Copies of Correspondence Relating to "The Sex Side of Life," 1922-1925
A Pioneering Sex Educator Defends Her Work Against Charges of Obscenity [Manuscript]. Dennett, Mary Ware [1872-1947]. [Typed Copies of Correspondence Relating to "The Sex Side of Life," Long Island, New York and Washington, D.C., 1922-1925]. 30 ff. of typed content to rectos of 11" x 8-1/2" sheets. Moderate toning, light soiling and finger smudges in places, light edgewear and small chips to a few leaves not affecting text, small library punch stamp and a few small holes (not affecting legibility) to foot of first leaf, which has two ink library stamps (one a deaccession stamp, the other reading "Gift/ H.L. Mencken/ Jan 21 1938") to its verso, faint offsetting to last two leaves, small clean tear to top-edge of final leaf, text not affected. $1,500. * Dennett was a social reformer and pioneering activist for birth control, sex education and women's rights. Probably produced by her for her personal records, these typed copies of correspondence between Dennett and representatives of the U.S. Post Office record her efforts to distribute her 1919 pamphlet "The Sex Side of Life" through the mail. The pamphlet, a frank discussion of sex and sexual health written for adolescent children, had been deemed obscene by the Post Office under the Comstock Act and could no longer be mailed. As documented here, Dennett requested confirmation of what statutes had categorized the work as obscene and "a specific statement, quoting explicitly and completely, all portions of the pamphlet, which in your opinion, are properly to be forbidden under this statute" (25). When no such statement was forthcoming, she provided twenty-one pages of testimonials from "singularly fine people," among them parents, reformers and religious leaders, demanding that the pamphlet be deemed mailable. In the meantime, Dennett continued to distribute the work and was prosecuted under the Comstock Act in 1928. She was convicted and fined, but her sentence was overturned on appeal, setting an important precedent that culminated in an exemption for birth control and some educational materials from obscenity laws.
Book number 74031