THE PASSIONATE CRUSADER: The Life of Marie Stopes by Ruth Hall


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Hall presents the incongruous facts about Marie Stopes (1880-1958) without batting an eye. The first women to receive a German doctorate in botany and in 1905 the youngest Doctor of Science in Britain, Stopes longed only for an idealized marriage and radiant motherhood. One of the outstanding paleobotanists of her time, she thought posterity would acclaim her didactic stageplays and the cloying love versos she wrote in old age to a series of charming young men. She wrote her first bestselling sex book Married Love (1918) to urge sexual bliss for all after leaving a five-year marriage still a virgin--and sought vainly all her life to match the orgasm she had described minutely from imagination. At her own expense she opened the first birth control clinic in Britain and later dispatched the world's first horse-drawn birth control caravan; yet she opposed abortion, masturbation, lesbianism, and non-married sex, and she advocated compulsory sterilization of the ""hopelessly rotten and racially diseased."" A thoroughgoing elitist, she advised women readers to insert a diaphragm while dressing for dinner. She disliked socialism, feminism, and her rival Margaret Sanger. She liked loose clothing, fire baths, and Walter de la Mare. Her paranoid hatred of ""RC's"" grew with Catholic opposition to her birth control advocacy. So did her megalomania: she wired personal congratulations to George VI at the end of WW II; she mistook a Papal encyclical for reply to a personal letter from her; and she disowned her only child for marrying a girl who wore glasses. What these vagaries add up to is less clear. Hall contends that all the activities of this arrogant, courageous, stubborn, brilliant, silly champion of conjugal pleasure and birth control can be seen as ""furious compensation claims"" for the breakup of her first romance with a Japanese botanist. Surely there is more to it.

Pub Date: Sept. 19th, 1977
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich