In 1938, Helen Hulick– a twenty-eight-year-old kindergarten teacher dedicated to teaching students who were deaf– made history after she refused to wear a dress in a Los Angeles courtroom.
It all began in November of that year when Helen was expected to appear in court as a witness and testify against two men who were involved in the burglary of her apartment building.
But, when she arrived at the courthouse on November 9, 1938, donning slacks, Judge Arthur S. Guerin was appalled.
He claimed that Helen’s pants– which were not a common wardrobe item among women at the time– drew too much attention away from the legal proceedings and directed it toward herself.
And to her surprise, Judge Guerin even postponed the court hearings so Helen could return wearing a more “acceptable outfit.” Helen, though, refused.
“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,” she reportedly told the Los Angeles Times the following day.
So, when Helen returned to the courtroom five days later, she made sure to wear slacks again. This time, she donned an orange blouse and dark green pants– which prompted Judge Guerin to again hold up the courtroom.
“The last time you were in this court dressed as you are now and reclining on your neck on the back of your chair, you drew more attention from spectators, prisoners, and court attachés than the legal business at hand,” the Judge began, “And you were requested to return in garb acceptable to courtroom procedure.”
In turn, he yet again ordered Helen to vacate the premises and rescheduled the hearing. But, this time, Judge Guerin issued her a warning– if Helen returned in slacks one more time, she would face jail time.
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