One hundred years ago, Margaret Sanger launched “The Woman Rebel,” a monthly newsletter that promoted contraception. (Tagline: “No Gods, No Masters.”) The newsletter popularized the now-common term “birth control” (the popular euphemism of the day was “family limitation”), and proclaimed that “each woman should be the absolute mistress of her own body.” Obviously, Sanger was way ahead of her time.
Seven issues were published before Sanger was indicted on violating postal obscenity laws in August 1914 (at the time, it was illegal to send obscene materials by mail). But this was part of her plan: Sanger wanted to provoke a legal challenge to spreading information about birth control by mail. Once indicted, she fled to England, while prepping “Family Limitation,” a more radical approach to birth control. The birth control cause stole the spotlight the next year when her estranged husband was thrown in jail for giving a copy of “Family Limitation” to a representative of anti-vice crusader Anthony Comstock.
Though Sanger’s ideas were inflammatory at the time, they laid the groundwork for modern feminism. And thank God for that.