Taxation Without Representation is Tyranny!
September 7, 1853 — Woman’s Rights Convention, Broadway Tabernacle. New York City
Taxation without representation is tyranny! Taxation without representation is tyranny!! Taxation without representation is tyranny!!! My friends, do you wish to know why I desire to vote? I desire to vote that I may sit on school committees. You do not know, nor can you judge, my brothers, the feelings with which a woman perceives that influence on education, as well as political weight, is refused her. Women should sit on school committees, and see that women are as well educated as men. They should sit on school committees, to know the why and the wherefore of the education of girls; they should sit on school committees to order the education of their daughters. I wish to sit on committees where I can see to a better regulation of the healthfulness of our streets, and the introduction of a higher tone into the topics of our parlors. I wish to vote that women may speak boldly, and on an equal footing, to men, instead of expecting from them the paltry incense of a little flattery, and a little wheedling. I wish to vote that women may have, by law, an equal right with men in property. In October, 1851, I went to pay my taxes in Boston. Going into the Assessor’s office, I saw a tall, thin, weak, stupid-looking Irish boy. It was near election time, and I looked at him scrutinizingly. He held in his hand a document, which, I found on inquiry, was one of naturalization; and this hopeful son of Erin was made a citizen of the United States, and he could have a voice in determining the destinies of this mighty nation, while thousands of intellectual women, daughters of the soil, no matter how intelligent, how respectable, or what amount of taxes they paid, were forced to be dumb!
Now, I am glad to pay my taxes, am glad that my profession enables me to pay them — but I would like very much to have a voice in directing what is to be done with the taxes I pay. I meditated on what I had seen; and, in 1852, when paying my taxes I took to the Treasurer’s office the following protest, which is addressed you will perceive, not only to the Treasurer and other officials, but also to the citizens generally.
To FREDERICK U. TRACY, Treasurer, and the Assessors and other Authorities of the City of Boston, and the citizens generally: —
Harriet K. Hunt, physician, a native and permanent resident of the city of Boston, and for many years a tax-payer therein, in making payment of her city taxes for the coming year, begs leave to protest against the injustice and inequality of levying taxes upon women, and at the same time refusing them any voice or vote in the imposition and expenditure of the same. The only classes of male persons required to pay taxes and not at the same time allowed the privilege of voting are aliens and minors.
The object in the case of aliens is their supposed want of interest in our institutions and knowledge of them. The objection in the case of minors is, the want of sufficient understanding. These objections certainly cannot apply to women, natives of the city, all whose property and interest are here, and who have accumulated, by their own segacity [sic] and industry, the very property on which they are taxed. But this is not all, the alien by going through the forms of naturalization, the minor, on coming of age, obtain the right of voting, and so long as they continue to pay a mere poll tax of a dollar and a half, they may continue to exercise it, though so ignorant as not to be able to sign their names, or read the very votes they put into the ballot-boxes. Even drunkards, felons, idiots, or lunatics, if men, may still enjoy that right of voting, to which no woman however large the amount of taxes she pays, however respectable her character, or useful her life can ever attain. Wherein your remonstrant would inquire, is the justice, equality, or wisdom of this!
That the rights and interests of the female part of the community are sometimes forgotten or disregarded in consequence of their deprivation of political rights, is strikingly evinced, as appears to your remonstrant, in the organization and administration of the city public schools. Though there are open in this State and neighborhood, a great multitude of colleges and professional schools, for the education of boys and young men, yet the city has very properly provided two high schools of its own, one Latin, the other English, at which the male graduates of the grammar schools may pursue their education still farther at the public expense. And why is not a like provision made for the girls? Why is the public provision for their education stopped short, just as they have attained the age best fitted for progress, and the preliminary knowledge necessary to facilitate it, thus giving the advantage of superiority or culture to sex, not to mind?
The fact that our colleges and professional schools are closed against females of which your remonstrant has had personal and painful experience — having been in the year 1847, after twelve years of medical practice in Boston, refused permission to attend the lectures of Harvard Medical College, that fact would seem to furnish an additional reason why the city should provide, at its own expense, those means of superior education which, by supplying our girls with occupation and objects of interest, would not only save them from lives of frivolity and emptiness, but which might open the way to many useful and lucrative pursuits, and so raise them above that degrading dependence, so fruitful a source of female misery.
Reserving a more full exposition of the subject to future occasions, your remonstrant in paying her tax for the current year, begs leave to protest against the injustice and inequalities above pointed out. This is respectfully submitted.
HARRIET K. HUNT.
Here, you perceive, I complained also of the educational advantages afforded to boys and girls. Such is the case in Boston. I ask, is it so in this city?
(Voices from the platform:) It is.
Then you, too, sexualize education. I have now to say to all my sisters, as a friend, consider this question deeply; and, when you find it a good one, as you must, give it all the sanction in your power. Women are debarred from voting and holding offices, while bad and licentious men are put into offices where their unfitness and misconduct result in the greatest injuries to women. This is a great question — a great moral question — the great moral question of the day.
We have, at this Convention, Lucy Stowe and Wendell Phillips, who were at our Constitutional Convention last year, in Boston. I was not present, but I sent to the convention a petition which I shall now read for you, that you may know who Harriet K. Hunt is, the woman who wants to vote: —
TO THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION NOW SITTING IN BOSTON. — Your petitioner respectfully prays your honorable body to insert into the constitution a clause securing to females, paying town, county, and States taxes upon property held in their own right, and who have no husbands or other guardians to represent and act for them, the same right of voting possessed by male tax paying citizens; or should your honorable body not deem such females capable of exercising the right of suffrage with due discretion, at least to excuse them from the paying of taxes, in the appropriation of which they have no voice, thus carrying out the great principle on which the American Revolution was based, that taxation and representation ought to go together. All of which, &c.
My brethren, I leave this matter before you, and ask you to consider it as a most important question, not alone in a political view, but as a great moral subject, demanding deep, earnest, and religious investigation.
Source: Proceedings of the Woman’s Rights Convention, held at the Broadway Tabernacle, in the City of New York, on Tuesday and Wednesday, Sept. 6th and 7th, 1853 (NY: Fowler and Wells, Publishers) 1853, pp. 60-63.