Woman Jailed For Wearing Slacks Instead Of A Dress

In 1938, one kindergarten teacher by the name of Helen Hulick went down in the history books of Los Angeles court history. After having been witness to a burglary she had to go to a downtown L.A. courthouse to testify against the burglary suspects.

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Yet on arrival, the talk quickly turned to what she was wearing and nothing to do with the case at all. The courtroom quickly erupted into a drama about her slacks, something that we just find completely ridiculous today. Apparently, at the time, women were supposed to wear dresses in a courtroom. This is something Hulick thought was wrong and she had her intentions to make a stance. Judge Arthur S. Guerin refused to let her testify and actually rescheduled her testimony, ordering Hulick to wear a dress.

However, Hulick stayed true to her words and came back to the courtroom five days later, wearing her slacks, which further infuriated the judge. He claimed that Hulick was drawing more attention to herself due to her choice of pants and that no one could concentrate on the court proceedings. Again the judge ordered Hulick to return in a dress, this time threatening legal proceedings against her if she did not.

Hulick had not come empty handed though and even brought an attorney, who provided four volumes of law citations that advised she could appear in court in any type of clothing she wanted.

“I’ve worn slacks since I was 15. I don’t own a dress except a formal. If he wants me to appear in a formal gown that’s okay with me. I’ll come back in slacks and if he puts me in jail I hope it will help to free women forever of anti-slackism.” – Helen Hulick

The next day, she returned to her slacks and the judge held her in contempt of justice. She was even given a five-day prison sentence. Support started to pour in from all over the country, hundreds of letters of protest were sent to the courthouse. Guerin’s contempt charges were quickly overturned and Hulick was free to wear her slacks in court.

Of course, now that she had proved her point and fought for women’s fashion when she did return to give her testimony some months later, she wore a dress.

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