Rebellion in Wisconsin.
The women of Wisconsin have apparently forgotten the story of the Glastonbury sisters [Julia & Abby Smith], two ladies with dauntless tongue the little tyrants and tax-gatherers of their fields withstood up in Connecticut some thirty years ago. You do not let us vote, therefore we will pay no taxes, they cried to the tax man; taxation without representation is unconstitutional and wicked. Get thee hence. The woman suffragists of Wisconsin announce their intention to play the game in that way. They have formed a league, they will take a census of the women taxpayers, the list of names will be published and used as a basis of a “protest to the Legislature against taxation without representation.” Later, when 10,000 names have been secured to a pledge, the women will refuse to pay taxes, and the questions involved will be taken to the courts. This course, it has been reported, has been approved by prominent women lawyers of Wisconsin interested in the women’s suffrage movement.
This is about the worst thing that could be said about the women lawyers of Wisconsin. Instead of encouraging the rebellion of their sisters they should advise them that they have got the thing all wrong. They should tell them that the suffrage is not a right, but a privilege, which Legislatures may withhold or confer in their discretion; that the handy phrase, taxation without representation, refers to communities, colonies, or subject States, and has no bearing upon the case of an individual. If the women property owners of Wisconsin, after their property has been duly assessed and tax bills have been presented, defiantly and seditiously refuse to pay the same, the State will in the most matter-of-fact way levy upon their property and sell it for taxes, just as if the owner were a mere man and voter. The Glastonbury sisters up in Connecticut were baffled and routed in their attempt to withhold taxes in order to extort from an unwilling State the privilege of the vote. That is what will happen in Wisconsin, the women lawyers to the contrary notwithstanding.
A suffrage referendum failed in Wisconsin in , but the state was the first in the union to ratify the 19th Amendment granting women the “privilege” to vote in .
The Wisconsin “Tax Paying Woman’s Pledge” that the article alludes to may have been this one:
We, the tax paying women of Wisconsin, hereby agree to do what we can by protest and argument to emphasize the fact that taxation without representation is tyranny as much for American women today as it was for American colonists in . And we also pledge ourselves that when 5,000 or more women in Wisconsin shall have similarly enrolled we will simultaneously take action by whatever method may seem best in accordance with official advice from the Wisconsin Suffrage Association to the end that public attention may be thoroughly and effectively called to the injustice and injury done to women by taxing them without giving them any voice as to how their money should be employed.
Though there was also talk of a 10,000-signer threshhold and of tax resistance as the explicit pre-declared strategy, so perhaps there was a second pledge I haven’t located yet.