Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Dorothea Palmer

Disseminator of birth control information

Born in 1908 in England.

Was employed as a nurse by the Parents' Information Bureau of Kitchener, Ontario to visit homes of those known to be poor or relatively poor, and to offer to needy mothers the opportunity of applying for certain contraceptive materials.

Was arrested at Eastview, an Ottawa suburb, as she was leaving the home of a French Roman Catholic family which was on relief and had a large number of children; her charge was distributing birth control information and contraceptive devices; her arrest and subsequent trial changed the course of Canadian society.

The trial occupied nineteen days of testimony and four of argument, and during which forty witnesses were examined. The case was a remarkable one in that the decision overruled religious and medical objections to the dissemination of birth control information.

Was acquitted on March 17, 1937 after a trial that extended over a period of six months; the case proved to be a landmark case in how birth control information was distributed in Canada. As a result of the trial, no one was ever again charged for distributing birth control information, even though the law was not changed until 1969.

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