Suffragette Tax Resister Mary McLeod Cleeves

The Vote

From the issue of The Vote, :

Passive Resistance.

Tax Resistance in South Wales.

Mrs. [Mary McLeod] Cleeves, who made such a determined stand last autumn against being taxed and unrepresented, and whose dogcart was seized and sold, is again defying the authorities.

Mrs. Cleeves, as a married woman, is not liable to pay income-tax, but, regardless of the Act of Parliament which clearly states this position, the local tax-collector has put in a bailiff in an endeavour to make Mrs. Cleeves pay taxes which she is not legally bound to do. Mrs. Cleeves handed the following statement to the official:—

I protest against your being here in possession, and I protest against any of the goods in this house being seized. Everything here belongs to me, and as a married woman I am not responsible for the payment of income-tax.

(When I offered to give the tax-collector Mr. Cleeves’s address, he refused to take it.)

M. McLeod Cleeves.

The Tax Resistance League, as well as ourselves, is going to support Mrs. Cleeves in any action which it is deemed wise to take, and in the meantime both Leagues have written to the authorities at Somerset House and Mr. Lloyd George. The following letter was sent from the League:—

To Inland Revenue Office.


Sir,— I have to request your immediate attention to the serious irregularity in the case of Mrs. Mary McLeod Cleeves, a member of this League. An assessment was made on Mr. Ed. A. Cleeves, but in defiance of the assessment Mrs. Cleeves has been receiving threatening demands, in her own name, for payment of the assessment. She has, of course, refused to pay it as she is not liable, and no assessment or charge may legally be made on her.

The local officials, however, have now proceeded to trespass on her premises, commit damages, and take possession of her goods to recover a sum which they are forbidden to charge on her, and which will be paid by the person assessed as soon as he returns to this country, which may be at any time now. This person has always paid it, and never refused to discharge his legal obligations.

I may remind you that your department has said, in reply to a question asked on behalf of Dr. Elizabeth Wilks, that the Crown cannot seize the property of a married woman in order to satisfy the husband’s debt to the Crown. The case of Mrs. Cleeves is absolutely identical with that of Dr. Elizabeth Wilks, of Clapton, London, who informed the persons who were sent to levy a distress on her property that she was not the person charged or liable, and that her goods could not be seized. On hearing this the persons immediately withdrew, and declined to proceed with the distraint. She has not been molested since, but you will recall that after this incident you addressed a letter to her husband, Mr. Mark Wilks, in which you call his attention to the fact that he is the only person liable for all taxes, and that if he fails to pay, the Board’s solicitor will take proceedings against him to make him pay. You have now been asking him to pay this money for upwards of a year.

I must ask that, as the above is clearly the proper legal procedure, it shall be adhered to in the case of Mrs. Cleeves also. Will you be good enough to instruct the local officials that the distraint must be withdrawn, and that they must refrain from molesting Mrs. Cleeves or trespassing on her property?

I would add that when the assessment was increased last year, Mrs. Cleeves wished to raise an objection, but was quite properly informed that she could not be heard, as she had no locus standi in the matter, as she was not a person who could be charged under any circumstances, and therefore could have no grievance, but that Mr. Cleeves was the only person who could be recognised or listened to. It seems inexplicable that the officials should seize the property of a person whom they have declared to have no locus standi in the matter.

Requesting your immediate attention to the above facts, I am, yours faithfully,

Edith How Martyn.
Women’s Freedom League,
1, Robert-street, Adelphi, London, W.C.

We are determined to do our best to make the authorities abide by their own Acts of Parliament.

Dividends of Married Women.

All deductions from dividends paid on stock held by married women are illegal, and married women should write to the secretaries of the companies and request them to follow the procedure laid down by Parliament and to recover the income-tax from the husbands, and in future to send the dividend in full.

Steady persistence along the lines afforded by the inconsistencies in the law must end in drawing the attention of Parliament. Once that attention is gained, it will be comparatively easy to insist that the first alteration in the law must be to give representation where taxation is imposed.

Also from the same issue:

Protest at Brighton.

Owing to the enormous pressure put upon our space we are unable to give details of the final stage of the proceedings taken against Mrs. Jones Williams for her refusal to pay taxes. The goods seized were sold at the public auction room. Before selling them the auctioneer allowed Mrs. How Martyn to make a short explanatory speech, and he himself added that it was an unpleasant duty he had to perform.

There was also much material about the related campaign of census resistance in this issue.

One brief note on a meeting of the Great Marlow, Buckinghamshire branch, mentioned that “Mrs. Scott, of High Wycombe, took the chair, and gave a short speech on the necessity for tax resistance, which some in the district are much in favour of.”

Another article from the same issue read:

Women’s Tax Resistance League.

On Thursday evening, , a good public meeting was held in the Town Hall, Uxbridge. The chair was taken by the Hon. Mrs. [Evelina] Haverfield, who gave a most earnest and spirited address upon the fundamental basis of the Suffrage movement. Mrs. [Margaret] Kineton Parkes spoke on the principles of tax resistance, and gave a short resumé of the work being done by the society formed to put these principles into practice. Mrs. [Anne] Cobden Sanderson made an urgent plea to the women of Uxbridge to boycott the Census, and gave most lucid and logical reasons why the women should refuse to be counted, and endeavoured to show the serious results which follow to women from legislation without their consent. This meeting was entirely given and arranged by Miss [Kate] Raleigh, who is a member of the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage, and also the “Women’s Tax Resistance League.”