Why Should Our Local Unmarried Lads Pay a Tax?




Carleton Place Gillies Woolen Mill Employees– 12 women-4 boys and 24 men

Photo from the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum

Almonte Gazette 1897


A writer in the Smith’s Falls Record has the following commentary on the obnoxious poll tax which the young men of Almonte, Carleton Place and other towns, are compelled to pay :

“There is a poll tax which all young men who have attained their majority, and who elect to remain unmarried, must pay. It has just occurred to me that all young women who fill the bill in the same manner should likewise be compelled to pay this tax.”

In this age, when women are fighting hard to earn their own living, and in many cases crowding the young men to the wall, the consideration gallantry should be abandoned, and the law, which always had a weakness for the side of the ladies, should be modelled more in accordance with the spirit of the times.

I don’t know whether or not there are any young ladies over 21 years, in the towns of Almonte or Carleton Place who are unmarried, but if there are any they should be made pay the poll tax or get married. The matrimonial agencies would go out of business if this law were fairly carried out, and I don’t, at present, see any reason why it should not be.


Author’s Note–A poll tax was assessed against any unmarried men over 21 years of age. What is funny is the dog tax was 2-3 dollars, basically the same as a poll tax.


Read the Almonte Gazette here





The Tax on Bachelors

William Atzinger, aged 35, notified the assessor of Chouteau County, Montana,
that he will refuse to pay the poll tax of $3 levied on bachelors by the last
state legislature. In his declaration he says, “Spinsters are responsible for
my not being married in their refusals of my wooing in the past.”

The report from Great Falls, Montana, further quotes the defiant bachelor as
follows: “Tax the spinsters of the same age and I will gladly pay, but
otherwise it is class legislation and I stand upon my rights. Furthermore I
refuse to get married to escape jail and I refuse to pay a bachelor tax to
escape jail.

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.

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 wage of war on 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.”

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,  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.”
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”.
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About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

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