1923 May 3

“No Woman Was Ever Ruined By a Book”


In one of the most famous quotations in the long battle against censorship, New York State legislator — and future colorful mayor of New York City — Jimmy Walker said, “No woman was ever ruined by a book.” Walker’s statement was in the context of a proposed amendment to the New York State obscenity statute. The Cotillo bill, which was labeled the “Clean Books Bill,” would make it possible to obtain a conviction based on any part of a book and suppress “filthy” and “disgusting” books even though they were not sexually stimulating. Walker was the floor leader of the opposition to the bill on the floor of the state senate.

Jimmy Walker distinguished himself in the 1920s as an outspoken critic of anti-Catholic prejudice, much of it expressed by the Ku Klux Klan, directed at Democratic Party presidential candidate Al Smith in 1928. See, for example, April 18, 1927, September 18, 1928 and October 6, 1928.

Read: Paul Boyer, Purity in Print: Book Censorship in America (1968)

Learn more: Leigh Ann Wheeler, Against Obscenity: Reform and the Politics of Womanhood in America, 1873-1935 (2007)

Andmore: Nadine Strossen, Defending Pornography: Free Speech, Sex, and the Fight For Women’s Rights (1995)

Watch often-censored author Judy Blume speak out on Banned Books Week: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fuhp3VTQQ2Q

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