Margaret Sanger, birth control crusader, feminist and reformer, was one of the most controversial and compelling figures of the 20th century. The first volume of “The Selected Papers of Margaret Sanger,” titled “The Woman Rebel, 1900-1928,” documents the critical phases and influences of an American feminist icon and offers rare glimpses into her working-class childhood, burgeoning feminism, spiritual and scientific interests, sexual explorations, and diverse roles as wife, mother, nurse, journalist, radical socialist and activist.
In spite of the some perceived negative aspects of her determination to be a martyr for the birth control movement, Sanger was a positive social force in testing and denouncing the Comstock law. The law, named for Anthony Comstock, a postal inspector who had lobbied Congress to forbid the distribution of obscene materials throughout the United States, equated birth control and sex education with obscenity. (more…)
This 1958 recording is the earliest known radio show episode that openly discussed homosexuality. The show is in the form of a panel featuring:
The Host/Moderator: Elsa Knight Thompson – The Public Affairs Director of KPFA (Founded in 1949 by Lewis Hill, a pacifist, poet, and journalist, KPFA was the first community supported radio station in the USA.)
The Gay: Hal Call – The editor of the Mattachine Society’s newsletter, the Mattachine Review. After graduating Call worked for several news outlets, including the Kansas City Star. In August 1952, while working for the Star, Call was arrested for “lewd conduct” and paid an $800 bribe to have the charges dismissed. Call resigned his job and he and his lover Jack moved to San Francisco. Call died in San Francisco on December 18, 2000, at the age of 83.
The Doctor: Dr. Blanche Baker – A psychologist noted for her then-rarely-shared belief that homosexuality was not an abnormality nor an illness. Few activists were so universally loved within the West Coast homophile movement as San Francisco psychologist Blanche M. Baker. In the 1950s and 1960s, the American Psychiatric Association listed homosexuality as a mental illness that could be cured or managed by psychotherapy treatments. While many therapists quietly dismissed this in practice, Dr. Blanche Baker put her career on the line by publicly challenging the designation.
The Civilian: Lee Galey – The mother of a gay man, Galey recounts her shock at first learning her son is gay and her eventual embrace of her son’s sexuality.
The host focused many of her questions on the idea of a conflict between the society and the individual, as well as whether the root of homosexuality is a product of biology or environment. Elsa Knight Thompson seems more interested in the origins of homosexuality than anyone else on the show.
Elsa Knight Thompson also seems convinced that there may be some kind special artistic talents that go hand in hand with homosexuality. Doctor Baker and Hal Call both confirmed that in their experience “the homosexual is, on the average, more talented” but that may not be a just evaluation because of the very small number of openly gay people they know. But Hal thinks the difference is that gay men may have more of an opportunity to be creative as a young man because he is not tied down in a job with dependents at a young age.
What I find rather heart warming about this whole discussion is the way most of the panel doesn’t really give a crap WHY people are gay. Hall Call also explains his theory about “gay mannerisms.”
Today the American Folklife Center announced the online publication of the Lomax Family manuscripts. This project begins today, with access to 25,000 pages created primarily by Alan Lomax during the 1940s and 1950s on the LOC website here.
After 1942, when Congress cut off the Library of Congress’s funding for folk song collecting, Lomax continued to collect independently in Britain, Ireland, the Caribbean, Italy, and Spain, as well as the United States, using the latest recording technology, assembling an enormous collection of American and international culture. In March 2004 the material captured and produced without Library of Congress funding was acquired by the Library, which ‘brings the entire seventy years of Alan Lomax’s work together under one roof at the Library of Congress, where it has found a permanent home.’
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