U.S. Post Office Bans Margaret Sanger’s “Woman Rebel”
The Post Office on this day declared “unmailable” the first issue of birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger’s new monthly newsletter, Woman Rebel. In August, she was indicted on three counts of violating the Comstock Act and one count of inciting “murder and assassination.” Sanger promoted contraception using the slogan, “No Gods, No Masters,” and the Comstock Act (see March 3, 1873, for its passage) defined birth control information as obscene and prohibited from being sent through the mails. At her trial, Sanger rejected the advice of her attorney to negotiate a plea bargain and instead secretly fled to Canada and then England. Sanger remained in England until October 1915.
A year later, she opened the first birth control clinic in America, in Brooklyn, New York, on October 16, 1916. She was arrested on October 25, 1916, and, on February 2, 1917, refused to accept a plea deal and so spent a month in jail, where she spent her time reading to illiterate inmates. She had many run-ins with the law in her long career on behalf of birth control. She was prevented from speaking about birth control on many occasions, including on May 22, 1916, and April 16, 1929 (when she famous appeared on stage in Boston with a gag over her mouth).
Sanger’s organization, the American Birth Control League, evolved into today’s Planned Parenthood Federation (see January 18, 1939).
Sanger, on why she published Woman Rebel: “Because I believe that women are enslaved by the world machine, by sex conventions, by motherhood and its present necessary childrearing, by wage-slavery, by middle-class morality, by customs, laws, and superstition.”
Read the First Issue of Woman Rebel:
Learn more: Ellen Chesler, Woman of Valor: Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control Movement in America (1992)