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"The Sex Side of Life"


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About the Author

Constance M. Chen is a graduate of Harvard University and was one of the founding editors of Men's Journal.


Dennett, a pioneer in the distribution of information on human sexuality, battled government, public sentiment, and grande dame Margaret Sanger, whose views Dennett found too narrow. This is the first biography of a forgotten feminist.

Suffragist, pacifist in WWI, artisan in America's Arts and Crafts movement, mother, advocate of sex education, Mary Ware Dennett (1872-1947) launched the nation's first birth control organization, the National Birth Control League, in 1915. She fought to make contraceptive information available to everyone, a stance that put her at odds with her arch rival, Margaret Sanger, whose "doctor's only" bill submitted to Congress would have empowered a male medical elite to supervise all birth control knowledge. Dennett's YWCA-endorsed pamphlet, "The Sex Side of Life: An Explanation for Young People," was judged obscene under the Comstock Act, and in 1929 this Boston-bred, 57-year-old grandmother was convicted in a sensational criminal trial of sending indecent material through the mail, a decision reversed on appeal. Her 13-year marriage to well-connected, lofty, arrogant architect William Hartley Dennett ended in a scandalous divorce in 1913, after he virtually moved into his married lover's house under the same roof as her physician husband. Mary won legal custody of their two sons, but her ex's refusal to pay child support left her destitute. This is a gripping, timely biography of an unjustly forgotten feminist pioneer. Chen is a founding editor of Men's Journal. Author tour. (June)

Praise for "The Sex Side of Life":

"A gripping, timely biography of an unjustly forgotten feminist pioneer."
Publishers Weekly
, starred review

"A thought-provoking biography of a truly great woman. . . . Enlightening and well worth reading."
Senator Carol Moseley Braun

"Chen does us all a great favor by bringing this remarkable woman to light. . . . This book has an important story to tell and it's about time we heard it."
San Diego Union-Tribune

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