Tax Resisting American Suffragette Anna Howard Shaw

Today, some bits from the archives about American suffragette tax resister Anna Howard Shaw. First, from the San Francisco Chronicle, :

Dr. Shaw Calls Upon Women to Resist Tax

Suggests Concerted Action in Protesting to Forward Propaganda of the Suffragists.

Special Dispatch to the “Chronicle.”

 — In a letter which she issued to unfranchised American women, Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, national president of the woman suffragists, calls upon all suffragists in America to follow her lead and refuse to give to the assessors of the voting precincts in which they live an account of the personal property they own. By refusing such a statement, Dr. Shaw says, the women of the country can voice their protest against a Government which taxes women without giving them the privilege of voting.

, the Vancouver Daily World also covered this story:

Advises Women to Resist Tax

 — Militancy is not involved in the appeal issued by Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, president of the National Women’s Suffrage Association to suffragists who refuse to pay income taxes until they are given the right to vote. Dr. Shaw asserted that she advocated only a passive resistance to the government’s agents.

Dr. Shaw said she would refuse to make returns to her tax assessor and if fined by a court would refuse to pay the fine. If sent to jail, she will not start a hunger strike, she said, adding, “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.”

In explanation of her letter to the suffragists, Dr. Shaw said:

“I hold it is unfair to the women of this country to have taxation without representation, and I have urged them to adopt a course of passive resistance like the Quakers, instead of aggressive resistance.”

 — Resistance on the part of the women of the country to the federal income tax law, despite the government’s announced intention of imposing a fine of $1000 for each failure to report income, will receive the encouragement of the Suffragists’ Congressional Union, it is announced in a statement issued by the organization headquarters here.

The Charlotte, North Carolina Evening Chronicle picked up the torch with this somewhat contradictory article:

Dr. Anna Shaw Declares That She Does Not Refuse To Pay Tax

 — Declaring that many statements published in connection with her refusal to aid tax assessors in fixing the value of her property were erroneous, Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, issued a statement today in which she explained her attitude toward taxation and “militancy of which I have been charged without any foundation whatever.”

“There was nothing in my statement that could have been construed as a refusal to pay my taxes,” said Dr. Shaw. “Neither was there any thought of militancy in my refusal to fill out a bill of particulars of my personal property for purposes of taxation.

“I have always paid my taxes, but never without protesting against the tyranny and injustice of it. I will do so again but I refuse to aid the government to impose a personal tax by making out a specific bill of my possessions in order to assist in imposing this tax upon me.

“The law upon this subject is clear, even though unjust. It states that if a person refuses to fill out the bill the assessor will do so. In declining I violated no law but I stated a principle. If there is any militancy involved it is the militancy of the government, not mine.

“I am and always have been unalterably opposed to militancy.”

, the Logan [Utah] Republican carried this story, which seems to indicate that Shaw refused to pay her tax after all:

Dr. Anna Shaw to Lose Auto

Noted Suffragist Refuses to Pay Tax on Ground of Non-Representation

 — Dr. Anna Howard Shaw president of the National American Woman Suffrage association probably will not attempt to save her little yellow automobile from sale at auction at Media, Pa., to satisfy a tax assessment according to a statement she issued here .

The car was presented to Dr. Shaw by her followers here. It was seized at Moylan, Pa., Dr. Shaw’s residence, on and is to be sold at auction to pay a tax assessment of $120 levied upon Dr. Shaw in .

The suffrage leader declined to make out a list of her property subject to taxes on the ground to tax her without giving her the right to vote “would be heaping injustice upon tyranny.” “In the spirit of ,” her statement read, “she declined to become a party to any act which violated the national constitution.”


Today’s Rebecca Riots entry concerns the Carmarthenshire Winter Assizes, which continued on . Alas, the report in the Cambrian is on the reverse side of the report of hearing, and shares the badly-ripped newspaper page, so much is missing.

I find the legal terminology used in these cases to be confusing. For example, often the phrase “Learned Judge” is used to refer to what we would now call the prosecutor, and the title “prosecutor” is used to refer to the victim of the crime, on whose behalf the case is being prosecuted.

The Attorney-General stated that in one case, in which John Jones (Shoni Scybor-fawr), Wm. Walters, D. Davies (Dio’r Cantwr), and Thomas Morris, were charged with riot, he begged to enter a nolle prosequi, as far as the three first were regarded.

Thomas Morris was then arraigned alone, and pleaded “Guilty” to the charge, when the Attorney General said that he would not pray the Court to pass sentence in his case, but would be content if the prisoner entered into his own recognizances to keep the peace, and be of good behaviour, which was accordingly done, and the prisoner was discharged.

Coalbrook Works Riot

John Jones (Shoni Scybor-fawr) and David Davies (Dai’r Cantwr), were then placed at the bar, on an indictment charging them with having on , or early on the following morning, at Coalbrook Works, in the parish of Llanon, unlawfully, riotously, and tumultuously assembled, with divers other disguised persons, and committed a riot and disturbance against the peace of our Sovereign Lady the Queen, her Crown and dignity. — Both prisoners pleaded “Guilty.” — Sentence deferred.

David Jones, aged 39, farmer, was arraigned unon a charge of having sent Mr. Thomas Williams, of the parish of Llanwrda, near Llandovery, a letter threatening to murder him, and also to burn his corn and hay, and other property.

The prisoner, who was defended by Mr. Nicholl Carne, pleaded “Not Guilty”

The Attorney-General stated the case. He commenced by making some general observations upon the dangerous and highly illegal practice of sending threatening letters — interfering as it did with the happiness of private life. The facility of committing the crime was so great as the mischief it was calculated to create; still, all these consequences of the crime had nothing to do with the prisoner’s guilt or innocence — for that was a question to be decided upon from the evidence, and from that only. The prosecutor in this case was an auctioneer, residing at Penybank, and transacted considerable business for parties who entrusted their affairs to his judgment and management. The prisoner had been tenant to a gentleman named Goddard, whose premises he left, and removed to Cefacoed. When he left, the landlord of the premises quitted by him, and from which he removed his stock, required some security for the payment of rent owing. About the time of the prisoner’s removal, the prosecutor thought fit that the former should give him security for a large sum which the prisoner owed him; and as the landlord had pressed for rent, Williams thought proper to press the prisoner’s security for payment. It would appear that the prisoner became greatly exasperated at this proceeding, and frequently made use of expressions of great violence, but how far they connected him with the letter it would be for the jury to say. The expressions alluded to were used after his property had been sold, partly under an execution issued in consequence of a verdict, in an undefended action, obtained against him at the last Assizes, and partly under an execution for this security. Mr. Henry Lloyd Harries would be called as a witness to prove that the prisoner had said that Williams had robbed him, and spoke of him as “worse than a murderer,” and said that “if there were a Rebecca in the world, she should visit him, and as sure as God was in Heaven, Rebecca should visit him,” and other expressions of a revengeful character. The letter read was signed “Rebecca,” and was to the following effect:– “Thomas Williams, auctioneer, Penybank,— I hear that you will not leave my children alone. Rebecca is very particular about her children. She does not like to see them abused and injured. You have been going on for many years, and I and my children will visit you on Saturday night, and fire the hay and corn taken from the country fraudulently, and from one place in particular, Cefn Ceffyl [the prisoner’s residence]; you have taken the whole farm from that poor man, and I Rebecca am determined to put a stop to such proceedings. Your money is not worth four pence a bushel. We will not only burn your effects, but take away your life. You are more pointed with me than any man in the world, and if you do any thing to this poor man, you shall not live a week. I hope you will take this as a warning, so that I might not bring you to rights.” It was not inferred, continued the Attorney General, that the prisoner had any thing to do with the parties calling themselves Rebecca — but, on the other hand, it was probable that he merely took advantage of the alarm occasioned to serve his own private ends. The prosecutor, on the receipt of the letter, made enquiries, and there existed no doubt that the letter had been delivered by the prisoner himself at the Trecastle post-office. The writer of the letter was subsequently traced out, and would be called as a witness. It had been written at the request of the prisoner, who dictated to him. It was right the jury should guard against the testimony of the person who wrote the letter, who had lent himself to the accomplishment of an act of great wickedness. It would be for them to say how far his testimony could be relied upon, as to the fact that the letter written by him was the same as that afterwards delivered by the prisoner. The Attorney-General concluded by stating that the case for the Crown would be complete without producing the writer, provided it were proved that the prisoner had delivered the letter, or taken part in delivering it; but it had been thought right to produce before them all available evidence.

Several witnesses were then examined.

The prosecutor proved the receipt of the letter from his son, who was an innkeeper at Llandovery, and to whose house it had been sent from the Post-office. He also explained the business transactions had with the prisoner, as already detailed.

Miss Jeffreys, daughter of the Trecastle Postmaster, proved the posting of the letter by the prisoner; and its receipt at the Llandovery Post-office was proved by the clerk.

Mr. Henry Lloyd Harries stated the various violent expressions made use of by the prisoner towards Mr. Williams. He also produced another of “Rebecca’s” letters, sent by the prisoner to him (witness).

The writer of the letter stated in evidence, that he had copied it from a letter written by the prisoner, who gave as a reason for requesting him to write it, that his own hand-writing would be recognised.

Mr. Nicholl Carne then ably addressed the jury on behalf of the prisoner, directing their attemion to the serious nature of the charge, which would render the prisoner liable to transportation for life, or at any rate a very lengthened period, or long imprisonment. These were the points for their consideration — firstly, whether the letter contained any threat — that he was not disposed to contest — secondly, was the prisoner the party delivering it, knowing its contents; of this there was not the least evidence, with the exception of that given by the witness who had written the letter, and it was an established rule, that juries could not act upon the evidence of an accomplice, unless corroborated in some material portion of his evidence, by other witnesses. No evidence, in corroboration of that witness, had been adduced to prove that the prisoner was cognizant of the contents. He submitted that the prisoner had been made the dupe of the witness, Wm. Jones, who had written the letter, and who ought to have been placed at the bar instead of the prisoner.

Here the page rip obscures the Attorney-General’s response and the verdict, alas. It looks as though some other Rebeccaite cases may also be hidden in the ripped portion.