Tag Archives: men’s rights

Women’s and Men’s Rights (1875)

The following short article, entitled Women’s and Men’s Rights, appeared in the 1875 volume Historic and literary miscellany, by G.M.D. Bloss. – PW

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THERE have recently been Women’s Rights conventions in New York and Boston. The general drift of the proceedings was to show the wrongs of woman under the laws of society at present constituted. There were plenty of facts to show that in many instances women, at the present time, were ill-fed, ill-clothed, and ill-sheltered; that their employment was not remunerative in many cases, and that under their afflictions they were driven often to live a life of vice and crime.

All this will be freely admitted and universally regretted. But, and the question may be asked with emphasis, are these wrongs peculiar to women? Do they alone suffer them? Is there a discrimination against the sex? We unhesitatingly answer in the negative. Would man–yea, would man, who is endowed with that wonderful right of suffrage, which in the eyes of these reformers is the great cure for all the grievances of the sex, not be enabled to find as serious cause of complaint as those made by his female associate?

How many men of ability and intelligence, willing to work, are trodden down in the battle of life? How many are scantily fed, miserably clad, and barely sheltered, who labor with assiduity from the rising to the setting sun? To the ill requital of man’s labor, in hundreds and thousands of instances, may be attributed woman’s calamities.

For one woman who is driven by destitution to sin and shame, there are probably ten men. If one sex more than the other has the right to be restive under society as it is now constituted, it is the male. He makes the laws, it is true, but who derive the greatest benefit from them? In cases at law and equity, where the two sexes are antagonistic, who is generally the loser? Women are seldom convicted of criminal offenses, where men would be certain to suffer the penalty. They always, or nearly always, succeed before a jury of men, in civil cases.

In most of the States they can hold property in their own name, and while in the position of a fem-covert– their property is exempt from execution, even upon their own contracts. They are exempt from all military and jury duty, and from many other labors of serious import, which fall upon the males alone. They receive all the courtesies of society. They are the first at the feasts, and all the reserved seats everywhere are for them.

The state in which we live is very far from being perfection; men and women are joint sufferers by a false and ill-regulated condition of society. There is no antagonism between them, and they are enemies of both man and woman who desire to create the impression that either sex is enjoying rights at the other’s expense, or suffer infliction for the other’s benefit. They are our partners in the great trials and misfortunes which an All-wise Creator has imposed upon all the sons and daughters of Adam, and from which there is no escape by either this side of the grave.

Whatever improvements and reforms of modern society are demanded, should be in the name of both, and for both, instead of one. “A Men’s Rights Convention,” to redress the wrongs of the men alone, leaving the females alone where they are, would be selfish and ungrateful. Scarcely less so are those of the strong-minded woman, who has no eye and no compassion for the sufferings of any but her own sex.
 

Feature image by Michael Coghlan

A Word for Men’s Rights (1856)

The following long article from 1856 discusses the sexist laws that oppressed men and benefited women, including the practice of frivolous, unjustified lawsuits for supposed breach of marriage promise (or implied promise, or imagined promise). Such suits came, by the late part of the nineteenth century to be a standard operating procedure for women who either felt genuinely spurned or, just as frequently, women who saw an opportunity to misuse laws to control men. By the late 1920s, the practice had become a widespread criminal enterprise, highly profitable for both weeping bogus sweetheart and racketeering lawyer that it gained the appellation, “The Heart Balm Racket.”

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Putnam's 1856

— A Word for Men’s Rights —

FULL TEXT: The notions which rule inside of men’s heads, and the phrases in vogue to represent them are hardly less liable to fluctuation than is the fashion of the outward adornment, whether by hats, caps, bonnets, periwigs, or powder. Sixty or seventy years ago, scarcely anything was so much talked of as the rights of man. Where this phrase came from, we cannot tell. It is not to be met with in any writer of prior date to the middle of the last century. James Otis used it in his famous tract on the Rights of the American Colonies, nor are we aware of any earlier appearance of it in print. Sudden, however, and obscure as its first appearance was, it took, and soon became one of the most fashionable of phrases. It played a great part in the American Revolution. It found its way into our Declaration of Independence, and into the fundamental laws of most of our states. It played a still greater part in the French revolution. Ten or a dozen French constitutions, more or less, were founded upon it. Thomas Paine wrote a famous book, with this title. For a while, nothing was so much talked of as the rights of man—talked of, we say—for, as happened in the case of the thirsty Indian, so with respect to these rights, it was pretty much all talk, with very little cider.

In sixty years, however, fashions have changed. The rights of man —once in everybody’s mouth—are seldom heard of now-a-days—unless it be in an abolition convention—or, if mentioned at all, in Congress and other respectable places, these rights, once the hope of humanity, are referred to, only to be sneered at, as a flourish of rhetoric—a chimera of the imagination.

Still, we are not left speechless nor hopeless. Hope still remains at the bottom of the box, with a fine sounding phrase to back it. Let the men go to the deuce. What of that? Does not lovely woman still remain to us? Today, the fashionable phrase is—woman’s rights. The women have discovered, or think they have, that they are, and long have been tyrannized over, in the most brutal manner, by society, the laws, and their husbands. Woman’s rights is now the watch-word of a new movement for social reform, and even for political revolution—the women, among other things, claiming to vote.

It must be confessed that such general outcries are not commonly raised, without some reason. They are the natural expressions of pain and unsatisfied desire. It was not without reason that America and Europe, towards the close of the last century, raised the cry of the rights of man; and so, we dare say, it is not without reason that the rights of woman are now dinged into our ears. Nor is this cry without a marked effect, not merely upon manners and society, but also upon laws. Almost all our state legislatures are at work, with more or less diligence and enthusiasm, modifying their statute books, under the influence of this new zeal. To that we do not object. Putnam is for reform. Putnam is for progress. Putnam is for woman’s rights; but also for man’s rights—for everybody’s rights; and, in that spirit, we are going to offer a few hints to our legislators, whose vaulting zeal, on behalf of the ladies, seems a little in danger of overleaping itself, and jolting on t’other side. It is well to stand straight, but not well to tumble over backward, in attempting to do so.

Those who go about to modify our existing laws, as to the relation of husband and wife, will do well to reflect that the old English common law on this subject, if it be a rude and barbarous system, little suited to our advanced and refined state of society—which we do not deny—is also a consistent and logical system, of which the different parts mutually rest upon and sustain each other. In the repair, or modification of such a system, it is material that every part of it should be taken into account. Changes in one part will involve and require changes in other parts; otherwise, alterations, made with a view only to relieve the wife from tyranny and oppression, may work a corresponding injustice to the husband. Nor are the changes already made in our laws, partly by legislation and partly by usage, free from glaring instances of this sort.

The English common law makes the husband the guardian and master of the wife, who stands to him in the relation of a child and a servant. In virtue of this relation, the husband is legally responsible for the acts of the wife. If she slanders or assaults her neighbors, he is joined with the wife in the action to recover damages, and he alone is legally responsible for the amount of damages recovered, even to the extent of being sent to jail in default of payment. He is likewise responsible for debts contracted by the wife to the same extent that a father is responsible for the debts of his minor children. Even in criminal proceedings, it is he who must pay, or go to jail for not paying the fines imposed on his wife; and there are many cases, even cases of felony, in which the wife, acting in concert with her husband, is excused from all punishment, on the presumption that she acts by his compulsion, though in fact she may, as in the noted case of Macbeth’s wife, have been the instigator. Public opinion goes even further than the law, and holds the husband accountable, to a certain extent, for all misbehaviors and indiscretions on the part of his wife. Not only is he to watch that she does not steal, he is to watch that she does not flirt, and every species of infidelity, or even of levity on her part, inflicts no less disgrace upon him than upon her—disgrace which the received code of honor requires him to revenge upon the male delinquent not only in defiance of the law which forbids all breaches of the peace, but even at the risk of his own life.

The law and public opinion having anciently imposed all these heavy obligations on the husband, very logically and reasonably proceeded to invest him with corresponding powers and authority. Standing to the wife, as he was made to stand, in the relation of father and master, the law very reasonably invested him with all the rights and authority of a father and a master. How, indeed, was he to exercise the authority and to fulfill the obligations which the law and public opinion imposed upon him, of regulating the conduct of his wife, unless invested at the same time with means both of awe and coercion? Accordingly, the law and usage of England authorized the husband to chastise his wife—in a moderate manner—employing for that purpose a rod not thicker than his finger. The husband was also entitled to the personal custody of his wife, and was authorized in proper cases—if, for instance, she seemed disposed to run off with another man—to lock her up, and, if need were, to keep her on bread and water.

Now these, it must be confessed, were extensive powers—harsh and barbarous powers, if you please—though the law always contemplated that, in his exercise of them, the husband would .be checked by the same tenderness towards the wife of his bosom which tempers the exercise by the father of a similar authority over his children. But however extensive, however harsh or barbarous the powers of the husband may be, we appeal even to our female readers — if, indeed, a single female has had patience and temper to follow us thus far—we appeal even to that single female (or married one, as the case may be), to say how, in the name of common sense, is the husband to keep the wife in order, to the extent which the law and public opinion demands of him, except by the exercise of these powers, or at least by the awe which the known possession and possible exercise of them is fitted to inspire? If the fractious child is neither to be spanked nor shut up in the closet, how is domestic discipline to be preserved? What more effectual sedative to an excited and ungovernable temper, which might provoke both suits for assault and actions for slander, than retirement in one’s closet with the door locked and a glass of cold water to cool one’s burning tongue?

And so of another great topic of complaint on the part of the advocates of woman’s rights—the power which the husband has by the common law over the wife’s property. He being responsible for her debts and her acts, and being bound to provide for the support of the children, has, as a corollary thereto, the custody and disposition of the wife’s property, if she chances to inherit or to acquire any—which, unfortunately, in the middle ranks of life, where these notions of woman’s rights most extensively prevail, is, we are sorry to say, but too seldom the case.

Such are the relative rights and duties of the husband under the old English common law. Under this law a husband is not a mere chimera, a surd and impossible quantity. There is a logical consistency about him. He is, as Horace says of the stoic philosopher, terei ef rotundus, round and whole, armed at all points, provided with powers adequate to the duties expected of him.

In America we have no such husbands. Long before the cry of woman’s rights was openly raised, the powers and prerogatives of the American husband had been gradually undermined. Usage superseded law, and trampled it under foot. Sentiment put logical consistency at defiance, and the American husband has thus become a legal monster, a logical impossibility, required to fly without wings, and to run without feet.

Women care nothing for logic, but they have a sense of justice and tender hearts, and to their sense of justice we confidently appeal. Who can wonder that the men are so shy in taking upon them the responsibilities of the married state? Those responsibilities all remain exactly as in old times, while the means of adequately meeting them are either entirely taken away, or are in a fair way to be so. By the law as it now is, we believe in every state of the Union, the husband cannot lay his finger on his wife in the way of chastisement except at the risk of being complained of for assault and battery, and, perhaps, sued for a divorce, and (which is worse than either) of being pronounced by his neighbors a brutal fellow. The nominal custody of the person of the wife, which the law still, in some of the states, affects to bestow upon the husband, is a mere illusion. If he attempts to lock her up, she can sue out her habeas corpus, and oblige him to pay the expenses of it; and if she wishes to quit her husband’s house, and go elsewhere, he has no means of compelling her return. He may sue those with whom , takes refuge, for harboring her, but if he obtain damages at all, they will be only nominal. In many of the states, laws have been enacted and soon will be in all of them, giving the wife the exclusive control of her own property, acquired before or after marriage, by gift, inheritance, or her own industry.

While the wife is thus rendered to a great extent independent of her husband, he, by a strange inconsistency, is still held, both by law and public opinion, just as responsible for her as before. The old and reasonable maxim, that he who dances must pay the piper, not apply to wives—they dance, and the husband pays. To such an extent is this carried, that if the wife beats her husband, and he, having no authority to punish her in kind, applies to the criminal courts for redress, she will be fined for assault and battery, which fine he must pay, even thought she has plenty of money of her own. or, in default of paying, go to jail! Such cases are by no means of unprecedented occurrence in our criminal courts.

Now, what sense or reason is there in making the husband responsible for the licenses of the wife’s tongue, after he has lost all power to control it? If the wife is to hold her property separately, ought she not to be sued separately, both for debts and damages? If her property ought not to go to pay the husband’s debts, why ought his to go to pay hers? If the husband has lost the power to control tile goings in and runnings out of the wife, why ought public opinion to hold him any longer responsible therefor?

We have no objection to an amendment of the law in relation to husband and wife. Public opinion demands it. The progress of society requires it. But the new wine ought not to be put into old bottles, nor the old garments to be patched with new pieces, lest, as the proverb says, the rent be made worse than before.

But there is yet another recent innovation in the law, liable to still more serious objections. Not content with placing the unfortunate husband in an absurd and anomalous condition, not content with still demanding of him certain duties and obligations, at the same time that he is deprived of the powers and the rights essential to their fulfillment, reducing him in fact to a position hardly less ridiculous, and not at all less embarrassing, than that of a short-tail bull in fly-time—the law (as if conscious that, before entering into such an unequal alliance, the men would grow pretty critical as to the personal qualities of the women in whose power they were about so completely to place themselves) seeks to entrap us into matrimony against our inclinations, by holding, as it does, that any man who shows signs of having been impressed by a woman, becomes, if she is single, her lawful prize, and is bound to marry her if she insists upon it, or eke—stand a suit for breach of promise.

Though suits for breach of promise of marriage are comparatively a recent thing, in order fully to understand their nature it is necessary to go back to the dark ages. We pretend to be protestants; we rail against the popish church; yet in how many important matters are we still the mere slaves and tools of that church! The canon law was one of the most crafty devices of the middle age theocracy, and is a standing topic of reproach against Catholicism ; and yet in the most delicate of all our relations, that of marriage and divorce, we protestants are to this day substantially governed by the canon law! The canon law was made by monks, men forbidden to marry themselves, and therefore destitute of any personal experience by which to shape their legislation on this subject. They had, indeed, the Roman law as their guide, but this they departed from in the most essential particulars, as being altogether too reasonable to suit their ascetic theories or serve their purpose. The monks who made the canon law looked upon marriage as a sensual and unholy state, only to be tolerated in the gross laity, to prevent something worse; and they seem to have exerted their whole ingenuity to render this sinful condition as uncomfortable as possible. Hence the excessive hostility of the canon law to divorce, it being held a just punishment of the immorality of marrying at all, that persons Unsuitably or unhappily married should be kept during their natural lives tied together neck and heels, Bo that their torments in this world might give them, as it were, a relishing foretaste of what married sinners had to expect in the next. But while unhappy marriages were thus cursed with a perpetuity beyond the reach of the parties or the law, the ingenious canonists at the same time suspended over the heads of every happy couple the terror of an involuntary and forced separation, which should unmarry them and bastardize their children. One of the means employed for this devilish purpose was the doctrine of pre-contracts. A promise to marry was, according to the canon law, equivalent to a marriage, and every subsequent marriage to another party, pending the life of the party to whom the promise had been made, was vitiated by it. The canonists even went so far as to allow suits for the specific performance of these marriage contracts—the officers of their courts, on the suit of some disappointed virgin, entering the household of love, breaking up the family, stigmatizing the woman as a concubine and her children as illegitimate, and compelling the man to take his legal wife—as by virtue of some pretended pre-contract she was held to be—into his house and his bed. It is from this canonist doctrine of precontracts that our suits for breach of promise are derived. The common law, indeed, being the work of ruder hands, is ignorant of that beneficial process of the Roman law—the suit for specific performance. In the case of the nonperformance of a contract, the common law contents itself with attempting to set matters right, by awarding damages for the non-performance. In this particular case, even this defect in the common law was a very fortunate thing, as otherwise, instead of merely having damages to pay for refusing to marry against our inclination, we might have been brought up to the ring-bolt of specific performance, and forced into the yoke any how.

It is often said that no woman of any delicacy or self-respect ever would or ever does bring a suit for breach of promise of marriage. That may be so; still nothing prevents a great many women, who would be entirely unwilling to confess to any deficiency of delicacy or self-respect, from taking advantage of the law, or more properly speaking, of the public sentiment out of which the law grows and which sustains it, to force their once lovers, but lovers no longer, into a reluctant and repugnant marriage ceremony. Whose private experience does not enable him to recount instances, in which men, sensibility and honor have suffered themselves to be thus forced into unsuitable matches, of which the unfortunate result has corresponded with the inauspicious beginning? Contrary to every principle of common sense, as well as to every instinct of sentiment, as are suits for breach of promise of marriage, yet undoubtedly they are fully sustained by the prevailing public sentiment. Otherwise it would be impossible to explain the extravagant lengths to which courts have gone in inferring a promise of marriage from the most trivial circumstances—waiting on a lady home from church; going to see her of a Saturday night; asking her twice of a winter to a ball; corresponding with her, though nothing is said in the letters about love or marriage; allowing her to darn your stockings. There is, indeed, no circumstance, however light or trivial, upon which the busy tongues of a country parish get up a rumor of an engagement, which is not held amply sufficient by our courts of law to establish the fact of a promise of marriage, and to lay the foundation of a suit for damages.

It is not, however, upon these extreme cases that we rest our opposition. We object to the proceeding in any case, no matter how solemn and formal the promise, nor how often renewed. We object to the whole idea of obligation in such a case, and, of course, to the enforcement of such supposed obligation by law. The whole thing is a gross abuse—to speak the truth—a scandalous abomination. The very idea of marriage, according to any but the grossest and lowest conception of it, implies the free and full consent of both the parties to it. On the part of the man, if not of the woman, it implies something more, not a mere tacit consent, but a forward, active, joyous consent. A great deal of sympathy has been expended over women forced by tyrannical fathers to give their hands without their hearts. A miserable case, truly, but altogether less miserable than that of a man, drawn, by a false sense of honor and a ridiculous public opinion, to speak a public lie, and, in the face of God and man, to pledge himself as a husband, when he knows he cannot be one. All promises are made with this implied reservation—that he who promises shall have it in his power to fulfill. This is true even of mercantile promises. No man is held to be under any moral obligation to pay his debts, any further than he has the means to pay; and upon giving up the property that he has, our insolvent laws will discharge him from the legal obligation. A promise to marry carries with it the implied reservation that he who promises shall continue to love. The promise is not, and is not understood to be, either by him who makes, or her who receives it, a promise merely to assume the legal responsibility of marriage; it is a promise to assume the moral and sentimental responsibilities also; and if, by change of circumstances or change of mind, it has become impossible to fulfill one part of the promise, if it is impossible to love. the whole necessarily falls to the ground.

What is the object and intent of that intimacy called an engagement of marriage, unless to enable the parties to live together in that freedom of intercourse which the mutual expectation of marriage inspires, for the very purpose of giving them an insight they would not otherwise have into each other’s character, and an opportunity of repentance and retraction before taking the irrevocable step? And if this be the object of an engagement—as who will venture to say it is not—how absurd to hold a man bound to marry, by the very process of socking to discover whether it will be judicious for him to marry or not?

Of all miserable things in this world of misery, a miserable marriage is the most miserable, yet every acute observer must have noticed that the misery of many of these marriages arises from causes too immaterial, so to speak, too spiritual to attract the notice of the casual observer. At a time when our courts and our legislatures are besieged by wives and husbands struggling to get rid of uncongenial partners; when the laws on the subject of divorce are loudly complained of in so many quarters, as failing to afford that relief which they ought, one measure, it would seem, might suit equally well both the friends and the enemies of the freedom of divorce. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It may be necessary to allow those married persons to separate, who have become not merely tiresome, but hateful to each other; but how much better to avoid the blunder of bringing such people together? Divorce at the pleasure of either party, after the marriage has been consummated, and especially after children are born, is limited to some very weighty objections; but what can be the objection to allowing the freedom of separation in cases where no marriage has yet been celebrated? If, indeed, to seek the intimacy of a lady with a view to discover if she is fit to be your wife, is to carry with it the obligation to make her so, at all events, we are in no respect better off than the Chinese, who marry their wives without over having seen them. So far, indeed, as the wife’s person is concerned, we have an advantage over the Chinamen, in the privilege of seeing so much of it as she exhibits to the world at large in the street, or as she displays to a select circle in a ballroom. Looks, however, in this climate, are not much to be depended upon. American beauty fades with marvellous rapidity; while, as to the lady’s temper, and mental and moral traits, which in our state of civilization are of at least equal importance with her face, if we are so impertinent as to peep into them, the law and public opinion insist that in so doing we have contracted an obligation to marry her. Thus, in fact, we are worse off than the Chinaman. He, if not suited with one wife, can take another, and so on, till he is suited. We, when once married, are done for. We can neither get rid of our uncongenial wife nor take a congenial one. Under these circumstances, we ought at least to have the privilege of making a choice with our eyes open, and not be held by the very act of examination to have precluded ourselves from declining to accept an article, which, however taking it might seem at first sight, proves, on being more closely looked at, not what we wanted.

[“A Word For Men’s Rights.” Putnam’s Monthly, A Magazine of Literature, Science , and Art, Vol. II, Feb. 1856, No. XXXVIII, p. 208]

“1933 Men’s Association” – London

The following newspaper clippings provide evidence of a men’s advocacy organization formed in 1933. The organization was concerned with the “pampering” of women to the detriment of men, in what the organization considered the increasing gynocentric culture of England.

Western Gazette – Friday 10 November 1933
Western Gazette - Friday 10 November 1933

Edinburgh Evening News – Saturday 11 November 1933
Edinburgh Evening News - Saturday 11 November 1933

Nottingham Evening Post – Thursday 16 November 1933
Nottingham Evening Post - Thursday 16 November 1933

Nottingham Evening Post – Saturday 03 February 1934
Nottingham Evening Post - Saturday 03 February 1934

MGTOW movement of 1898

In the 1890’s a proposed ‘tax on bachelors’ caused the very first MGTOW (Men Going Their Own Way) and Men’s Rights group to form.1 At that time a group of bachelors banded together in response to the tax and to fight for their freedom from gynocentric slavery. They can also be considered the first Men’s Rights group to fight against patently misandric laws.

Background
01-Charlotte-Smith-1896In 1896 a Mrs. Charlotte Smith, feminist activist and President of the Women’s Rescue League, spearheaded an anti-bachelor campaign based on her concerns about the increasing numbers of women who could not find husbands — a surprising development considering men outnumbered women in the United States then by 1.5 million.2 Her solution to the “problem” was to denigrate, malign, and ultimately punish bachelors in order to pressure them into marrying any women unlucky enough to remain unwed. Mr’s Smith’s malignment of bachelors began with attacks on public servants and officials, saying that bachelors have always been failures, and that bachelor politicians, especially, were “narrow minded, selfish, egotistical, and cowardly.” She further claimed that, “It’s about time to organize antibachelor clubs in this state. It should be the purpose of every young woman to look up the record of each and every man who is looking for votes and, should his moral character be such would make him unfit for office, then his shortcoming should be the point of attack by the antibachelor women of Massachusetts. There are 47,000 girls between the ages of 20 and 29 years in this state who cannot find husbands… [and] the bachelor politicians, they do not dare discuss the social evil question.”3 She states:

“No man can be a good, honorable and upright citizen who has
not entered into the holy bonds of wedlock” [Charlotte Smith]4

 

The Chipley banner, 25 Sept. 1897

The Chipley banner, 25 Sept. 1897


Part of her remedy was to have bachelors excluded from employment in prominent public sector positions. Her second punishment proposed a universal bachelor tax of $10 per year be applied,5 amounting to between 1-4 weeks of the average wage, with the proceeds to provide living standards for ‘unmarried maidens’ orphans and the poor. In 1911, Mrs. Smith was still spruiking the tax on bachelors, claiming statistics showed that 60% of eligible men in Massachusetts never married, especially men of “small means” because “in order to be popular at the club now it is necessary for a man to have one or two automobiles a yacht, and two or three mistresses, but no marriage.”6

Many proponents of the tax believed that it would encourage marriage and thereby reduce the state’s burden to care for those who did not financially support themselves. Perhaps most importantly Mrs. Smith felt that the tax would lower the number of men “who go around making love to young girls.”6

The bachelor band of 1898

The bachelor tax proposed by Smith was by no means the first. In 1827 a “highly numerous and respectable” group of men met in a New York City hotel to organize a protest against a bill before the New York legislature that replaced a current tax on dogs with one on bachelors. The bill, they claimed, was “onerous and in direct violation of the great charter of their liberties.”7 In 1854, in Connecticut a legislator argued in the House of Representatives against a proposed bill to tax bachelors: such a bill was unnecessary, he claimed, because “There was a tax laid already upon a goose, and any man who had lived 25 years without being married could be taxed under that section.”8 These two bills were not unique, as bachelor taxes have existed around the globe and throughout the millennia, dating back at least to ancient Greece and Rome.9

The culmination of attacks on both the finances and character of bachelors resulted (in 1898) in the formation of a small resistance group in Atlanta Georgia, known variously as the Bachelor Band, The Bachelor League, or famously the ‘Anti-Bardell Bachelor Band.’ The latter takes its name from the case of Bardell vs Pickwick in Charles Dickins 1836 classic novel The Pickwick Papers in which the character Mr. Pickwick is forced to defend himself against a corrupt lawsuit brought by his landlady, Mrs. Bardell, who is suing him for breach of promise, and which ultimately results in his incarceration at Fleet Prison for his stubborn refusal to pay the compensation to her. Thus ‘Anti-Bardell’ in the title refers to men’s struggle against corruption, greed and bigotry, with the bachelor band publicly claiming that “One of its main objects is the suppression of Mrs. Bardell’s large army of female followers today.”10

The Bachelor Band undertook political activism on behalf of men’s rights, including articles in numerous mainstream newspapers, letters to politicians, and public petitions to raise both awareness and support for men against misandric laws and practices. In response to Mrs. Smith’s campaign for what she termed “compulsory marriage,” the Bachelor Band held an emergency meeting chaired by Al Mather, a prominant real-estate dealer. At the meeting a member cried out, “We are pledged to celibacy, and we must remain true to our resolve!” Another member, Henry Miller stated “It is an outrage to attempt a tax on bachelors. The next thing, I suppose, will be to put tags on us or make us get out licenses as is now requires for dogs.”11 The meeting then moved into a secret session where the proposed bachelor tax was discussed, with attendees concluding that is was not the tax per-se that was the problem, but the spirit of the thing. The members, one and all, declared the tax was an attempt to place bachelors under a ban, and by doing so force them into matrimony. With all members of the same opinion a resolution was passed as follows:

“We hereby ask and request that the Senator and the Assemblymen from this district, namely Mr. Daly, Allen, and marshal exert themselves to the best of their ability and means to defeat the bill now before the Legislature to tax bachelors; and it is further resolved that the Secretary be authorized to forward a copy of the above resolution to each of the gentlemen mentioned, and further to notify the proposer of the bill, Assemblyman Weller, and the governor of our action.”11

Another group, the Hoboken Bachelor Club, discussed the merits of drafting a petition protesting against the bill and circulating it for signatures. As can be seen from the political action taken, the assault on men was not going to be taken lying down, with the bachelors forming a resistance movement headed by Lawyer John A. Hynds who not only resisted pressure to marry but challenged the bachelor tax and the cultural misandry that accompanied it. According to one media account the bachelor group was still active four years after the date of the above controversy, making it a successful long-term organisation.12

One of the more humorous, but effective examples of the group’s media activism was this piece in the New York World:

BACHELOR’S LEAGUE AGAINST THE FAIR

John A. Hynds - (Chief Officer of Bachelor Band)

John A. Hynds –
(Chief Officer of Bachelor Band)

Twelve bachelors have formed a league against marriage under the name of the “Anti-Bardell Bachelor Band,” a name which recalls the woes of Mr. Pickwick, of immortal fame. The motto of the club is Solomon’s proverb: “It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than with a brawling woman in a wide house.” The objects of the club are to oppose matrimony, to fight for the liberty of man, to encourage the manufacture of all such devices as bachelor buttons and to check the movement inaugurated by Mrs. Charlotte Smith “and other disgruntled females” to require bachelors to wed.

Any member who marries will be fined $1000. The club will attend the “funeral” in a body dressed in black, wearing long, mournful faces, with an abundant supply of crepe. In addition to this they will emit groans during the whole ceremony. When the fine is paid the member shall be declared legally dead.

Another offense is “getting the mitten.” If a member is “mittened” by a widow or old maid the fine is doubled. Among other offenses are calling a woman “sweetheart,” “dearest,” “sugar lump,” “dovie,” “tootsie-wootsie,” “honey,” “lamb” or any such kindred nonsensical, absurd and disgraceful terms, and “walking with the female in the moonlight, speaking of the stars or the weather, quoting poetry –original or otherwise- riding through a tunnel in a car when any female occupies a contiguous seat, getting down on his knees before or at the side of a woman, carrying a girl’s picture in his watch, hat or pocketbook, staying later than 12 o’clock at night, sending cologne, cinnamon drops or other kinds of perfumed liquids or shopping in a dry-goods store with any one of the fair sex.”

The chief officers of the club are: John A. Hynds, chief marble heart; E. C. Brown, junior marble heart; Mark J. McCord, freezer; J. D. Allen, iceberg.

Mr. E. C. Brown, the junior marble heart, was tried recently on the charge of deserting the Atlanta charmers and visiting a Marietta widow and sending the widow flowers and candles. He was forbidden to visit Marietta for two months and fined twenty-four theatre tickets.13

* * *

Penalties against bachelors as enticements to marry are seen as far back as classical Roman times and, as with Eliza and Mariana who in 1707 AD proposed harsh penalties for unwed men, women are the most passionate advocates of bachelor punishments.

The Anti-Bardell Bachelor Band represents possibly the earliest MGTOW and MHRA group we know of, with men fighting for the basic right to determine their own lives and liberty, including the right to not marry. The stacked deck against men is not new, nor is an organized reaction to it. The only thing these poor chaps needed was the internet, and a mind for rebellion. With this in mind let’s make sure we milk the internet for all we can squeeze out of it… it’s our best chance yet.

 
 
Notes

[1] Specifically, the earliest MGTOW and Men’s Rights groups currently known by this author. If an earlier MGTOW or MR group is brought to my attention this page will be updated accordingly.
[2] The Crusade Against Bachelors, The Norfolk Virginian. (Norfolk, Va.), 02 Sept. 1897.
[3] Antibachelor Clubs: Mr’s Charlotte Smith Starts New Political Crusade, Rock Island Argus. (Rock Island, Ill.), 28 Aug. 1897
[4] No offices for Bachelors, Kansas City StarThursday, August 19, 1897, Kansas City, Kansas
[5] Massachusetts Bachelors Taxed $10 a Year, The Salt Lake herald. (Salt Lake City [Utah), 01 March 1898
[6] Tax on Bachelors, Boston Globe, Feb.15, 1911, 1. (Smith was also campaigning against women riding bicycles, which she considered immoral).
[7] Editorial, Connecticut Courant, February 5, 1827
[8] Connecticut Legislature, Senate, House of Representatives, Hartford Courant, June 26, 1854
[9] Taxing Bachelors in America: 1895-1939, by Marjorie E. Kornhauser
[10] Evening star, February 15, 1898, Page 13, Image 13
[11] Bachelor Tax Feb 12 1898 New York World
[12] The Times 19 January 1902 › Page 4, “Allison Mather, former president of the Hoboken Bachelors’ Club, and who for many years was proud of the distinction or being a confirmed woman hater, is suing for divorce. When he married last year the members of the club went into mourning.”
[13] New York World, 1898 [Note: “mittened” or “getting the mitten” is an old-time New England expression, meaning to have your offer of marriage rejected by your “best girl,” and has an origin in the customs of the earlier days. Two hundred years ago, gloves were unknown in the country towns, and mittens were knitted and worn in all families. If a young man, going home from singing school with the girl of his choice, was holding her mittened hand to keep it from getting cold, and took that opportunity to urge his suit, if the offer proved acceptable, the hand would remain; if taken by surprise, an effort to withdraw the hand would leave the mitten. So the suitor would “get the mitten, but would not get the hand.”