Suffragette Tax Resister Anna Howard Shaw

From the New York Times:

Hitches Her Auto to Star of Fame

Dr. Anna Howard Shaw Puts Her Little Yellow Car Up Against Boston Tea Party.

Let ’em Sell It for Taxes

She Has No Representation in Government, and She’ll Just Defy Their Extortion.

Dr. Anna Howard Shaw and her little yellow suffrage car Eastern Victory, she hopes, will go down into history with the Boston Tea Party as examples of unjust taxation.

Dr. Shaw issued a statement in Pittsfield, Mass., saying that she had never refused to pay any but an exorbitant tax unjustly levied on her, and that if her little yellow automobile, presented to her in New York two weeks ago, is sold for taxes it will be an altogether unfair discrimination against the 70-year-old President of the National Suffrage Association.

The trouble began in the Fall of , says the statement, when the Tax Assessor of Upper Providence Township, Delaware County, Penn., left at the house of Dr. Shaw at Moylan a large legal paper requesting her to make out a detailed statement of all her “personal property, mortgages, stocks, and bonds with minute details.”

Dr. Shaw replied that while she was illegally denied the right of participating in the Government of the State to ask her to make out a list upon which taxes were to be levied would be “heaping injury upon tyranny.” “In the spirit of ,” as her statement reads, she “declined to be a party to an act which violated the national Constitution.” So she returned the document unadorned.

Dr. Shaw did not violate any law in this act, her statement goes on to explain, for on the document itself was the statement that if for any reason the list was not made out by the person to be taxed the assessor should “learn the amount of the property and make out a reasonably fair statement.”

Did the baffled assessor do this! Not a bit of it. He boasted before witnesses who can be brought by Dr. Shaw, she says, that he would make the assessment so large that the suffrage leader would be compelled to make out the statement. He assessed her for $30,000. Then comes the thing that Dr. Shaw and her friends think is just plain “cattishness.” Waiting until the proper time to swear off an overassessment Dr. Shaw found herself out of the State on a lecture tour, but sent a representative with full power of attorney to act for her. The Tax Commissioner refused to do anything about a reduction unless Dr. Shaw made out the declaration and then, to quote her:

“Unable to conceal the real animus of the situation the assessor sent out an absolutely false and misleading statement, declaring that as soon as Dr. Shaw had received the notice of assessment she had immediately rushed to the Commissioner and demanded that it be reduced, and she did nothing of the kind.”

That was not the end of the trouble between the suffragist and the Tax Collector. Dr. Shaw did not pay the exaggerated tax on property she did not own, but she did change her legal address and sent in first one personal notice, then a second acknowledged by her lawyer, and a third in a registered letter to make sure of its reaching its destination, but no notice was taken of them.

The taking of the little yellow car in the absence of every one but a little maid from the house in Moylan is a part of the assessor’s attempt to make her pay the unjust tax, says Mr. Shaw, the car being a gift.

At the end of her statement, as a valedictory to the little yellow car which was presented to her on , and in which she had taken her first two weeks’ vacation in three years to learn how to run it, Dr. Shaw says:

“These men, living on the soil made sacred by the blood of heroes and heroines who fought some of the fiercest battles against the tyranny of taxation without representation, had caught so little of this heroic spirit themselves that they thought it was dead in others.

“In making the levy upon the car the officer stated to Miss [Lucy] Anthony’s maid that unless the tax was paid within five days the sale would be advertised.

“The sale will probably take place, and the little yellow motor named Eastern Victory will become famous when the history of the tyrannical and inconsistent attitude of this so-called republic shall be written.”

An article in the Philadelphia Evening Public Ledger claimed that “some of the suffragists, it is said, will not support Doctor Shaw in the stand she has taken. A young woman at the party headquarters in Media today said that she and other members could see no reason for the doctor’s attitude.”

Shaw filed an injunction against the sale, claiming that she had not been a resident of Pennsylvania, but of New York, and so could owe no state taxes in Pennsylvania. That injunction failed, and the car was put up for auction on , whereupon it was purchased for $230 “by the Woman Suffrage Society of Delaware County, and returned to Dr. Shaw.”

The “Eastern Victory” did become a bit of a famous symbol, and was a hit at “Lucy Stone Day” :

Lucy Stone Day Observed By 1,000

Suffragists Erect Tablet to the Memory of Pioneer Fighter for Votes for Women.

Gather In East Orange

In 150 Automobiles, Visit House Sold in 1858 Because She Would Pay No Taxes.

Lucy Stone Day was observed by more than a thousand suffragists at East Orange, N.J., where a bronze tablet was unveiled on the little house in which Lucy Stone lived and which was sold, with its furniture, fifty-seven years ago for the taxes she refused to pay, because taxation without representation was tyranny.

Lucy Stone was born in , and was the first woman in Massachusetts to take a college degree. She was graduated from Oberlin College in . She headed the call for the first National Woman’s Rights Convention, held at Worcester, Mass., in . About five years later she married Henry B. Blackwell and made a home in Orange. It was here in that her household goods were sold to pay taxes, and when the sale was over, with Alice Stone Blackwell, one year old, on her lap, she wrote her burning protest.

Her burning protest went a little something like this:

Orange, N.J., .

Mr. Mandeville, Tax Collector, Sir:— Enclosed I return by tax bill, without paying it. My reason for doing so is, that women suffer taxation, and yet have no representation, which is not only unjust to one-half the adult population, but is contrary to our theory of government. For years some women have been paying their taxes under protest, but still taxes are imposed, and representation is not granted. The only course now left us is to refuse to pay the tax. We know well what the immediate result of this refusal must be.

But we believe that when the attention of men is called to the wide difference between their theory of government and its practice, in this particular, they can not fail to see the mistake they now make, by imposing taxes on women, while they refuse them the right of suffrage, and that the sense of justice which is in all good men, will lead them to correct it. Then we shall cheerfully pay our taxes — not till then.

Lucy Stone.

Back to the Times article about Lucy Stone Day:

The units of the parade came from widely different sections. Dr. Anna Howard Shaw made her début in the new yellow suffrage car, presented to her at at 505 Fifth Avenue by the National Woman Suffrage Association. There were no ceremonies, but a crowd had gathered about the gaily decorated car and was so insistent that Dr. Shaw finally made a brief speech. Mrs. Carrie Chapman Catt came down from the Empire State Campaign Committee rooms to inspect the new car and to congratulate Dr. Shaw, and then the car started for Orange.

Miss Edna V. O’Brien of Tarrytown was the chauffeur. She, together with Miss Amie Hutchinson, were the chief instruments in raising the funds for this new car, named the Eastern Victory Ⅱ., and also for the original little Eastern Victory that was sold in Pennsylvania for the non-payment of taxes and bought in by suffragists and again presented to Dr. Shaw. The new car seats five and bears the owner’s monogram.

Alice Stone Blackwell unveiled the tablet to her mother’s memory, but said her voice was not fitted for outdoor speaking and that she could best prove herself intelligent enough to vote by refraining from a speech. The tablet bore the following inscription:

In , Lucy Stone, a noble pioneer in the emancipation of women, here first protested against their taxation without representation in New Jersey.

It was erected by the New Jersey Woman Suffrage Association.

Dr. Shaw told how her grandmother, an Englishwoman, refused to pay tithes to the English church near her because she was not a member of it, and how year after year small pieces of her property were sold to pay the tithes. Turning to Miss Blackwell, she said:

“It was on this very stoop that your mother rocked you in the cradle that was sold for taxes.”

There’s an example of how consciousness of the history and tradition of tax resistance was important for practicing resisters, and here’s another: In , Shaw set out her tax resistance theory, which was inspired in part by the tradition of Quaker war tax resistance:

Women’s Tax Fight Will Be Passive

Dr. Shaw Says Suffragists Won’t Be “Militant” in Resisting Government Collectors.

Will Follow Quaker Plan

They Won’t Turn Pockets Inside Out While Government Picks Them, Suffrage Leader Asserts.

Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, President of the National Woman’s Suffrage Association, denied that “militancy” was involved in her appeal to suffragists to refuse to pay taxes until they obtain the right to vote. Dr. Shaw asserted that she advocated only a passive resistance to the Government’s agents.

“I hold it is unfair to the women of this country to have taxation without representation,” she said, “and I have urged them to adopt a course of passive resistance like the Quakers instead of aggressive resistance. I say to the Government, ‘you may pick my pocket because you are stronger than I, but I’m not going to turn my pockets wrongside out for you. You will have to turn them out yourself.’ Since my letter was sent all over the country, I have received letters of encouragement and support from all directions. I believe that the spirit of no taxation without representation that resulted in the Revolutionary War is inherent and just as actual in the women of the country as it was then in the men of the country.”

It was suggested to Dr. Shaw that she might have to pay a fine of from $20 to $1,000 if she refused to make returns to her tax assessor or failed to pay her assessments.

“Well, I will not pay the fine,” said Dr. Shaw.

“But suppose you should be held in contempt, what then?”

“I should go to jail, of course,” replied Dr. Shaw.

“And if you were put in prison for contempt for refusing to pay your tax assessments, would you start a hunger strike?” Dr. Shaw was asked.

“Most assuredly, no,” she said. “I should not thus destroy my health. I’m of more worth to the suffrage cause while I’m in good health than I would be if I was starved. Probably they will levy on some of my property and sell that. I don’t know what will happen. A thousand dollars is a very heavy fine. I do hope they won’t impose that much. But if they do, I’ll just go to jail and serve my time.”

Here is Dr. Shaw’s letter to the suffragists:

The enactment of an income tax law has caused assessors to be more insistent in their demand that an accurate statement of all personal as well as real property shall be listed and returned within a specified time, in order that no property may escape the Government tax collectors.

Here women may make their passive protest and decline to aid the Government in levying upon them by refusing to render an account of their property. In this manner we can show our loyalty to those who struggled to make this a free republic and who laid down their lives in defense of the equal rights of all free citizens to a voice in their own Government. This is a time when we may utter again into the ears of an apostate republic the words of James Otis, that great champion of the liberties of the colonists, when he wrote:

The very act of taxing over those who are not represented appears to me to be depriving them of their most essential rights as free men, and if continued seems to be in effect an entire disfranchisement of every civil right. For what one civil right is worth a rush after a man’s property is subject to be taken from him at pleasure without his consent? If a man is not his own assessor, in person or by deputy, his liberty is gone or he is entirely at the mercy of others.

Let our protest be universal, and let every believer in justice unite in this mode of passive resistance and steadfastly refuse to assist the Government in its unjust and tyrannical violation of its fundamental principle that “taxation and representation are one and inseparable,” and thus prove ourselves worthy descendants of noble ancestors, who counted no price too dear to pay in defense of liberty and equality and justice.

Dr. Shaw explained that she had determined to start a movement for passive resistance of taxation directly as the result of the activities of her own tax assessor in the Upper Providence Township, Delaware County, Penn., which embraces the town of Moylan, where she lives. Three weeks ago or thereabout her assessor sent her the usual pink assessment slips, and she disregarded them. The Saturday before Christmas the assessor called and saw her secretary in the absence of Dr. Shaw. Through her secretary Dr. Shaw was notified that she would have ten days within which to fill out and return the assessment slips. She then returned the slips, refusing to give the information requested.

Shaw’s call was echoed by the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage:

Women to Fight New Income Tax

Suffragists Plan to Oppose Taxation Without Representation of Their Sex

Resistance on the part of women of the country to the federal income tax law, despite the government’s announced attention 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 Woman’s Suffrage association, that the “unfranchised” women of the country decline to aid the government in collecting taxes upon their incomes, caused a mild sensation 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 adds: “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.”

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 further 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.

Mrs. Ellen Spencer Mussey, honorary dean of the Washington College of law, in a statement 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 benefit. 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.”