Equality revisited (early 1900s)

Robert St. Estephe–Gonzo Historian–is dedicated to uncovering the forgotten past of marginalizing men. “Gonzo journalism” is characterized as tending “to favor style over fact to achieve accuracy.” Yet history – especially “social history” – is written by ideologues who distort and bury facts in order to achieve an agenda. “Gonzo” writing is seen as unorthodox and surprising. Yet, in the 21st century subjectivity, distortion and outright lying in non-fiction writing is the norm. Fraud is the new orthodoxy. Consequently, integrity is the new “transgressive.”

Welcome to the disruptive world of facts, the world of Gonzo History.


Here are three newspaper articles, one from France and two from the United States, that addressed early 20th century questions of equality between the sexes. If you believe in equal rights, you must believe in equal responsibility. If you believe in equal “empowerment,” you must believe in equal agency.


?Equality considered in 1901 USA

NOTE: At this time Delaware’s law provided that wife-beaters be punished with the whipping post, which remained on the books, and was used for decades to come.

FULL TEXT: While Mrs. Carrie Nation [anti-alcohol activist], exulting in the security of her womanhood, is sweeping the East with a besom and raising something like a riot in every town in the State, the legislators of Delaware have under consideration a bill which, if enacted, will startle her worse than the sight of a gin mill in open working order next door to her own house. The Delaware measure is nothing more nor less than a proposition to equalize punishments in that State and to treat vicious wives in the same way that vicious husbands are treated.

According to the reports that come to us the bill provides that “if any person, being the wife of any man, shall, by physical violence, abuse” maltreat or beat her husband, she shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction thereof shall be punished by being whipped at the whipping post with not less than five and not more than, thirty lashes by the Sheriff, or by her husband, at his election.”

To the people of California such a bill will appear nothing more than a legislative josh; but they are treating it seriously in the East. The New York Times notes: “There is a subtle touch of grim humor in the phraseology of the bill, which makes it optional with the wronged husband whether he or the Sheriff shall administer the disciplinary castigation to the virago under correction. There is reason to fear that the Sheriff, having no personal interest in the matter, would discharge his duty in a more or less perfunctory manner; whereas the husband of the person being the wife of any man, who has rendered himself amenable to the penalty of the husband-beating misdemeanor would certainly apply the scourge with no sparing hand, if moved to apply it at all.”

There a reasons for fearing that husband-beating is a too frequent practice; in that part of the country, and that few husbands are safe when their wives are infuriated. There is a tradition that even John L. Sullivan, in the height of his career, once complained in a Boston court that his wife was in the habit of beating him unmercifully whenever he went home too drunk to put up a fight and defend himself. The Delaware bill may therefore be in the’ interest of wholesome household reform, but all the same the ht and who sends his wife to the whipping post will have a just claim upon the sympathy of the world as soon as the dame gets home again.

[“A Delaware Reform.” The San Francisco Call (Ca.), Feb. 15, 1901, p. 6]


?Equality enforced in 1912 USA

FULL TEXT: Binghampton, N. Y., May 31. – Mrs. Mary Dubal of this city is said to be the first suffragist in the United States who has been given a penitentiary sentence for husband beating. She was arrested on a warrant obtained by Mr. Dubal.

City Judge Albert Hotchkiss found her guilty and declared if women desired men’s prerogatives they should also have men’s punishments when found guilty of law. He always dealt severely with wife beaters, he said, and accordingly he sentenced her to three months in the penitentiary.

[“Husband Beater Sentenced – New York Suffragist Ordered to Jail for Three Months.” The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Wa.), Jun. 1, 1912, p. 2]


?Equality considered in 1913 France


FULL TEXT: The French suffragettes are now fighting for the right to be guillotined.

A recent murder trial in which the prosecuting attorney, when asking for sentence of death for a woman, added that such a verdict was merely a matter of form, since custom was against allowing women to be executed, has raised much discussion regarding this question of sex distinction, and now the foremost feminists are agitating for the “privilege” of equal punishment with men, regarding this as a step toward their ideals.

A symposium just held by L’Eclair shows that among the leading upholders of women’s rights the majority of them think that by being exonerated from death on the scaffold, when they legally deserve it, women are treated as irresponsible beings, and they protest against this attitude as a humiliating outrage.


Mme. Aubert, The General Secretary of the French feminist society, Le Suffrage des Femmes, says:

“Since woman is as competent as man to exercise her rights and account for her actions, the two sexes should be equal both before the polling booths and before the guillotine. Not to execute women criminals while the death penalty exists is sensitiveness of the hypocrite who classes women with lunatics and despoils them of their rights.”

Says Mme. Dr. Pelletier, the Director of La Suffrageste, the principal women’s rights newspaper:

“The gallantry of the guillotine is an insult to the feminine sex, as is gallantry in general.”

“To answer this question,” says the Duchesse d’Uzes, “is very simple. Crime has no sex.”

Similar views are held by several other prominent representatives of the woman’s movement. Only two women express the contrary opinion. Daniel Lesueur, a novelist, says:

“I have never dreamed of demanding the equality of sexes as far as the guillotine. I do not think that the most furious feminist should regard as a victory for her theories the fact that one of her sex had her head cut off. Let us at all events leave old French courtesy a free hand on this last ground.”

In connection with the death penalty opinion is now unanimous that public executions should be discontinued. This sentiment is expressed in an editorial article which has just appeared in Excelsior. The writer points out that the custom of public guillotinings, far from having the expected deterrent effect on criminals, has only given condemned men a chance for making theatrical appeals and teaching embryo assassins who may be gathered around the scaffold how to die with a swagger and leave behind a reputation for heroism among their comrades.

“The question,” says the editorial article, “to-day presents itself with less hypocrisy than formerly. It is no longer a matter of setting an awful example to the public, but merely getting rid as quickly as possible of persons whose existence is thought dangerous to society. The operation should be carried out privately before the Court of Magistrates in charge of the case, with the jury and a few journalists.”

It is thought that this reform will not be long in coming. [Editors note: And those who thought this were dead wrong.]

 [“Women Demanding Guillotine ‘Rights’ – French Feminists Say It Is Unjust to Deprive Sex of ‘Privilege’ of Execution. – Equal Punishment Is Asked – Mme. Auclert Calls Custom of Failing to Execute Women ‘the Sensitiveness of the Hypcrite.’” New York Times (N.Y.), Mar. 16, 1913, p. C3]

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