Thursday, September 15, 2011

1906: The U.S. National Public Debate on Domestic Violence Against Women

NOTE: tells that “only since the 1970s has the criminal justice system begun to treat domestic violence as a serious crime, not as a private family matter.”, like so many other “standard references,” is not telling the truth.




“Any person who shall, commit an assault and battery upon or beat his wife, shall, to the discretion of the court before which conviction is had, be sentenced to be whipped not exceeding twenty lashes, or by imprisonment or fine as above provided. If any court shall, under the provision of this net, order or direct punishment by whipping, the shall be administered by the Sheriff of the County or any Marshal or policeman of any incorporated city or town wherein judgment be rendered, and the said Sheriff, Marshal or policeman shall administer the same within the walls of the jail of the county, city or town where said crime shall have been committed.”

— Provision in Oregon’s statutes for the punishment of wife beaters that has proved most effective.


FULL TEXT: The wife-beater and the revival of the whipping-post as a means of correcting the former’s tendency to use physical violence on a defenseless woman are at present provoking considerable discussion, and bringing forth a great diversity of opinion.

The whipping-post has been suggested as the only radical method of suppressing the wife-beater and those who have been strongly advocating its adoption in this State point to the results in Oregon, where the rather ancient form of punishment has been in use for nearly a year and has been responsible, so the officials of that State claim, for much social reform.

San Francisco, however, is a bit skeptical regarding the corrective influence of the whipping-post, many fearing that its revival would be a step backward toward barbarism, and even if its use might prove beneficial in the cases of the more brutal of wife-beaters, the subjection of cruel husbands to this form of punishment would, in the majority of instances, humiliate the wives and children of the offender to a degree where they would be practically ostracized in society.

Cursory examination of the records of the Police Courts of San Francisco has revealed the fact that brutal treatment of women by men who deem it within their rights to resort to extreme brutality for the purpose of impressing upon their wives the omnipotence and importance of their liege lords and masters is greatly on the increase and has brought society to the realization that the law must be changed to discourage this condition of affairs in the home.

A legislative enactment would be necessary to insure the use of the whipping-post, and in this connection it has been contended by some that the State constitution stands in the way of its adoption by reason of the fact that the latter provides specifically that “cruel or unusual punishment” shall not be inflicted. Similar provisions are found in the Federal constitution and those of other States, but against these are decisions by the courts of various States decreeing that the whipping-post is not within the category of the above-mentioned class of punishment.

Working under the theory that the California statutes are not antagonistic to the revival of the old-time method of punishing certain kinds of offenders, John McCallan of this city and several others, who are deeply interested in the move to have the obnoxious and brutal wife-beater abated, entered into a correspondence with a number of the prominent people of California and neighboring States with a view of securing expressions of opinion as to the effectiveness of this method of punishment.

“While not a few of those who responded to Mr. McCallan’s communication are unqualifiedly in favor of adopting the whipping-post, many others, as has already been stated, regard the proposition as repugnant for different reasons, which they give in the interesting views printed below positive opinion to express in regard to the use of the whipping-post as a punishment for wife-beaters. We can all agree, I suppose, that wife-beaters are none too good for this punishment – indeed, that public whipping or exposure in the stocks is very fit treatment for the man who beats his wife, or any other woman, for that matter.

But in the enactment of a penal statute it is necessary, to think as much about the way in which It will work us of its abstract justice. I confess that, with my present information, I do not have a very great degree of faith that the establishment of the whipping-post would do much to deter the wife-beater, except, perhaps, the most brutal and degraded specimens of his kind, and then not in all cases. The trouble would be that most wives would prefer to suffer in silence rather than to subject themselves and families to the notoriety and disgrace inseparable from sending a husband and father to the public whipping-post.

That is the weakness of the present law, for comparatively few wives drag their husbands into court to answer charges of battery, although the punishment prescribed is nothing more than line and imprisonment, and it is a fair inference that even fewer would do it if they knew the husband would be disgraced by being lashed upon his hare back in a public square or in a jailyard. That some husbands, even in to the almost incredible meanness of offering physical violence to their wives is made manifest in the divorce complaints which are filed from time to time in our courts.

The wife who is a woman of fine feelings will sue her husband for divorce on account of his brutal mistreatment when she will not have him brought into court for assault and battery under the present law, and I think still fewer wives would cause their husband’s arrest if to do so would be to doom them to the shame of the whipping-post.

The bane of all penal enactments is that they do not secure the punishment of the offenders themselves so much as that of unfortunate wives, mothers, fathers and children. Public disgrace is harder to bear ban imprisonment, and. the wife or mother who is pointed at as a woman having a husband or son in prison, suffers keener agonies, tenfold, than the man who is shut within prison walls. These things are facts of which everybody is conscious in a general way but a Governor, called upon dally to read the piteous appeals from the families of prisoners, is made conscious as no one else can be of the terrible but inevitable injustice of all punishments – that ever fall more heavily on the innocent than on the guilty.

Therefore, when a proposition is made to impose punishments which will involve more publicity, more notoriety, more disgrace. It is proper to stop and ask the question on whom will the penalties fall most heavily – on the brutal wife-beaters or on their innocent victims and their equally innocent children? If on the former, the proposed law is presumptively all right; but if on the latter, then there is good reason to doubt whether such legislation will be along the fines of enlightened progress. And it is not, it will be largely futile. After all, the best way is not to have any wife-beaters, and the only means of doing that is doubtless to rear a generation of men who are too civilized to be guilty of such barbarity. It will take time to accomplish that, but society will reach the point after a time.

~ J. F. DINAN, Chief of Police of San Francisco. ~

Concerning the advisability of adopting a new section to the codes of this State, erecting a whipping-post for the punishment of certain offenses, I would say that the crime of wife-beating is such that the whipping-post could and should be used for the punishment of such offenders, for as a rule this class of offenses are committed by some big, lazy brute who will not work for the support of his wife and family. And if he does do any labor the proceeds from such employment are usually spent for liquor, and when the brute is remonstrated with by his wife for his actions he will beat her and his children to his heart’s content, as the punishment, if he is arrested for the offense, is such that if he be convicted and sent to the County Jail he feels that he cared for a while there, and with nothing to do this is just to his liking.

While he is in jail and being taken care of his wife and family suffer for the little support he should give them, but if he was aware that he might be punished by the whipping-post route. It would, in my estimation, have a tendency to cause such offenders to think twice before they strike a poor, weak woman once. Such offenders are, as a rule, cowards, and the thought of punishment at the whipping-post would have a great moral effect upon him.

I have no statistics as to the number of States in the United States having this mode of punishment, but if no other State has such a mode I would say that California should be the first to adopt it, for the sake of the poor, helpless woman who suffer be the actions of the brute who commits this offense.

~ MOST REV. GEORGE MONTGOMERY, Coadjutor Archbishop of San Francisco. ~

Concerning the laws in Oregon punishing wife-beaters, personally it is repugnant to me, as it savors too much it seems to me of barbarity. I confess the act of the man beating his wife, but it does seem to me that seems other provision could be devised to effect the reform desired.

I do not believe in fines and imprisonment simply for offenses of the kind either. Because many times these fines come from a home sadly in need of help, and if imprisonment is added the man who should be the bread winner is idle.

I suppose it is chimerical on my part and impracticable to suggest what I would like in this matter; but if it could be, I should like to see the wife-beater put at hard labor according to the discretion of the court, and the proceeds of his labor devoted to his family. Of course, there are many obstacles in the way, and a sentiment among a large number of our people that prison labor must not come in contact in any way with the labor of men outside, but as you have asked for opinions from many this is about as near in my mind as I can tell you.

~ JOHN MANNING, District Attorney, Portland, Or. ~

I believe it is the efficacy of the “whipping-post” law. Perhaps the most cogent argument in favor of this law will be to cite this most significant fact, that we have had but three convictions for wife-beating since that time, whereas under the former regime we would have had several times that many.

I apprehend conditions in Oregon would not radically differ from those elsewhere. Nevertheless, it was obvious to most thinking persons that some radical remedy was needed to cure the growing tendency of brutality on the part of married men toward their wives. The proponents of this law well understood that it does not strike at the primal cause and does not take up the issue at the right point to enable the correct solution of the problem. Parenthetically, let me say that this unfortunate tendency is the outgrowth of loose ideas of marriage and divorce so sadly prevalent in these days. The whipping-post is a powerful deterrent and the results attained under its operation, in my opinion, have been salutary.

~ W. T. STANFORD, Chief of Police of Vallejo. ~

There is no doubt in my mind that the enactment by the State Legislature of a law similar to that in force in the State of Oregon, dealing with wife-beaters, would have a deterrent effect upon the cowards who are disposed to indulge in that practice. Such offenders too frequently escape punishment by reason of the fact that the injured wife fears to appear in court as prosecuting witnesses, knowing that a term in jail for the offender means additional punishment for herself and children. immunity from punishment is thus obtained for the rascal, where a speedy justice should be ready to apply an effective curb on brutish tendencies. The endeavor to bring this subject to the attention of the Legislature meets with my sincere approval.

~ MARY McHENRY KEITH, Vice President Berkeley Political Equality Society. ~

The suffrage associations are opposed to the establishing of the barbarous whipping-posts. Women will be whipped next and gradually other offenses other than wife-beating will be included in the catalog. Such punishment will only harden the offender, depriving him of any spark of manhood yet remaining and will cause him to “take it out” on his wife when he returns home.

As John Stuart Mill wrote in his “Subjection of Women,” the ignorant and brutal man has been raised with the idea that his wife is his property. And under the law, as it exists, she is politically, if not a slave, at least a serf or a child. Her opinion is not treated as being of any value to the state. It is not counted at the ballot-box. Is it to be wondered at If the ignorant man. and also often the man who is not ignorant, acts accordingly and treats his wife not as his equal but as, under the law his inferior?

Let men call upon the intelligent  women of the State to help frame the laws concerning marriage and the domestic relations, and they will humanize legislation as they have methods of education. Look at the brutalities in vogue in English and American schools before the advent of the school ma’am. If not quite extinct, they are vastly lessened and exist only in institutions where, instruction is given by mea alone. And even there hazing and football are only recreations!

Women can protect themselves much better if they are given the vote as a weapon of defense. The granting of woman suffrage will raise the status of womanhood. All the talk of being on a pedestal with the pauper, the criminal and the insane, who share the pedestal with her — the pedestal, of disfranchisement — is senseless. The underlying cause of much of the bad treatment of women by ignorant and brutal men is classifying. them in law with incompetents and irrational beings.

The California Equal Suffrage Association demands not only a “square deal” for every man, but a “square deal” for every .woman, and when we get that we can manage the wife-beaters without the whipping-post.

~ MRS. ELIZA J. CHAMBERLAIN, Past Grand Vice Templar, I. O. G. T., Eureka. ~

“With unfeigned pleasure I note to the State a sentiment in favor of a law similar to that of Oregon for punishment of wife-beaters. It is confidently expected that at the next session of the California Legislature there will be introduced a measure embodying the essential features of that statute.”

As mankind becomes more highly civilized it also grows more humane. At no other period in the world’s history have there been so many princely gifts in the name of charity and benevolence; at no other period have there been so many charitable institutions so many homes for the homeless, so many hospitals. For the side and friendless, so many societies for prevention of cruelty to the children and the dumb kingdom.

At no other period has so large a proportion of people evinced such profound sympathy for the unfortunate of the race or such intense desire to alleviate to relieve poverty and to contribute to the sum of human happiness.

There seems indeed only one type of the human family unable to achieve any genuine progress in the acquisition of humane instincts, and that is the from such a despicable creature, of course  people of real humanity, culture and refinement  recoil with horror. It is felt that, in this twentieth century, of civilization the wife-beater is out of place, it is felt that he is a disgrace to his species; and since milder means have signally failed to accomplish his elimination or even abatement, there must be measures more heroic.

Hence, the demand in California for the whipping-post for the creature. To the objection that the punishment is cruel and brutal, it may be replied that society has no alternative. Every other form of punishment having failed, it is either the lash or acquiescence in a condition of things unspeakably revolting and distressing.

~ GEORGE W. WHITMAN,  Ex-Chief of Police of San Francisco. ~

As  to the advisability of instituting in California the whipping-post as a punishment for those men who so debase themselves as to do violence to the persons of their wives, or other women,. without giving the matter extended consideration, and simply basing my statement upon my practical experience in dealing with the criminal element of San Francisco, in my capacity as former Chief. of Police, there is no doubt in my mind  that such punishment would serve as a powerful deterrent to this class of offenders.

Usually when a wife-beater comes up before the court for sentence there is the plea that if you sentence this man to jail you will simply impose greater hardships upon his wife and children, and the result is that the Judge either imposes a very short sentence or discharges the prisoner with a reprimand. No one knows this better than the offender and he feels at liberty to renew the offense upon the slightest provocation, for he knows his offense will not be visited with any serious punishment. But if these people know that a crime of this kind would be sure to result in a lashing, and that in public, they would be slow indeed to strike down a poor, defenseless woman. Not only would there be the fear of the lash, but the humiliation and disgrace of the world witnessing it in my mind, therefore, it is clear that such a measure would have almost salutary effect in doing away with this brutal practice, and I certainly would commend any movement looking to the passage of a law which would effect this result.

“Wife Beating and the Whipping Post – Shall California Adopt This Form of Punishment?” The Sunday Call (San Francisco, Ca.), Jan. 7, 1906, Literary Section,. p. 10


• You have been told that before the rise of feminism in the 1960s that domestic violence against women was tolerated by society as acceptable behavior and was not taken seriously by police and the courts.

You have been lied to. The people who told you these lies were paid to tell them you. In most cases you paid your own money (taxes and tuition fees) to be lied to.

Here is one of countless pieces of evidence that demonstrate the truth.

• To see more eloquent, vivid evidence proving the lie and giving you the truth, see:

19th Century Intolerance Towards Domestic Violence

Treatment of Domestic Violence Against Women Before 1960this post collects cases classified by the form of punishment or sentencing (whether judicial or through community action)

No, the claim that laws created by males were for the benefit of males is false. Yes, the "Rule of Thumb" myth has been proven to be a marxist-feminist hoax, taking an ancient English common historical notation published in the 18th century and extrapolating it into unsupported claims that 18th and 20th century United States communities, courts and legislatures (laws on the books) were in agreement with the18th century historical notation (Blackstone).


“[O]nly since the 1970s has the criminal justice system begun to treat domestic violence as a serious crime, not as a private family matter.”

From the entry: “Domestic Violence” on

This claim has been proven to be false.


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