Margaret Sanger, "THE WOMAN REBEL SUPPRESSED OBSCENE ARTICLES Foreword ," 1914.
Source: "Margaret Sanger Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College Margaret Sanger Papers Microfilm, Smith College Collections, S76:0869."
This is the foreword to a booklet The Suppressed Obscene Articles that included reprints of articles in the The Woman Rebel that were listed in indictments: The Prevention of Conception, March 1914, "Open Discussion" by Ethel Cole, May 1914, Abortion in the United States May 1914, "Can You Afford to Have a Large Family," by Elizabeth Kleen, May 1914, The Birth Control League, July 1914, "The Marriage Bed", by Alice Groff, July 1914, Are Preventive Means Injurious, July 1914, and "A Defense of Assassination", by Herbert Thorpe, July 1914.
The articles in this booklet (including the paragraph on the next page) were the ones which caused the suppression and confiscation of seven out of nine issues of The Woman Rebel. The Post Office Department declared them to be unmailable, and thereby unmasked itself as an enemy of the free discussion of birth control.
The power of Post Office censorship, with the subtle despotism involved, is the greatest menace to liberty in the United States. When Congress was authorized to establish a public mail carrying service, it was never intended that the latter should pass upon the political, religious or moral opinions of the matter to be conveyed. The Post Office was supposed to be mechanically efficient, and nothing beyond that. That it should now dictate on ethical questions is as absurd as if the railroads and street car companies were legally empowered to refuse to accept passengers whose ideas they did not like.
The Woman Rebel was a voice trying to deliver a message to the working women of America. That message--Birth Control--was objected to by officialism running riot. Let the issue be clear. It was the idea of birth control, not the language used, that the Post Office was determined to suppress. But it branded the articles as being "obscene" under the law, and therefore unmailable. A Federal Grand Jury took the same view and indicted me for publishing them.
The case was one that threatened woman's freedom. If the people of the United States had been willing to concede the power of censorship demanded by the Post Office and the District Attorney's office in connection with The Woman Rebel, it would have meant silencing the most urgent human and economic demand of our day. Fortunately, the power was not conceded in this particular instance, though it remains, to be invoked legally at any time. Defeated by public opinion, the Government dismissed its case against me, but it has never released the seized copies of the magazine. I reprint the censored articles, with their message of birth control, and challenge any one to find matter in them that could cause the simplest minds to become depraved.
Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project