|History of Family Violence |
What is a Crisis?
Date Rape Drugs
MARTHA WHITE MCWHIRTER
Martha White McWhirter, founder and leader of the Belton Woman's
Commonwealth, was born on May 17, 1827, in Gainesboro, Tennessee, the
daughter of a Jackson County planter. In 1845 she married George M.
McWhirter, an attorney and farmer. The McWhirters moved to Bell County,
Texas, in 1855, and settled first on Salado Creek, near the site of
present Armstrong. Nine or ten years later they moved to Belton, where
George McWhirter operated a store and had an interest in a flour mill.
The McWhirters had twelve children, only six of whom survived. Martha
McWhirter had joined the Methodist Church in Tennessee at the age of
sixteen, and in Belton she and her husband helped establish the
interdenominational Union Sunday School, to which they remained loyal
even after the community acquired a Methodist congregation in 1870. She
also led a women's prayer group that met weekly in the members' homes.
In 1866, after the deaths of her brother and two of her children, she
began to believe that God was chastising her. After a prayerful night
she had a vision that convinced her that she had been "sanctified," or
filled with the Holy Spirit. She shared her revelation with the women in
her prayer group, and other members began to pray successfully for
sanctification. Mrs. McWhirter's deepening commitment to unorthodox
religious views eventually caused a serious rift in the community. Many
of her growing band of female followers were unhappy in their domestic
affairs, and she herself accused her husband of making improper advances
toward a servant girl. She claimed to have had a revelation in which the
sanctified were instructed to separate themselves from the undevout, and
consequently directed her followers to continue to perform their
household duties while minimizing social contact with their husbands and
abstaining from conjugal relations. Eventually the women began to leave
their homes to live and work communally. As the McWhirter house began to
fill up with "Sanctified Sisters," George and Martha separated
permanently. Without her husband's permission she had a house built for
a homeless sister on one of his lots, claiming that the money she had
brought to their marriage gave her a moral right to the property.
Despite his anger George did not interfere when the women continued to
build houses; he defended his estranged wife against critical
townspeople and left her his estate when he died in 1887. While still
living with her husband Martha McWhirter had avoided asking him for
household money by marketing eggs, butter, and baked goods. As the
financial planner for the Woman's Commonwealth she directed her
followers in a variety of enterprises that made the group financially
secure in a relatively short time. The Sanctificationists' economic
success helped dissipate much of the town's hostility, and McWhirter
became the first woman elected to the city Board of Trade. She
contributed to the community fund to help attract a railroad to Belton,
and her name appeared on the cornerstone of the Belton opera house. She
continued to lead the Woman's Commonwealth even after the members
retired from business in 1899 and bought property in Washington, D.C.,
and Mount Pleasant, Maryland. She died in the Washington area on April
1880's, this self-reliant group of over 50 women owned three farms, a
steam laundry, a hotel and several rooming houses. Their beliefs as well
as their successes resulted in some irate ex-husbands responding to the
shelter with violence.
McWhirter's home is still standing in Belton, Texas with at least one
bullet hole in the front door as a reminder of the bygone era.
Article from the Texas Handbook Online
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crime occurred only rarely in Colonial America and when it did, the
government was only peripherally involved. Prosecution of criminals was
a private matter, and the primary concern of the colonial fathers, since
they had seen so much criminal injustice in the British system, was that
the accused be afforded a fair and unbiased trial. In time, in order to
improve law enforcement and to better protect the rights of the accused,
police and prosecution functions became public matters - the
responsibility of the state.|
Americans can be justifiably proud of the rights established for
criminal defendants. However, along the way, victims of crime became
more and more excluded from the justice system, unless they were needed
as witnesses, complainants, or to present evidence in criminal trials.
While those who so carefully established rights for defendants probably
did not intend such exclusion, little by little, this practice has woven
its way into courtrooms throughout the United States. As a result,
victims have often been silenced within the criminal justice system.
In response to this alienation from the system, victims have sought
greater input and participation into the criminal proceedings, as well
as recognition of the harm they have suffered personally.
Impact Statements -- A Victim's Right to Speak...A Nation's
Responsibility to Listen
by Ellen K. Alexander and Janice Harris Lord
The above is an excerpt from
History - or HERSTORY -
The Battered Women's Movement in Texas
Martha McWhirter opens the first shelter of refuge in Belton for
battered wives that thrives well into the 1890s. Martha founded the
Sanctificationist religious group on the grounds that no woman should be
compelled to live with an "unsanctified" or otherwise brutal husband.
Women who followed her were attempting to escape from husbands who were
batterers and/or alcoholics.
The first battered women's shelter in more than a century opens in
Austin followed by a shelter in
Six women meet in Austin on April 8, 1978 to form the Texas Council on
Family Violence. Its purpose is to represent Texas' six battered women's
shelters in their efforts to secure state funding and protective order
legislation. Articles of Incorporation were signed and officially
certified by the Secretary of State on December 27, 1978.
The Legislature passes the first bill establishing pilot funding for
battered women's shelters and providing $200,000 to support programs at
six Texas shelters.
More than 25 battered women's shelters are operating throughout the
The Legislature creates the Family Violence Program (FVP), allocating $1 million per year for 30 state-contracting shelters and statewide program
administration, technical assistance, training, and public education.
The Texas Council on Family Violence opens its first office in Austin,
and hosts the first Annual Statewide Family Violence Conference. More
than 200 people attend.
The Legislature passes a number of bills and resolutions aimed at
expanding family violence programs in Texas and offering greater
protections under the law for family violence victims. Funding for the
FVP increases to $1.05 million per year, with 32 contracting shelters.
The FVP receives $2 million per year and contracts with 41 shelters.
The Legislature passes the Family Violence Prevention Act and allocates
$2.3 million per year for the
By increasing the FVP's budget to $2.5 million per year, shelter
contracts increase to 46. TCFV receives a prestigious award from the
National Improvement of Justice Foundation for "exemplary work in
protecting the rights of victims."
The Legislature passes measures clarifying the use of protective orders,
affording shelters a role in assisting the children of victims of family
violence, and eliminating the spousal exemption from charges of
aggravated sexual assault.
The FVP receives $2.6 million per year and contracts with 52 battered
The Legislature passes 10 bills related to family violence and increases
the FVP's budget to $5.47 million per year, which includes contracts
with 56 shelters. The Legislature also creates the Battering
Intervention and Prevention Project (BIPP), allocating $400,000 per year
in funding for 15 local programs to work with violent men.
The Legislature nearly doubles the FVP's budget to $9.1 million.
Governor Ann Richards signs Senate Concurrent Resolution 26, enabling
the governor to grant clemency to women who have been imprisoned for
crimes relating to their experiences as battered women. TCFV wins the
elite ATOR Legal Improvement Award, administered by the University of
Houston Law Center. This award honors a group or individual that has had
"the greatest impact in bettering society in the State of Texas by
encouraging or causing a change of law or in the administration of
Funding for the FVP remains at $9.1 million per year, despite
significant decreases for most other human services programs. Contracts
with shelters increase to 58. The Legislature increases the allocation
for the BIPP to $500,000 per year.
Sixty shelters contract with the FVP, which receives $9.1 million from
the Legislature. Lt. Governor Bob Bullock appoints the Senate Interim
Committee on Domestic Violence to study Texas' response to domestic
violence and make recommendations to the Legislature. The BIPP contracts
with 20 local programs to work with abusive men and hold them
accountable for their violent behavior.
During the 74th Legislative Session, TCFV experiences unprecedented
success by passing 98% of its legislative agenda. In collaboration with
the Community Justice Assistance Division of the Texas Department of
Criminal Justice, TCFV monitors the implementation of new program
standards and guidelines for state-funded battering intervention and
The FVP receives a record $10.3 million and contracts with 63 shelters.
TCFV opens the National Domestic Violence Hotline (800/799-SAFE) on
February 21, with a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services. The Hotline answers 8,000 calls per month. Through
the generosity of donors, TCFV distributes 100 state-of-the-art Polaroid
Spectra Law Enforcement Camera Kits to member programs. The
sophisticated equipment documents battered women's injuries with
photographs that may assist local law enforcement throughout the state
in prosecuting family violence perpetrators.
The 75th Texas Legislature increases the FVP budget by $2.3 million per
year, bringing the total to $25.2 million for the 1998-99 biennium. The
BIPP budget also increases to a record $1.4 million for the biennium. On
April 1, 160 Silent Witnesses ¾ red, life-size wooden female silhouettes
each bearing the name and story of a Texas woman who died as a result of
family violence ¾ were unveiled during a march to the State Capitol in
Austin. Hundreds of advocates from all over Texas and the 160 Silent
Witnesses participated in the National March to End the Silence About
Domestic Violence in Washington, D.C. on October 18. During a White
House ceremony on May 21, Vice President Al Gore unveils new postage
stamp booklets imprinted with the National Domestic Violence Hotline's
TCFV's National Domestic Violence Hotline (800/799-SAFE) answers its
100,000th call on April 19.
TCFV is one of 10 state coalitions selected to participate in the
National Health Initiative on Domestic
Violence. The project is designed to train health care providers to help
victims of domestic violence. The Council cosponsors Legal Remedies for
Battered Immigrants, with Texas Lawyers Care and Political Asylum
Project of Austin. Hundreds of non-immigration attorneys and legal
advocates from across the state attend. TCFV sponsors its 17th Annual
Statewide Family Violence Conference and 20th Anniversary Celebration in
Corpus Christi, attracting more than 600 participants. TCFV's National
Domestic Violence Hotline answers its 200,000th call.
The 76th Texas Legislature increases the FVP budget by $5 million,
bringing the total to $33.7 million for the biennium. The BIPP budget also increases to $1.9 million for the biennium. Other legislative successes include expanded protective orders, enhanced penalties for repeat offenders, required domestic violence training for all judges, prohibition of mediation, and limitation on visitation in cases involving domestic violence.
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history, wife abuse was an acceptable behavior as far back as Roman Times|
ENGLISH COMMON LAW gave the husband the legal right to use force against his
wife to ensure her obedience. Men were permitted to discipline their wives
with a rod or stick, as long as it was no wider than the width of his thumb;
hence, the expression: "RULE of THUMB"
In 1864, a North Carolina Court held that even though the husband had choked
his wife, "the law permits him to use toward his wife such a degree of
force, as necessary, in order to control unruly temper and to make her
In 1871, an Alabama court ruled that men no longer had the right to beat
In 1879, a Texas defendant, "husband", requested a jury charge that "....the
husband should be permitted the right to moderate
chastisement upon his
wife---in cases of emergency"!