Debating Vice

New York City in the late 19th century was a hotbed of debate and conflict over sexuality, including what critics labeled obscenity or “vice.”... Read More

Meet the Activists

  • Anthony Comstock
    Anthony Comstock
  • Madame Restell
    Madame Restell
  • Margaret Sanger
    Margaret Sanger

Objects & Images

Key Events

Global Events
Local Events

1856 The American Medical Association launches a campaign to criminalize abortion, culminating in 1881 with New York’s passage of one of the strictest state abortion bans in the nation

1873 Congress passes the Comstock (Anti-Obscenity) law

1890 Clemenceau Case hits Broadway

1914 Margaret Sanger coins the term “birth control”; two years later, she opens the country’s first birth control clinic in Brooklyn for 10 days before authorities shut it down

1916 Emma Goldman is arrested in Union Square for speaking publicly on birth control and contraception

1919 Mary Ware Dennett establishes the Voluntary Parenthood League

1921 Margaret Sanger establishes the American Birth Control League, which becomes the Planned Parenthood Federation of America in 1942

1930 United States v. Dennett rules that the Comstock Laws should not interfere with scientific sex instruction

Key Events

1856
The American Medical Association launches a campaign to criminalize abortion, culminating in 1881 with New York’s passage of one of the strictest state abortion bans in the nation
1873
Congress passes the Comstock (Anti-Obscenity) law
1890 Clemenceau Case hits Broadway
1914 Margaret Sanger coins the term “birth control”; two years later, she opens the country’s first birth control clinic in Brooklyn for 10 days before authorities shut it down
1916 Emma Goldman is arrested in Union Square for speaking publicly on birth control and contraception
1919 Mary Ware Dennett establishes the Voluntary Parenthood League
1921 Margaret Sanger establishes the American Birth Control League, which becomes the Planned Parenthood Federation of America in 1942
1930
United States v. Dennett rules that the Comstock Laws should not interfere with scientific sex instruction