In the name of common decency


whipped on bloomers on a bicycleAround the turn of the last century there was a lot of outrage on all sides about the encroaching liberation of women. This liberty took the form of everything from the suffrage movement, women in the workplace, through fashion and even ladies smoking cigars.

One Lady B even remarked in a notable publication of the day that if she “had her way, then every ungrateful prissy miss seeking the vote would be given a thorough thrashing on her bare behind until they learned their place.”

Lady B went further. She added, “There is nothing so good for a uppity young woman as a thoroughly sound birching on the bare bottom. If any of my daughters ever indulged in such a shameful display…” well you get the point.

Now if the extent of public outrage was limited to these few futile and impotent threats, then given the attitudes of the time, then no one would be surprised. However, vigilantes often did take matters into their own hands. The picture above is an engraving depicting the kind of gauntlet that some young women run every time they ventured out in their bloomers. Nor is this picture fanciful. There were several documented cases of young women being pursued down the street by angry mobs.

One retired colonel was acquitted of assault after he became so outraged in Hyde Park that he resorted to taking a swipe at a young woman’s bloomered-behind with his cane as she passed him on a bicycle.

Another gentleman was fined a mere one shilling after he spanked two girls for similarly riding in bloomers in public. The magistrate said the girls’ behaviour had been ‘provocative.’

It is no wonder when you consider that Susan Anthony wrote that bicycling “has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.” Women on bikes wearing trousers was nothing short of revolution. Where could it possibly end?

Nor were women restricting themselves to healthy pursuits in the quest for equality.

When Charles Conroy came home to find his grown-up daughter entertaining guests while smoking a cheroot, he was not amused.

“But Papa,” she told him, “It’s quite the thing nowadays.”

“Let me demonstrate an old custom from my day,” he replied and promptly took the startled miss over his knee for a sound spanking in front of her friends.

Nor was the battle for sexual politics confined to the home.

A young female stenographer had injury added to insult when not only did she receive a lower rate of pay than her male colleagues, but her boss was accustomed to taking her across his knee instead of fining her when she made mistakes.

Her complaints got no further than the press when a magistrate ruled that as an employee and being under 21 to boot, she was a dependent and her employer was entitled to chastise her if the need arose.

The press story prompted a lively correspondence at the time with many people siding with the boss.

One young woman said she “got it the same from her boss” and if the “silly girl wanted to complain she hoped she should be spanked on the bare bottom for her trouble as she would be if she had made so bold.”

Another woman said she was also spanked by her boss and she “did not know if it were right or wrong but that if her father found out she would get more at home and worse.”

The last word goes to Mildred Herman from Milwaukee from 1910, who seems to be only semi-liberated or else an early spanko.

“I think it is a shame that a father should spank his daughter for sins at work. Is a girl not entitled to make her way in the world together with her own mistakes?

“Of course this does not mean he should not spank her soundly if the need should arise as my own dear Papa spanks me. I think it is his duty until a suitable husband comes along to take up the ‘baton’ so to speak.”

17 Responses to “In the name of common decency”

  1. 1 paul1510

    before my time, so cannot comment.
    But I certainly admire the Suffragettes, though not the more rabid feminists.

  2. 2 paul

    did not realise women got spanked to acheive the vote they suffered politicaly and phsicaly!

  3. 3 Old Tom

    They were right too. Women today are an absolute menace and most need a sound thrashing.

    • It is a good job there are lots of wonderful men around to sort us out. Otherwise we might go around being violent or committing crimes – I am glad no men do things like that.

  4. In the good old days, the women were whipped, ffor riding a bike. Nowday’s in Saudia Ariabia, for driving a car. In my humble opinion, women should only be whipped for driving a man crazy. And there are many that do.

  5. 8 DJ

    Yes well… I don’t want to labour the point but I would have thought that people pursuing violence (and that is what it was) in the streets and getting away with it speaks for itself. I.e. It is totally ridiculous.

    At best it could be viewed as eccentric or a quirky fun fact now – but one would hardly condone it then or now. I assume that some people here had their tongues in their cheeks while seeming to do just that.

    Clearly getting beaten for riding a bicycle or wearing trousers would be considered insane at any time during the last 100 years – it was not the norm then – but it happened on occasion.

    This piece was inspired by an odd debate some years ago when someone assumed that this picture (or one like it) was a fantasy – when in fact it is a newspaper illustration of an actual report.

    Lady B – oft quoted – may well have been invented by a newspaper to spur debate. Although her response is an exaggeration – much worse things happened to suffragists in a slightly later era.

    This blog runs to fiction and spanking related reportage with the aim to entertain and sometimes to inform. Surely no here thinks it is a platform for neo-conservative social reform? Of course not. 😀

    And to Poppy I say: ‘Let them eat cake.’ 😉

  6. Loved this piece, DJ. The suffragette movement was the backdrop for a story of mine called TUMALO BEND 1895 in which a group of women were chastised for participating in a riot.

  7. 11 Mark

    We ought to mention here the new movie Compliance that has been reviewed in the NYT and Guardian and Salon and elsewhere. It is fiction, based on actual incidents in which a man impersonating a police officer convinces by telephone an employer to do things to a young female employee including spank her.

    Now if someone tried this on my wife or daughter, they would stand up for themselves, and I would shortly thereafter fall on said employer like unto the Wrath of God.

    However, this proves that acceptance of such things is quite possible even in people today, just as it was accepted not so long ago. The present thinking shows as a rather thin veneer, easily penetrated, layered over some concepts quite acceptable to our own ancestors in our own culture not so long ago as might be imagined. See also the treatment of illegal immigrants used as labor by some of our enlightened today.

    We are not so different as one might assume, and old ideas can come back.

    Even while we enjoy private activities and fantasy, it is still necessary to be vigilant. The forces of reaction are a threat like a troll lurking under a bridge.

  8. 12 Old Tom

    An interesting comment:
    Critics warned that the “unfettered liberty of bicycling would intoxicate women to immoral acts” and that the bicycle “promoted immodesty in women”. As Clare S. Simpson noted, “The independent mobility of cyclists raised genuine alarm for their physical, if not moral, safety; simply put, the bicycle could easily take women to unsavoury places where they might be endangered physically, or morally. Drawing on previous knowledge of the kinds of women who deliberately made themselves conspicuous in public, that is, prostitutes, there would be a strong tendency to conclude that cycling women were far from respectable: not exactly prostitutes, perhaps, but possibly women of loose morals or with an undeveloped sense of propriety.”

  9. 13 danielle

    im 25 so clearly not from that time but i believe a husband has the right to spank his wife

    • 14 Old Tom

      Surely not Danielle? Not a right at all otherwise no woman would be safe marrying or her bottom wouldn’t. Surely it is only acceptable if there has been an agreemnt before marriage that it will form part of their marriage. In any event in the UK and US it would not be enforceable in law

      • Old Tom, I could not agree with you more.
        Consent is important and makes this thing we do a joyous meeting of minds, if it is done as a ‘right’ then horrid people would take advantage and those of us that love this life style would have to give it up to protect abused women.

        Danielle, I think couples have the right to decide for themselves what kind of life they would like to live. Let’s stay out of other people’s consenting activities. (For example, what if a man wants his wife to spank him?)

  10. 16 Scarlet

    Wonderful post, DJ. Women suffered all kinds of indignities in trying to achieve their independence, and I’m afraid we too often forget what a struggle it was. As rewarding and happy making a lifestyle like ttwd can be, (for those who happily choose it) it is horrifying to contemplate non-consensual chatisement of wayward women…too too much like certain mid-eastern countries today. It is so dangerous to assume that a couple’s choice at home has anything to do with the world at large. Your blog does become a platform for some interesting histories and conversations!

  11. 17 DJ

    Nice to see a post with legs as well as bottoms.

    Thanks Scarlet and you are right.

    I think Poppy and Tom have it.

    It sounds like you don’t mind at least Danielle – I think what you are saying that as far as you are concerned you husband has the right to spank you. I guess you can’t speak for other women.

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