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Unformatted text preview: Black Market Birth Control: Contraceptive Enterpreneurship and Criminality in the Gilded Age Author(s): Andrea Tone Reviewed work(s): Source: The Journal of American History, Vol. 87, No. 2 (Sep., 2000), pp. 435-459 Published by: Organization of American Historians Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2568759 . Accessed: 25/01/2012 23:36 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [email protected] Organization of American Historians is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to The Journal of American History. http://www.jstor.org BlackMarketBirthControl: ContraceptiveEntrepreneurship and Criminality in theGildedAge AndreaTone SarahChase'sarrest inMay 1878caughtherbysurprise. Forfouryearsshehadbeen sellingcontraceptives in Manhattanand Brooklynwithoutincident.A graduateof theClevelandHomeopathicCollege,ChasehadmovedtoManhattanwithheryoung daughter in 1874,earning a living lecturing on physiology andsexologytomen'sand women'sgroupsat churchand meetinghalls.At theconclusionof hertalks,Chase soldbirthcontrol,whichshealsoadvertised incirculars sentthrough themail.1 Chase'sactivities violatedan 1873 federal lawthatbannedthedissemination and distribution of contraceptives throughthemailor acrossstatelines.In 1878 its chiefenforcer, AnthonyComstock,chiefagentof theNew YorkSocietyforthe Suppressionof Vice (NYSsv) and postalinspectorby congressional appointment, plottedherarrest.AdoptingthepseudonymMr. Farnsworth, he wroteChaseand arranged a meeting atherhometopurchasea douchingsyringe forhiswife.The day afterthesale,Comstockreturned to Chase'sdwellingwiththedetectiveJamesG. Howe of theTwenty-sixth Precinct,who pretendedto needa syringeforhiswife too.WhenChasesoldhimone,Howe disclosedhistrueidentity, servedherwithan arrestwarrant, andseizedsixothersyringes foundon thepremises.Comstockand Howe escortedChaseto theTombs,thecityjail,whereshewasreleasedon fifteen hundreddollarsbail.In a letterto hisbossat theUnitedStatesPostOffice,Com- AndreaTone is an associateprofessor of historyat theGeorgiaInstituteof Technology.The authorwishesto thankSusanArmeny,MichaelBellesiles,BillDeverell,LawrenceFriedman,Lou Galambos,Gus Giebelhaus,Sally Gordon,Elke Kluge,KarenLystra,MargaretMarsh,GregNobles,David Nord,PhilScranton,David Thelen, JohnTone,SteveUsselman,LizWatkins,and anonymousreviewers fortheirsuggestions.Researchforthisarticle was fundedby theNationalEndowmentforthe Humanities,the HuntingtonLibrary, and theGeorgiaTech Foundation.Draftsofthisarticlewerepresented attheAmericanAssociationfortheHistoryofMedicineconfer-...
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