In 1938, L.A. woman went to jail for wearing slacks in courtroom
Kindergarten teacher Helen Hulick made Los Angeles court history — and struck a blow for women’s fashion — in 1938.
Hulick arrived in downtown L.A. court to testify against two burglary suspects. But the courtroom drama immediately shifted to the slacks she was wearing. Judge Arthur S. Guerin rescheduled her testimony and ordered her to wear a dress next time.
Hulick was quoted in the Nov. 10, 1938, Los Angeles Times saying, “You tell the judge I will stand on my rights. If he orders me to change into a dress I won’t do it. I like slacks. They’re comfortable.”
Five days later, she returned to court in slacks, angering the judge. She was told to return the following day “in acceptable dress” or risk being found in contempt of court and punished.
The next day, Hulick showed up in slacks. Judge Guerin held her in contempt. She was given a five-day sentence and sent to jail.
“After being divested of her favorite garment by a jail matron and attired in a prison denim dress, Miss Hulick was released on her own recognizance after her attorney … obtained a writ of habeas corpus and declared he would carry the matter to the Appellate Court,” The Times reported.
Hundreds sent letters of protest to the courthouse. Guerin’s contempt citation was overturned by the Appellate Division during a habeas corpus hearing. Hulick was free to wear slacks to court.
A couple of months later, Hulick came back to court. Her point made, this time she wore a dress.