Margaret Sanger, "Not Guilty!," Jan 1916.

Published article. Source: Mother Earth Jan. 1916, 363-365 , Margaret Sanger Microfilm C16:88 .

A postscript, added by Emma Goldman, informed readers of the recent death of Sanger's daughter, exhorted contributions in her defense and listed the names of recent contributors. This article was also published in The Blast, Vol. 1, No. 1.


NOT GUILTY!

By Margaret H. Sanger

There seems to be considerable misapprehension among those who are interested in my coming trial. Many are under the impression that the indictments pending are for circulation of the forbidden information. This, of course, is not true. I have been indicted under Section 211 of the Federal criminal code for alleged obscenity. They were issued against me as editor and publisher of The Woman Rebel. My "crime" is not in giving the information, but solely for advocating birth control. The are three indictments, based on twelve articles, eleven of which are for printing the words--"prevention of conception." To the elect of federal officialdom these words themselves are considered lewd, lascivious and obscene. In none of these articles is any information given--simply discussions of the subject, addressed to the working women of this country.

Many "radical" advisers have assured me that the wisest course to follow in fighting the case would be to plead "guilty" to this "obscenity" charge, and to throw myself upon the mercy of the court, which would mean, according to those familiar with the administration of "justice," a light sentence or a light fine.

It is unfortunate that so many radicals and so-called revolutionists have failed to understand that my object in this work has been to remove, or to try to remove, the term "prevention of conception" from this section of the penal code, where it has been labeled by our wise legislators as filthy, vile and obscene, and to obtain deserved currency for this valuable idea and practice.

The problem of staying out of jail or being sent to jail is merely incidental in this fight. It is discouraging to find that advanced revolutionists of this country are frantically trying to save agitators from jail sentences thereby losing sight of the real and crucial issues of the fight. If we could depend upon a strong and consistently revolutionary support in such battles, instead of weakened efforts to effect a compromise with the courts, there would be much greater stimulation for individuals to enter revolutionary activity.

To evade the issue in this case, as I have been advised, would mean to leave matters as they have been since 1872. But it is time for the people of this country to find out if the United States mails are to be available for their use, as they, in their adult intelligence may desire, or is it possible for the United States post office to constitute itself an institution for the promulgation of stupidity and ignorant tyranny.

The first step in the birth control movement or any other propaganda requiring a free press is to open the mails to the people of this country, regardless of class. Nothing can be accomplished without the free and open discussion of any subject.

These indictments have had the effect of opening the discussion of birth control in magazines and papers of the most conservative nature, whose editors would have been horrified at the subject previous to my arrest.

When my case is called in the Federal courts I shall enter a plea of "not guilty," in order to separate the idea of prevention of conception and birth control from the sphere of pornography, from the gutter of slime and filth where the lily-livered legislators have placed it, under the direction of the late unlamented Anthony Comstock, and in which the forces of reaction are still attempting to hold it.


Subject Terms:

Copyright 2003. Margaret Sanger Project


valid