1929 April 23

Mary Ware Dennett, Sex Education Pioneer, Found Guilty of Obscenity


Feminist and birth control and sex education activist Mary Ware Dennett was convicted of obscenity for sending her sex education pamphlet, The Sex Side of Life: An Explanation for Young People, through the mails. Dennett had written the pamphlet for her two adolescent sons fifteen years earlier. As more people found out about it, she was flooded with requests for copies, and she finally published it for general circulation. Her prosecution became a national cause célèbre, and a national defense committee composed of several prominent Americans was organized. Her conviction was overturned by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals on  March 3, 1930, in United States. v. Dennett.

Mary Ware Dennett was also a prominent feminist, suffrage activist, civil libertarian, and birth control advocate. In the 1920s and 1930s, working through the Voluntary Parenthood League, she was Margaret Sanger’s chief rival on the issue (see the video below).

Read “The Sex Side of Life” at Project Gutenberg: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/31732/31732-h/31732-h.htm

Learn more about Dennett: Constance Chen, “The Sex Side of Life:” Mary Ware Dennett’s Pioneering Battle for Birth Control and Sex Education (1996)

And more about the pivotal Dennett case: Laura Weinrib, The Taming of Free Speech (2016)

And more: https://www.radcliffe.harvard.edu/schlesinger-library/inside-the-collections/mary-ware-dennett

Watch a video on the Dennett-Sanger rivalry over birth control: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2I0TYgwjoc0

Find a Day

Abortion Rights ACLU african-americans Alice Paul anti-communism Anti-Communist Hysteria Birth Control Brown v. Board of Education Censorship CIA Civil Rights Civil Rights Act of 1964 Cold War Espionage Act FBI First Amendment Fourteenth Amendment freedom of speech Free Speech Gay Rights Hate Speech homosexuality Hoover, J. Edgar HUAC Japanese American Internment King, Dr. Martin Luther Ku Klux Klan Labor Unions Lesbian and Gay Rights Loyalty Oaths McCarthy, Sen. Joe New York Times Obscenity Police Misconduct Same-Sex Marriage Separation of Church and State Sex Discrimination Smith Act Spying Spying on Americans Vietnam War Voting Rights Voting Rights Act of 1965 War on Terror Watergate White House Women's Rights Women's Suffrage World War I World War II Relocation Camps


Tell Us What You Think

We want to hear your comments, criticisms and suggestions!