The Woman Rebel

Woman rebel cover
Woman rebel cover

A "monthly paper of militant thought" published by Margaret Sanger in 1914 which dealt with issues of women's rights, birth control, and militant labor. It published a total of 8 issues.

Submitted by ineligible on September 15, 2017

The Woman Rebel was published by Margaret Sanger in New York, NY in 1914, and, alongside Mother Earth, was one of the leading anarchist voices in the fight for birth control and women's rights. However Sanger also possessed appalling eugenicist ideas, which were deeply discriminatory against disabled people. While eugenics are considered fringe these days, they had surprising support at the time amongst intellectuals including Sanger and figures like W.E.B. Du Bois, who worked with Sanger in the '30s. While completely rejects eugenics, we reproduce this publication for reference, along with this critical introduction, to show that even in the feminist and workers' movements, reactionary ideas were still prevalent and the importance of being vigilant against them.

Why the Woman Rebel?
Because I believe that deep down in woman's nature lies slumbering the spirit of revolt.
Because I believe that woman is enslaved by the world machine, by sex conventions, by motherhood and its present necessary child-rearing, by wage-slavery, by middle-class morality, by customs, laws and superstitions.
Because I believe that these things which enslave woman must be fought openly, fearlessly, consciously.

-From the first issue

From the Margaret Sanger Papers Project:

A statement the first issue of Sanger’s intention to publish birth control information in the journal quickly drew the attention of postal authorities. They notified Sanger in April 1914 that she had violated obscenity laws. Sanger responded in the May issue by declaring that The Woman Rebel was “not going to be suppressed by the Post Office until it has accomplished the work which it has undertaken.” Three months later Margaret Sanger was formally indicted for violating the Federal Comstock Law. Unwilling to risk spending 20 years in jail, Sanger got on a train to Canada, acquired a false passport and sailed to England under the name “Bertha Watson.”

As her actions garnered attention and support for her fledgling movement, Sanger finally returned to New York to stand trial in 1915. But within a few months, her five-year old daughter, Peggy, died of pneumonia. As expressions of sympathy poured in, notable friends and supporters sent letters and petitions to President Woodrow Wilson affirming their support for Sanger, while others raised defense funds. With the intensified coverage of The Woman Rebel case and the birth control movement, the government decided to avoid further publicity and decided not press charges.

Her criminal charges were covered in anarchist circles, namely Emma Goldman's Mother Earth (Goldman also contributed articles to The Woman Rebel), Alexander Berkman's The Blast, and Hippolyte Havel's Revolt . In 1921, Sanger founded the American Birth Control League, which in 1942 became Planned Parenthood.