Back in 1918 a familiar sight for New Yorkers was German-born Kitty Marion running up and down Broadway clutching a stack of the Birth Control Review and proudly waving them in the air, most likely with the police directly behind her. Kitty was arrested for the ninth time in 1918 after again violating the law against the sale and distribution of obscene literature. She chose a 30-day sentence over the option of paying a fine of $500, saying “put the money into The Birth Control Review, I’ll stay in jail”.
That sentiment did not stop Kitty’s friend Mary Halton, one of New York’s eminent woman obstetricians, from bringing $500 in bags of pennies collected by the lovely ladies of the east side to the judge. Remember when Samsung allegedly paid a fine to Apple in all pennies? Your neighborhood suffragettes did it first.
Kitty didn’t abstain from her duty of spreading this “illegal” knowledge. Once she was released, she was back at it the next day.
All types of people stopped to see what the fuss was about, why this woman kept coming back with a bag across her chest and papers in the air. Kitty ran into the types you would expect she described the as the “you oughts”
You ought- to be ashamed,- to be arrested,- to be in jail,- to be shot,- to be hanged, or, maybe what I ought to suffer was just ostracism. According to me good sisters, my action in selling The Review and advocating birth control, was disgraceful, disgusting, scandalous, outrageous, villainous, criminal, and unladylike! The poor dears!
Not everyone that passed by Kitty wished she’d simply just disappear. The positive feedback she and her sisters received gave them hope to carry on, it inspired them when they met people who had a spark of desire to learn more and make a change for the better. People would shout “good luck!” or commend the women on their courage. Men, women, people of faith, all purchased a copy of this outlawed paper.
Arrested for informing the public on a topic otherwise termed taboo Kitty Marion proved that just one person who believed that she could make a difference, could make women’s lives better, even if it was at the expense of her own. Despite arrests and catcalls, she fought what she saw as the injustice of the Comstock law, quoting Helen Keller, when she said,
The dignity of human nature compels us to resist what we believe wrong and a stumbling block to our fellow man