Women’s rights campaigner

Marie Stopes shocked polite society by challenging the Victorian idea that it was improper for a woman to enjoy sex. Her book Married Love, published in March 1918 became an instant best seller with six printings in a fortnight.

Later, in the early 1920s she moved to Portland, Dorset where she founded Portland Museum.

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Me Unmarried

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Married Love published

March 26th 1918

My Book Married Love “to increase the joys of marriage” is finally published today.

I have some things to say about sex, which so far as I am aware have not yet been said......

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Menstruation

Marie Stopes: “A frequent mistake is confuse menstruation with the ‘period of desire’ which is generally called ‘heat’ in animals.”

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A Warped mind

letter to Dr Marie Stopes, postmarked Blackpool, unsigned:

You invite correspondence over your book Married Love. I beg to disagree with your conclusions which I feel come from an unhappily warped mind. I consider the book not only unwholesome but to some temperaments most harmful.

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George Bernard Shaw

Letter to Marie Stopes:

Great Southern Hotel, Parknasilla on Sea, Co Kerry 24th Sept 1917

Dottissima Short of rewriting this play, [The Race or Ernest’s Immorality, a play in three acts] I can do no more with it than cut 20 pages just to show you how you should cut the rest.

You haven’t used your brains on it one bit. Would you find me very interesting if I had nothing more to say than “dowdy frocks, fiendish ideas, blue stockings and spectacles” and such like reach-me-downs?

You think you can make a motor bicycle by tying a second hand tool bag on an old poker and hanging a few worn out ribbons on it; but you can’t.

ever GBS

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Bride to be

anonymous letter postmarked Edinburgh to "Dr Marie Stopes" about my book Married love :

I mean it in no profane way when I say that you have “proclaimed liberty to the captives.” Yours faithfully, a bride-to-be

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Leter from New Zealand

6.8.1918 a letter from New Zealand

Dear Dr Stopes I would like to thank you for the invaluable help you have given me in my married life through your book married love it has been the means of making greatest happiness between my wife and myself."

However he goes on to say the book was banned in New Zealand and could I send him a copy. I replied I was not aware of this and sent him my publishers details.

I struggle to make it available in Canada and America and have had many letters from soldiers posted in India.

I understand Married Love being unavailable in Catholic countries - although they misunderstand me - but in Commonwealth countries????

I also understand it not being available in India - as it is not translated into Urdu - but soldiers from all these countries write to me.

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My Archives

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Mothers not surgeons

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Your book has helped us

Letter to Dr Stopes from a wife in Ledbury about Married Love 17 August 1918

“Your book has cleared up so much for us, and it was written so nicely.” Her husband had just returned from active service in France in July.

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Wedding Night question

James from Cleveland, Ohio writes: “I note your discovery of a periodic rise in the sex feeling in women. Would you advise picking out one of these periods for the wedding date?

I suggest he reads my book.

He goes on to ask “Would you please give me a few hints as to the best method of bringing about the proper state, especially with regard to the best approach on the first night?

James is obviously anxious about doing the right thing.

And finally he asks “If the wedding night is spent on board a sleeping car would it be better to put off first intercourse until the quiet of a hotel. I ask you these questions so I can start off right. Thanks very much James.

My advice to all newlyweds is to postpone the first night together until you are at peace and quiet with each other

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Sold Out!

My book Married Love is sold out!

For the first edition I bought the paper and had it printed myself and distributed against my friends advice who counselled me not to waste my time and money in that way.

In two weeks the first 2000 copies were gone, the demand being so great that it was impossible to print quickly enough to meet demand. There are now more than half a million copies in English besides being translated into every language!

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Healthier Children

To continue about my book Married Love, I believe birth control will make the coming generation healthier.

It is not a movement against children the aim being to ensure proper treatment before and after birth so that children may be more healthy.

So far I have received more than 100,000 letters on the subject and treated over 10,000 patients

The Health of the Child is the Power of the Nation - poster by Francis Luis Mora for Children's Year in the United States - picture courtesy of the Library of Congress

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Portland

My work on paleobotany is what lead me to eventually come to reside in Portland and bring up my beautiful son there, enjoying sitting amongst the rocks. I also established Portland Museum and gave them my collection of fossils.

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Paleobotany

Throughout the Great War I worked with Amgueddfa Cymru and other museums about my other passion - paleobotany or fossilflowers.

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Japan

I was funded to go to Japan and in 1907 I took a long overseas journey - and found what were then the earliest known flowers and fossil insects from the Cretaceous period.

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Portland Museum

I was the first curator of the Museum and I left it my Cretaceous plants from Japan, Carboniferous coal balls and paper archives.

In 1924 the building I bought looked like this (above) However did I find the time!!

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Best of its kind - GBS

Penlee near Dartmouth 28.8.1918

Dear Dr Marie Aylmer Maude [author of The Life of Tolstoy] has lent me your book on Married Love which I failed to get in London from, I suppose, shortage of paper. It is the best thing of its kind I have read.

I do not write merely to give that not very surprising opinion. I want some information which you can perhaps give me. Among my friends is a married couple. The woman wants a baby. The man in consequence of a rupture is impotent.

The reason seems to be inconclusive he is to normal appearance a normal virile person and I suspect that in competent medical hands the difficulty could be removed. The only specialists I can name are in America. To whom should he go in London ?

Your study of the subject must have brought you in to communication with such specialists. ever G Bernard Shaw

[Reproduced with permission of The Society of Authors, on behalf of the Bernard Shaw Estate.]

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A Real Friend

A grateful letter from Grace “although strangers to each other you are a real friend to me and hundreds of others who read your wonderful book”.

A letter from Brighton about Married Love says “to sternly refuse the young a wise and loving education in sexual intercourse is to proceed in a course which must be disastrous to better sexual relations in the future”

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Distasteful

A letter from Surrey about Married Love: “I think it’s great and this young generation ought to be very grateful to you, as I am sure it will help to make people happier.”

10 September 1918

I’ve had some interesting correspondence from #Leatherhead about a chapter in #MarriedLove1918 “I have been married for 40 years and find it distasteful. I shall tear out the chapter from my copy and I feel awfully sorry you ever wrote it”.

I replied to Leatherhead suggesting it was not written for women of her generation. Ms B of Leatherhead wrote back “quite sufficient knowledge can be had without all the unnecessary details you give which to my mind are offensive. I replied inviting Ms B for tea!

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Sacred Instincts

10 Sep Ms B replied Dear Dr Stopes - we should like to come to tea on Saturday very much. I am very sorry to hear that you have had no honeymoon and that you have been unwell, your book seems to me to violate some very sacred instincts...

...we are expecting our own RAF boy on Sunday if his leave is not postponed and I am counting the hours and so dreading that this new offensive may stop his leave. The large piece of REAL wedding cake sounds most attractive!! Yours Amy

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Coitus Interruptus

A letter from Lyon on 11.9.1918 wrote “my family doctor recommends coitus interruptus” to which I replied “do not on any account use coitus interruptus. If you cannot get satisfactory help in using the cap you should try a sponge soaked in oil.

I went on to say “The free clinic in London is happy to give personal instruction to anyone who comes without any charge”.

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Letter from a Soldier

Marie Stopes: A letter came on 24th September 1918 from a soldier 18th division signals France “your book impressed me tremendously but doesn't, I think, go far enough....I have been married for 8 years (an intelligent embrace covers all) boy Brown was born 10 and a half pounds!

But the war has upset my ideal family - I have been in France 3 and a half years now" and so his letter goes on and he ends by saying “I am sending your book to my brother now a prisoner of war in The Hague who contemplates marriage immediately on arrival in England”

I reply: “You will find what you want to know in my forthcoming book Wise Parenthood” Yours Dr Marie Stopes

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Pregnant Again

A very sad letter arrived from Lee “I have gone and tried to end my life and should have done so if my husband had not prevented me, as it sends me out of my mind with the pain - after two children I have been in terrible pain for 7 years - I am pregnant again- what can I do?

I replied to Lee “so at this stage there is nothing I can do to help”- so very sad that women in 1918 are not in control of their bodies

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A librarian asks

Marie Stopes - a Wiltshire librarian asks “I get shy request for books on birth control. What is the best, safest book to give a young woman who is getting married shortly?...the whole thing must be kept strictly private, as interfering people might object to my giving even bibliographic info

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A Nap before Intercourse?

19/10/2018

Other letters such as this one come...“I have read your book Married love and consider it the best advice I have seen for husbands...A writer here (Ohio) advises a short nap of an hour before intercourse. Do you think this advisable?

Married Love is not on sale in America as yet

He continues “Would you please give me a few hints as to the best method of bringing about the proper state, especially with regard to the best approach on the first night?”

I also note your discovery of a periodic rise in the sex feeling of women. Would you advise picking out one of these periods for the wedding date?”

If the wedding night is spent on board a sleeping car would it be better to put off first intercourse until the quiet of a hotel or house? I ask you these questions so I can start off right. Thank you very much - James

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Rubber Cap problem

Marie Stopes: Letter received as follows: “I bought your book Married Love hoping to gain knowledge as to prevent me having any more children. I purchased a rubber cap, either it was not the right one or not fitted properly and am afraid I have become pregnant again.

Could you advise me if there is anything I can do to assist matters and put me right again? I am only 35 years of age but my health is entirely ruined by having the children so quickly and the burden is more than anyone can stand in these trying times.”

I replied to this poor soul saying there is nothing I could do to help.

L0065287 'Prorace' cervical cap, London, England...

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Wise Parenthood

I am happy to announce the launch of my new book WiseParenthood best wishes for the festive season

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Ascetics

Marie Stopes: Christianity like most religions has a strong wave of ascetics, early in its history . While there was a harsh asceticism which is hostile to the other sex ...there was also a romantic asceticism which did not entirely prohibit the charms and pleasures of mutual companionship.

There is no disease that I know of which is caused by the normal and mutually happy marriage relation, a relation to most, has positive healing and vitalising power.

The profound truth which is perceived by ascetics is that the creative energy of sex can be transformed into other activities. This truth should never be lost sight of in marriage; the periods of abstinence should be opportunities for transmuting the healthy sex power into work of every sort.

One of the most famous married ascetics is Tolstoy, whose later opinion was that the highest human being completely inhibits his sexual desires and lives a celibate.

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Happy New Year

A Happy New Year 1919 to you all - just to remind you when the sex-rite is, in every sense, rightly performed, the healing wings of sleep descend both on man and woman.

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Dr Stopes

Pictures from the touring production Escaping the Storm, which uses some of our research from Voices from 1918. Jane McKell plays the older Marie Stopes.

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Using this blog

Explore by day, month or person here on the blog or on our five Twitter feeds: @Voicesfrom1918 @LadyMonkswell @MarieStopes1918 @JamesSansom230 and @OliveHarcourt.

Voices from 1918 has been developed by artists Sharon Hayden and Alastair Nisbet in partnership with Wimborne Community Theatre, Dorset History Centre and the Priest’s House Museum, Wimborne with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Thanks to all who have helped us with this project: Maria Gayton and staff at Dorset History Centre where we found Lady Mary Monkswell’s diaries; Joan Cocozza, ward of nursing auxiliary Olive Harcourt; Portland Museum where we found James Sansom’s diaries; the British Library and Wellcome Libraries; Priest’s House Museum in Wimborne and Gill Horitz from Wimborne Community Theatre.

We’ve used a new simpler type of blogging system which we beta tested for indie developer Janis Rondorf of Instacks software.

Posts created as simple text files are dropped into a folder on the webserver without the need for complicated formatting making it easy to upload material quickly.

We’re always happy to share more details about our work - email us using the link at the bottom of the page and we’ll get back to you.

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