The woman above is Connecticut industrialist Vivien Kellems, who in 1948 refused to withhold income taxes from her 100-odd employees, saying if the government wanted her to be a tax collecter, they would “have to pay me, and I want a badge.”
She dared the IRS to file suit against her to test the constitutionality of the income tax, but they never did. Despite the fact that her employees were paying their taxes anyway, IRS agents went to her bank and confiscated $6,100. She sued, and though she wasn’t allowed to argue constitutional grounds, was granted a full refund by a district court.
Kellems was in the cable grip business, and to get a sense of the sort of lady she was, check out this letter quoted in the introduction to her 1952 book, Toil, Taxes, and Trouble (whole thing here):
I have been in and out of manholes all over the country, and usually stop traffic when going down or emerging. The hottest manhole was in Honolulu, where cold air had to be blown in all the time we were underground. The coldest was in Chicago, where I wore a mink coat. During World War II our cable-grip principle was adapted to every war cable. We are doing the same thing now for the new defense program. During World War II we lifted all the shells, everything from the 76 mm. to the 16″ Navy projectile, which was coated with a thick covering of grease. All the cables on battleships were secured permanently with our grips. I enjoyed describing to General MacArthur how they were fastened in the firing turrets of the battleship Missouri. Seventy-five women made two million small ones for the Signal Corps during the war.Many and varied are the uses of the cable grip, but, most of all, the cable-grip business is fun, because something new is always popping up.
The rest of the book goes into great detail about her lonely campaign against the IRS; it’s wonderful and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It starts with an invocation of Caesar Augustus’s Biblical census, so that “all the world may be taxed,” and doesn’t let up. She reserved special contempt for the phrase “take-home pay”:
The most un-American phrase in our modern vocabulary is “take home pay.” What do we mean, “take home pay”? When I hire a man to work for me we discuss three things: the job to be done, the hours he shall work, and the wages he shall receive. And on Friday when he receives that pay envelope, we have both fulfilled our contract for that week. There is no further obligation on either side. The money in that envelope belongs to him. He has worked for it and he has earned it. No one, not even the United States Government, has the right to touch it. Who dares to lay profane hands upon that money, to rudely filch from that free man the fruits of his labor, even before the money is in his own hands. This is a monstrous invasion of the rights of a free people and an outrageous perversion of the spirit of the Constitution. This is the miserable system foisted upon the people of our country by New Deal zealots and arrogant Communists who have wormed themselves into high places in Washington. This system is deliberately designed to make involuntary tax collectors of every employer and to impose involuntary tax servitude upon every employee. We don’t need to go to Russia for slavery, we’ve got it right here.
The protest garnered nationwide publicity, Kellems was invited on to “Meet the Press” as one of the first female guests (the first was Martha Taft, the senator’s wife), and Westbrook Pegler penned a column calling her “The Most Republican Republican of All.” Here she is chatting with Eleanor Roosevelt about the injustices of the tax system:
(As an aside, I think it’s strange that Ayn Rand ranks higher in the pantheon of lady libertarians than Kellems. Kellems is far more likable, writes better, and actually did all the stuff Rand only wrote about!)