I’m ignoring the C-word this week – don’t know about you, but I’m pretty tired of it to be frank. So, this particular tome will instead bring you some pretty fabulous old laws our 50 states enacted in years gone by.
For instance, did you know that in days of yore, it was illegal for an off-duty firefighter in St. Louis to rescue a woman who was wearing a nightgown? “Now ma’am, I’m ready to haul you off over my shoulder, but you need to get gussied up first – just be mindful of the flying embers and that beam that’s about to collapse”.
Across the border in Kansas, it was illegal for restaurants to sell cherry pie a la mode on Sundays – which rather gives rise to all manner of questions such as “What sicko dreamt up this one?”
Wichita had some beauties, too. It was illegal to carry a concealed bean snapper (heaven forfend!), and a man’s mistreatment of his mother-in-law could not be used as grounds for divorce. Elsewhere in the state, it was illegal to ride a mule down Main Street in August, unless the animal was wearing a straw hat. Maybe “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” hit Lang, Kansas, somewhat earlier than the rest of the country.
From our northerly neighbors, if a child burped during a church service, the parents could be arrested. No beans and cabbage for breakfast that day in Omaha, more’s the pity.
Meanwhile, in Iowa, the state outlawed any establishment from charging admission to see a one-armed piano player. That can only mean there was a rash of monodextrous ivory tinklers at the time. And over in Fort Madison, firemen were required to practice for a quarter of an hour before actually attending the thing they were practicing for.
To our south, Arkansas declared flirtation between men and women on the streets of Little Rock would result in a 30-day jail term. Tell that one to the Clintons.
East of us in Illinois, it was illegal to speak English – the official state recognized language was “American.” In Chicago, it was illegal to fish in one’s pajamas and dang it all, one couldn’t take a French poodle to an opera. Fifi would have been mighty miffed.
The main theme I took from this fascinating list was that men must have feared the hell out of women. Variously, women were not allowed to wear red in public, women were barred from cutting their hair. Any floozy who sat on men’s laps in public without placing a pillow between them was automatically sent to the slammer for six months.
In one state, the missus had to get permission from her husband to wear dentures. Women needed a permit to wear cosmetics. A woman could not disrobe in front of a man’s picture. A woman had to have her body covered by at least 16 yards of cloth at all times.
Most amazing of all in three states it was OK to beat your wife, but no more than once a month, and one could use a stick which could be no wider than the husband’s thumb; or with a leather strap no wider than 2 inches, unless the wife approved of a wider one.
We’ve come a long way, baby.
Annie Dear lives in Lee’s Summit. Email her at email@example.com.