Self-Published Activism

Women Arrested After Raid On Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau

Five women arrested during a raid of the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau in April of 1929. Police arrested three nurses, two doctors, and seized confidential patient records as evidence.

Media and publications became an important resource for activists and organizations in advocating women's rights and spreading information. One way mainstream activists were able to print magazines within legal requirements was by avoiding discussing actual birth control information and saving these arguments for lecture circuits, pamphlets, and books. In spite of this, many activists were still arrested for breaking obscenity laws.

Below, the similarities and differences between three publications showcase the ways activists used periodicals to achieve their goals. The Woman Rebel and The Birth Control Review were both well-known magazines published by Margaret Sanger. The last publication, The Birth Control Outlook, was found in the archives at the Harry Ransom Center with other correspondence surrounding its creation. From this more obscure magazine, we can gain an understanding of the lesser-known history behind the birth control movement.

The Birth Control Outlook: A National Magazine

The front cover of The Birth Control Outlook, a monthly periodical published in March 1934. 

Less information is known about The Birth Control Outlook. Its only edition was published by a group called "Woman's Activities," consisting mainly of editor-in-chief Josephine (Lewis) Skeehan. How did a school-teacher from California end up trying to create her own birth control magazine? Unfortunately, the materials that have been preserved in the Ernst collection leave more questions than answers. Skeehan articulates the philosophy of The Birth Control Outlook in an editorial: "We are entering an era of learning and civilization, where we are prepared to admit there is nothing impure in nature, nothing indecent or obscene created, but man or woman makes it so, by abuse or good, fear or ignorance."

In later correspondence with their attorney, the American Birth Control league maintained that Skeehan had no connection to their organization or Margaret Sanger. They refer to a letter from March 4, 1932 where Skeehan reached out to Mrs. Morton Keeney about her magazine. The ABCL determined then that The Birth Control Outlook was a "commercial underaking under the guise of educational activity."