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During the Victorian era, women who smoked were openly criticized and often thought of as "fast" or having loose morals. Some would go as far as to equate feminine smoking to prostitution.
However, in the early 1900s, it was one woman's desire to smoke in public that helped pave the way for equal rights for women.
In 1908, New York City enacted the Sullivan Ordinance, which barred women from smoking in public places.
The law was named after the man who proposed it, Alderman Timothy "Little Tim" Sullivan, who said that although he had never seen a woman smoke in public, the sheer thought of it repulsed him.
It wasn't long before one rebellious woman named Katie Mulcahey lit up a cigarette in public and put this new law to the test. Mulcahey was arrested on the spot and slapped with a hefty $5 fine.
While in court, she reportedly told the judge, "I have never heard of this new law and I don’t want to hear about it. No man shall dictate to me."
Fortunately for her, the mayor of New York agreed and the short-lived law was struck down a few days later.
While the right for women to smoke in public places was never formally written into New York City law, it was publicly declared by the city's chief legal officer. This declaration not only set the precedent for laws to be created allowing women the right to engage in the same public activities as men but it also became a rallying point for the Women's Rights Movement.
This exquisite flask is crafted in heavy gauge sterling silver and features -- in repoussé -- a beautiful rebellious woman, who we like to think is Katie Mulcahey, enjoying a cigarette in a smoky room.
It is made by the renowned Unger Brothers of Newark, NJ, who were best known for their art nouveau designs.
This is a wonderful piece for any Unger Brother or Women's Suffrage collector.
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