Submitted by historicalseditions in Anarchism

"After 1873, performing an abortion on a woman in Iowa was illegal, "unless such miscarriage shall be necessary to save [the woman's] life." Punishment included a stiff fine and imprisonment for up to five years."

"Into this environment came Mary Herma Aikin (also known as Aiken or Aikins—all three forms will appear in this post), one of the first women to practice medicine in Grinnell. Sometime around 1878 she opened an office in Grinnell, specializing in gynecology. In the male-dominated medical profession (in a male-dominated town), Aikin was definitely an outlier, unlikely to have blended successfully into the deeply conservative society of early Grinnell. Moreover, especially after the Haymarket Affair of 1886 and the highly-publicized 1887 execution of the men judged to have been its instigators, Aikin embraced an increasingly radical politics that put her at odds with many of her Grinnell neighbors. And perhaps for that very reason, despite the rarity of convicting Iowa doctors of the crime of abortion and the general rarity of convicting women of crime, in September 1898 Aikin was indicted for having performed an abortion. When she came to trial the next spring, despite her denials, and despite her poor health and advanced age, Mary Aikin was promptly convicted and hauled off to the Anamosa prison to serve a five-year sentence that death interrupted in 1902."

" Observing that she was the lone Anarchist in town, Aikin reported her own very different reaction to events in Chicago: "I draped my office in mourning, put on a mourning costume, and then went to work to make converts to the cause, right here among its most bitter enemies." By her own account, Aikin had organized in Grinnell a group of some ten or eleven persons who identified with the International Working Peoples Association. "Six [of these men] are mechanics and common labourers of very poor education," she wrote. "These men cannot read Marx, Proudhon, or Spencer; the language, the logic, the science are all far above the reach of my poor friends. And they have so little time. When night comes they are too tired for books, too tired to think..." In this summary Aikin repeats the observations (and frustrations) of Lenin and many other agitators who tried to enlighten and motivate the working class. But hard evidence confirming the existence or membership of such a group in Grinnell is so far wanting."

(Aikin was a small contributor to, among other Anarchist papers, the Chicago Alarm and San Francisco Beacon )



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