The Knowlton Trial

In 1877 Annie Besant and Charles Bradlaugh published a pamphlet that advocated birth control. The pamphlet, Fruits of Philosophy by Charles Knowlton educated people on birth control methods that essentially would help the economy. If people only had the amount of children they could fiscally attend to, then the economy would be better off, or at least this was the idea. Even while this pamphlet spread and was well-read, both of them were arrested and charged. Their trial was widely known as the Knowlton trial. Eventually they were released, but Annie lost custody of her young daughter for ten years because of the fiasco. The pamphlet dealt mainly with the facts of sexual reproduction and a few methods of contraception, making this information available to almost everyone, including the poor. One of the main issues with the duo supporting and advertising the pamphlet was that Annie Besant was a woman; therefore it wasn’t exactly seen in a positive light that she was advocating for other women so publicly. Annie was an open feminist, but the court felt at times that she wasn’t prepared to defend all women and their choice for birth control.

Janssen, F. (2017). Talking about Birth Control in 1877: Gender, Class, and Ideology in the Knowlton Trial. Open Cultural Studies, 1(1), 281-290. doi:10.1515/culture-2017-0025

Diniejko, D. (n.d.). Campaigner for women's rights and birth control. Retrieved November 29, 2020, from http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/besant/diniejko.html