1914 August 25

Margaret Sanger Indicted for Three Issues of “Woman Rebel”


Birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger was indicted on this day for publishing three issues of her magazine, Woman Rebel. The Comstock Act (March 3, 1873) made it a crime to send information about birth control or abortion through the U.S. mails. The indictment was one of a long series of events in the first half of the twentieth century involving the suppression of information about birth control. In October 1914, having obtained a postponement of her trial, Sanger fled the country, taking the train to Canada and then sailing to England. In the fall of 1915, after her husband William Sanger was convicted of violating the Comstock Act, she felt compelled to return to the U.S., and arrived in New York that October. The charges from her 1914 indictment were dropped in early 1916.

During her long career as the nation’s leading birth control advocate, Sanger had many run-ins with the law. On October 16, 1916, she opened the first birth control clinic in the U.S., in Brooklyn, New York. She was arrested and, on February 2, 1917, sentenced to one month in jail (she rejected a plea deal in which she would not go to jail if she agreed to obey the law). Famously, she was banned from speaking about birth control by Mayor James Curley of Boston. As a protest, she appeared on stage at a public meeting on April 16, 1929, with a gag over her mouth.

Read: Ellen Chesler, Woman of Valor: Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control Movement in America (2007)

Learn more about Sanger: https://www.nwhm.org/education-resources/biography/biographies/margaret-sanger/

Learn more about Woman Rebel: https://www.nyu.edu/projects/sanger/publications/volume_i.html

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