Well, really the title and description go more like this: An Egg Rebuked Her: A Highly Modern Drama on a Gripping Subject From the Intense Pen of Helen Bullitt Lowry. And, a message from all of us here at the Project, we sincerely thank Helen Bullitt Lowry for the smiles you have given us from reading this play.
It is not often that we come upon a piece of fiction related to Sanger at all and all the more rare when it is this weird. We spend our time sifting through hundreds of Sanger’s speeches and articles. But on March 18, 1917, the Lexington Herald published a short, 3 scene play by Lowry depicting none other than Margaret Sanger on her quest to inform women that their lives are meant for more than simply propagation. In this case, however, the women Sanger is trying to reach are represented by a single hen, Pullet 707. Sanger meets Pullet 707, specifically a White Leghorn pullet, on the poultry division of Experiment Station Farm in Lexington, Kentucky, where she has stopped to speak. Sanger is distressed, for Pullet 707 refuses to break her egg-laying streak, one egg per day for 68 days, for the birth control Cause. Although she seems to understand Sanger’s Cause, Pullet 707 is still, by the end of the play, unwilling to upset her natural flow and pride of her keepers’ affection for the sake of the Cause.
Sanger appears here as a straight woman, distressed by the hen’s refusal to practice birth control:
But the Cause! The Cause! Think of the women of the slums! Consider the life of the woman with six children. Don’t you realize that she is nothing but a slave? And hens like you are fastening the shackles all the tighter with your criminal laying. Sixty-eight eggs without stopping for a single day! And to think I have suffered a hunger strike all in vain! Won’t you have one of my pamphlets and read what is your duty to down-trodden women?
While the play itself is lighthearted, I am positive that Sanger would not have appreciated its message. In essence, Lowry seems to be generalizing women as hens, whose only purpose is to lay eggs and be eaten. Lowry asserts that the Cause as being lost, believing instead that the every-day woman would think it unnatural to control when they have children and how many they have. She also views the every-day man, portrayed by the two Professors who supervise the hens’ egg laying, as totally in charge of the “hens” they care for. Sanger is truly brokenhearted at the end of the last scene when Pullet 707 continues her egg-laying streak rather than commit to Sanger’s Cause.
Mrs. S.-“With your record which was brought all the way to Lexington to protest, you could be a great influence on all pullets
Pullet 707.- “Oh. Don’t you think that woman’s place is in the home? I do.
Mrs. S.- “Let me speak to you as a sister. Let us, as sisters, go forth and scatter our propaganda abroad, daring prison and hunger strikes. Let us die for a pamphlet.
Although this play denounced Sanger and her teachings, I find it satisfying to know that Lowry’s “predictions” have been proved false almost 100 years later. Today, it is the “every-day” women that Lowry characterized as hens who are fighting for their right for birth control and refusing to be thought of as egg-laying machines. While the article sought to ridicule the movement, I think we can all agree that women are not chickens and want to control their reproduction.
To see a PDF of the entire article, click here