The Margaret Sanger Papers


Mother Earth (1906-1917)

Libertarian journal founded by anarchist Emma Goldman, and from 1907 to 1915 edited by Alexander Berkman, Mother Earth aimed at radicalizing intellectuals. Mother Earth became the primary vehicle through which Goldman articulated her views on politics, culture, and society. Although Goldman had been an advocate of birth control even before Margaret Sanger and was a contributor to The Woman Rebel, Sanger's indictments <308623>, <308624>, <308625> for publishing obscene material in The Woman Rebel were initially not covered in Mother Earth. Goldman was apparently disappointed with Sanger's decision to publish "A Defense of Assassination" in The Woman Rebel, one of the articles for which Sanger was indicted, because she believed it diluted the strength of the birth control message. After receiving an angry letter from Sanger defending her actions, which Goldman printed in the April 1915 issue, Mother Earth issued an apology to Sanger. The journal did publicize William Sanger's Family Limitation trial as well as Goldman's own efforts to promote birth control (and distribute Sanger's pamphlets, including What Every Girl Should Know and Family Limitation). Not surprisingly, Mother Earth gave extensive coverage to Goldman's February 1916 arrest, trial and imprisonment for disseminating birth control information. The journal did print additional letters and an article by Sanger, but Goldman and Sanger were growing increasingly distant from one another as each fought for proprietary control of the issue. Mother Earth, which from the start had been the subject of government scrutiny for its radical politics, drew even closer attention for its anti-conscription stance as U.S. entry into World War I drew closer. The offices of Mother Earth were finally raided and closed by federal officials on June 15, 1917 for publishing treasonable material. Although a few additional issues were published, by December 1917 the journal was officially suppressed under the Espionage Act, along with many other periodicals.
References: Ellen Chesler, Woman of Valor: Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control Movement in America (1992) Alice Wexler, Emma Goldman: An Intimate Life (1984); Candace Falk, Love, Anarchy and Emma Goldman (1984).