FBI’s predecessor considered obscenity charges against Margaret Sanger for soliciting donations

DA determined that Planned Parenthood founder’s acknowledgement that the birth control movement existed didn’t violate indecency laws

Written by JPat Brown
Edited by Michael Morisy

In late 1919, Margaret Sanger, founder of what would become Planned Parenthood, mailed out something familiar to anybody who’s worked in the non-profit world: an end of the year fundraising appeal.

But whether Sanger knew it or not, records released by the National Archives show that on the receiving end of one of those letters were agents from the FBI’s predecessor trying to bust her for distributing obscene material.

Specifically, the agents from what was then the Bureau of Investigations (BOI) were attempting to determine whether the letter and its accompanying “strips” …

violated Postal Code 211, more infamously known as the “Comstock law,” which made it illegal to mail “obscene, lewd, or lascivious” material. Sanger had previously been arrested under the law in 1914 for distributing pamphlets concerning birth control.

This time, however, the material only got as far as a District Attorney before it was determined that the BOI didn’t have a case.

Because, as it turns out, merely acknowledging the mere existence of the birth control movement was not, as the law put it, “an article of immoral use.”

Undaunted, the BOI decided to keep doing what it does best, and keep reading the hell out of Sanger’s mail.

Read the full release embedded below, or on the request page:


Image via Wikimedia Commons