Annie Besant

It’s amazing how much people fought and suffered for rights and thoughts that we now take for granted. Western women owe a big debt to Annie Besant and her ilk: “In 1877 Annie Besant and Charles Bradlaugh decided to publish The Fruits of Philosophy, Charles Knowlton’s book advocating birth control. Besant and Bradlaugh were charged with publishing material that was “likely to deprave or corrupt those whose minds are open to immoral influences”. Bradlaugh and Besant argued in court that “we think it more moral to prevent conception of children than, after they are born, to murder them by want of food, air and clothing.” Besant and Bradlaugh were both found guilty of publishing an “obscene libel” and sentenced to six months in prison. At the Court of Appeal the sentence was quashed. Besant now wrote and published her own book advocating birth control entitled The Laws of Population.

The idea of a woman advocating birth-control received wide-publicity. Newspapers like The Times accused Besant of writing “an indecent, lewd, filthy, bawdy and obscene book”. Rev. Frank Besant used the publicity of the case to persuade the courts that he, rather than Annie Besant, should have custody of their daughter Maxell.”

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