Wednesday, July 25, 2012

On July 25

On this day in ...

... 1947 (65 years ago today), Mary Ware Dennett died at a nursing home in New York, not far from its border with Massachusetts. She'd been born Mary Coffin Ware in the latter state, in Worcester, 75 years earlier; her extended family included 2 social reformers, with whom she lived at times. Graduated with honors in 1891 from the School of Art and Design in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, she began teaching art, then married an architect and started a design firm with him. Following 3 difficult childbirths the couple endeavored to prevent pregnancy without benefit of contraceptive advice. Divorce came in 1912. Needing to support her children, she began work outside the home -- as Field Secretary of the Massachusetts Suffrage Association. Thus began a lifelong career of activism for women's suffrage and other rights (in particular, for sex education and reproductive health), and against militarism. In 1928, Dennett was convicted of distributing obscene materials on account of a frank pamphlet that she initially wrote for her own adolescent boys, The Sex Side of Life (1918); in 1930, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2d Circuit reversed. Case materials in United States v. Dennett are archived here.

(Prior July 25 posts are here, here, here, here, and here.)

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