Mary S. McDowell of 555 Ocean Ave., a Quaker who started teaching in borough schools in and was suspended from the school system for pacifist activities, in a letter to the local internal revenue office said she was sending $237 — 60 percent of her return — to the American Friends Service Committee, a charity, to keep herself from being “involved in war preparations.”
The 76-year-old woman wrote: “All war is contrary to the essential principle of Christianity and to the basic faith of democracy.” She inclosed a pamphlet entitled “A Democratic Program for a Durable Peace” which she recently had published.
, she said, she deducted only 45 percent from her tax return. The increase this year, she explained, was prompted not by inflation but by mounting Government spending for rearmament.
Government Takes Lien
The income tax office , in a move to collect the unpaid balance of her return, placed a lien on the elderly ex-teacher’s pension.
A native of New Jersey, Miss McDowell attended Swarthmore College and taught in Manual Training and Abraham Lincoln High Schools. She retired in .
Her letter, in part, said: “I realize that I cannot entirely free myself from being involved in war preparations; but I believe it is important to bear my testimony in action as far as I can.
“Now that we are so largely devoting our men and our resources to war preparations and taking part in an armament race, it seems clearer than ever that our course may be leading toward world war and inconceivable slaughter and destruction to our own country as well as the world.
“Accordingly, it would seem that not only religious pacifists, but all intelligent true patriots should do everything in their power to halt rearmament and vastly increase constructive activities looking toward worldwide human welfare and durable peace.”
The Eagle covered her protest again in :
A 77-year-old former Latin teacher has taken a stand in which many of her neighbors would like to join her , although for more personal reasons. Mary McDowell of 555 Ocean Ave. has refused to pay her income tax.
Member of the Tax Refusal Committee of Peacemakers — a group of individuals scattered over the nation who withhold that part of their tax which they believe will be used for armaments — Miss McDowell held back 70 percent.
Each year the tally grows. In , the elderly teacher said, she deducted only 60 percent from her return. it was 45 percent. It is her custom to contribute the deducted amounts to the American Friends Service Committee.
The Quaker lady has been fighting a war against war nearly all her life. She started teaching in Brooklyn in but was suspended from the school system because of her pacifist activities during World War Ⅰ.
Her defiance of the tax collector, Miss McDowell calls “the new patriotism.” The popular idea, she said, holds up the soldier as a model of patriotism but, against this, she matches her own method of “trying to prevent a disaster to one’s country.”
Each year the U.S. Government refuses to be persuaded and places a lien on her teacher’s pension. Each year Miss McDowell tries, in the same way, to express her belief that “war or threats of war cannot bring security.”
The Tax Refusers, she said, “strive not only to avoid assisting in preparations for war, but also to point out constructive courses of action, that will bring durable peace through human welfare, disarmament and solution of world problems.”
Miss McDowell believes the great day of permanent peace “will come like Spring,” suddenly but only as a result of slow preparation and a multitude of just such efforts as her own small token resistance to the tax collector.
, McDowell was at it again, and the Eagle was there:
Mary McDowell, 78, retired high school teacher of 555 Ocean Ave., figured out her Federal income tax.
It came to $300.
She promptly sent a check for $90 as her tax to the Internal Revenue Bureau.
“I’m paying only 30 percent of my tax,” she said .” I refuse to pay the 70 percent which goes for war purposes.”
She calls her tax defiance “the new patriotism.”
Miss McDowell is a member of the Tax Refusal Committee of Peacemakers — a group of individuals scattered over the nation who each year withhold part of their tax which they believe will go for armaments. she has withheld part of her tax.
Each year the Government refuses to go along with her and it places a lien on her teacher’s pension.
She is a Quaker and has been fighting against war all her life.
“War is contrary to Christian principles and is contrary to democratic ideals,” she contends.
In , the Mary S. McDowell story became the second of the “Profiles in Courage” featured on the short-lived television series of that name. The Friends Journal published a profile of McDowell in .