Copyright 1999. Esther Katz. All rights reserved.
First organized free speech group in America. The Free Speech League was organized in New York City in 1902 by libertarian attorney Theodore Schroeder
to combat censorship and promote First Amendment rights of free speech and a free press. Formally incorporated in 1911, its directors included Bolton Hall
, Edward B. Foote, Jr., Lincoln Steffens
and Hutchins Hapgood with Leonard Abbott
as president, Branch Whitlock as vice-president and Schroeder as secretary. Convinced that obscenity existed "only in the minds of those who believe in it," the League produced a series of publications, statements and manifestos arguing for the abolition of all obscenity laws. The League's agenda included rallying public support and providing financial and legal aid for efforts to oppose or challenge the censorship work of vice agents like Anthony Comstock
and the Society for the Suppression of Vice
. Among those it supported was Margaret Sanger who defied the federal Comstock Law with her publications, The Woman Rebel
and Family Limitation
. It also helped raise public awareness and financial support for William Sanger's
trial. The Free Speech League faded out of existence during World War I when Schroeder
turned his attentions to psychology.