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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 629

Additional papers of Mary Ware Dennett, 1892-1945


Correspondence, printed flyers, pamphlets, etc., of Mary Ware Dennett, suffragist, pacifist, artisan and advocate of birth control and sex education.


  • 1892-1945

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Mary Ware Dennett is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


1.04 linear feet ((2+1/2 file boxes) plus 1 oversize folder)

These additional papers include family and general correspondence, printed flyers, pamphlets, announcements, clippings, etc. They are arranged with family correspondence first, followed by general correspondence, organized alphabetically by correspondent or organization. Correspondence with her doctor, Julia Minerva Green, documents a number of health issues and Dennett's interest in homeopathic remedies, some of which are enclosed. General correspondence centers upon birth control, sex education, peace, and other causes close to her heart. Printed material unrelated to correspondence appears at the end. Folder headings in quotations are those of Dennett; other headings are by the processor. This collection is minimally processed; dates are approximate. Brittle and water-damaged items were photocopied and removed to the fragile file.


Suffragist, pacifist, artisan, and advocate of birth control and sex education, Mary Coffin (Ware) Dennett was a founder of the National Birth Control League, director of the Voluntary Parenthood League, and editor of the Birth Control Herald. In 1915 she wrote a pamphlet for her adolescent sons entitled "The Sex Side of Life"; it was banned as obscene by the Post Office, and Dennett was tried and convicted, but the judgment was ultimately overturned amidst nationwide public protest.

An accomplished leather worker, Dennett was inspired by the "craftsman ideal" articulated by John Ruskin and William Morris, a reaction against industrial capitalism. Attracted to organizations seeking a broader distribution of wealth and power, she worked for woman suffrage, the single tax, proportional representation, and free trade; she was also a member of Heterodoxy, a feminist club that met in Greenwich Village in New York City. An active opponent of U.S. involvement in World War I, she managed a series of mass meetings of the American Union Against Militarism, and was a leader of the People's Council, a radical antiwar group, and the Woman's Peace Party. Government hostility towards pacifists and Dennett's experience in the "Sex Side of Life" case heightened her interest in civil liberties; she was long active on the National Committee on Freedom from Censorship and with the American Civil Liberties Union. She was the niece of Edwin Doak and Lucia (Ames) Mead, two noted Boston social reformers, and in 1900 married Hartley Dennett, a Boston architect, whom she divorced in 1913; they had two sons, Carleton and Devon. For further biographical information, see Notable American Women,1607-1950 (1971).

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 99-M146

These additional papers of Mary Ware Dennett were given to the Schlesinger Library by her granddaughter, Nancy Dennett, in September 1999.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see Mary Ware Dennett Papers, 1874-1945 (MC 392).

Processing Information

Processed: March 2010

By: Anne Engelhart

Dennett, Mary Ware, 1872-1947. Additional papers of Mary Ware Dennett, 1892-1945: A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

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