The Margaret Sanger Papers


Witcop, Rose (1890-1932)

Russian-born anarchist and feminist. Married Guy Aldred (1926), one son. Daughter of an orthodox Jewish family, Witcop followed her older sister, Milly, to England where she became an anarchist. Through Milly and her companion Rudolf Rocker, Witcop met Marxist activist and publisher Guy Aldred and became his lover. Witcop lived with Aldred from 1907 to 1925, marrying him the following year only to avoid deportation. A committed feminist, Witcop contributed letters and articles arguing for women's sexual, as well as political and economic liberation, to such journals as the Voice of Labour and The Freewoman. Committed to birth control, Witcop met Margaret Sanger during the latter's 1914 exile and Sanger briefly stayed at her home. Witcop also convinced Sanger to give lectures on birth control to various worker groups. Anxious to investigate a new chemical contraceptive advertised in Germany, Witcop joined Sanger for a trip to Berlin in 1920. That same year, Witcop and Aldred formed the Bakunin Press and decided to publish an English edition of Sanger's birth control pamphlet, Family Limitation. Although not initially the target of censors, when they published a revised edition with illustrations and a reference to abortion in 1923, they were charged with obscenity. Despite support from other prominent birth control advocates including the New Generation League, John Maynard Keynes, Dora Russell and Margaret Sanger, Witcop and Aldred were convicted; though no action was taken against their persons, they were forced to publish the pamphlet without the offending illustrations. In 1924, when the new Labour government resisted allowing birth control to be dispensed in government-run welfare centres, Witcop joined Stella Browne, Dora Russell and others in forming the Workers Birth Control Group to put pressure on the Labour Party. When the Party resisted, private voluntary clinics were opened by birth control advocates, including Rose Witcop, who in 1926 enlisted the assistance of Sanger and the Fulham Labour Party to open the People's Clinic in London; lack of sufficient funds forced her to close it down in 1928.
References: Aldred, Guy, No Traitor's Gate Vol. 3, (1963); Biographical Dictionary of British Feminists, Vol. II, Olive Banks, ed.; Margaret Sanger, An Autobiography (1938); and Allen Soloway, Birth Control and the Population Question in England, 1877-1930 (1982).