Stopes’s work on marriage, sexuality, and birth control made her a household name in Great Britain and its colonies. Trained as a paleobotanist, she turned her energies to promoting sex education after the dissolution of a three-year marriage that was apparently never consummated. In her first sex education book, Married Love (1918), she argued that a knowledgeable, active and healthy sex life was critical to successful marriage. Arguing against Victorian stereotypes portraying women as passionless, Stopes insisted that women had the same sexual urges as men and needed fulfillment. Among the many topics she covered, she described birth control as an essential aid to married bliss. With this assertion, Stopes became the leading birth control advocate in England.
Married Love was such a phenomenal success that its sequel, Wise Parenthood, also appeared in 1918. Aimed at a broad audience, this book provided simple but detailed instruction on birth control techniques. Although earlier birth control works had been classified as obscene, neither of Stopes’s books were banned in Britain, nor were any of her nearly twenty other books and pamphlets on sex and birth control. Their publication in other countries was not, however, as easily accomplished.
American birth control reformer Margaret Sanger aided Stopes by convincing publisher William J. Robinson to risk issuing an American edition of Married Love....
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