Legal Technicality Means Women Tax Refusers Stay Free

I’ve shared several times before stories of tax resistance by the women’s suffrage movements in Britain and the United States. But today’s story, from the Gettysburg Times, is a little different.

It concerns a group of women who, before women were granted suffrage, were untaxed, but who, after suffrage, found themselves subject to poll taxes that applied to all eligible voters. Screw that, said they.

Cannot Jail Women For Taxes

Problem of Collecting Taxes Will Probably Come Before Next Legislature.

Collectors Are Worried

In Some Sections Women Refuse to Pay And Collectors Are Powerless to Enforce Payment.

Tax Collectors in some parts of this county as well as throughout the State have been having their difficulties in collecting taxes from those women in their bailiwicks, who refuse to pay their taxes, following the granting of equal suffrage to the fair sex. In some sections the collectors have misinterpreted the law entirely and understanding that women need not pay tax, have exempted them entirely, only to find, when they made their returns, that they are held for the full amount of their duplicate and that women are not exempted, just because they have recently become voters.

However, the question has arisen as to what is to be done with the woman who stubbornly declares that she will not pay her taxes. Whenever a woman has attachable property, it may be levied upon for the amount of her taxes, but the question is, what shall be done with the woman who is not so situated. If a man refuses to pay his taxes, he can be put in jail, but this cannot be done in the case of a woman. That is due to the fact that the law reads that men may be jailed, but does not make any provision for women.

Adams county tax collectors report they are having little trouble in collecting from the women. Some of them protest verbally that they did not ask for suffrage and do not care for it, and they object to the tax, but in the end they pay it.

Other parts of the state send in different reports, and up to this time there has been found no solution for the problem. What is a tax collector to do when a woman forcibly [sic] declares she will not pay? He may appeal to her sense of justice, to her respect for the law, but if these fail him what is the next course?

Having none, the tax collectors have turned toward the legal lights of the state for relief. It is probable the next legislature will be asked to afford some means whereby the law has teeth for the women as well as for the men. These legislators who have been heard from, however, do not agree on the course of procedure and a long-drawn-out and bitter controversy will probably be forthcoming.

For instance, there are legislators who think it would not be just right to throw a woman into jail for a few dollars in taxes. There are others who contend that since woman has the ballot, and is therefore the “equal” of men, she must suffer the same penalties as men for infraction of the laws of the commonwealth.

Lobbies of and for the woman cannot consistently go before the legislature and ask exemption for women from this clause of the law, not after all their talk about the ability of women to compete with men, talk that was quite common during the battle for passage of the suffrage amendment, they would not be consistent.

The matter will have to be settled in some way, however, for the men can raise the cry of class legislation and with good reason, if a law is passed jailing them for an offense and exempting women who refuse to obey the same law. And certainly the taxes of the state must be collected, for the money is needed badly.