Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical left and Islamic terrorism.
On April 1913, a fire broke out in the home of MP Arthur Du Cros. The British pneumatic tire pioneer and politician wasn't there at the time. The house had been rented for only a few weeks before the fire and it was fortunate that no one was inside when it went up in flames so extreme that firemen continued to battle it for an entire day. The authorities suspected that explosives had been used.
A train headed for Teddington Station was set on fire. A bomb went off at a greenhouse in a public park in Manchester. The fires and bombings were part of a nationwide terrorist campaign. But, unlike the bomb planted in the street outside the Bank of England or letter bombs sent by her colleagues, these attacks were centered around one woman who would also become a key figure in Planned Parenthood.
Despite the British setting, the attacker was actually a German actress who would die in America. But the most notable part of Kitty Marion’s career involved a series of arson attacks and bombings over women’s suffrage. Burning homes and trains, and planting bombs, did not convince a single person to support votes for women. Instead it only harmed the progress of a worthy cause.
But that had always been the intention.
The campaign of bombings stopped the momentum toward legalizing votes for women just when it was nearing the tipping point. Suffrage was a good excuse for violence. And its success would have deprived the radicals of a perfectly good cause. Like civil rights campaigners who stir up racism or terrorists who sabotage peace negotiations, Marion was involved in a familiar leftist political tactic. Its goal wasn’t freedom, but radicalization. What Marion really wanted wasn’t votes for women, but angry alienation.
The same angry alienation that defined her character and her politics.
Kitty Marion was a radical. And like many violent radicals was fueled by a personal rage that she transformed into political anger with acts of vandalism and political terror. Faced with deportation to Germany during WW1, she chose America where she became a crucial figure in Margaret Sanger’s birth control and eugenics movement. But her attitude alienated both her British and American allies.
British feminists paid to ship her to America. Margaret Sanger wanted her to go back to the UK. It was a sad ending for a woman whom some have described as one of the founding figures of the embryonic organization that would one day evolve into Planned Parenthood.
All that remains of Marion today is an unpublished biography, a photo of her selling copies of Sanger’s Birth Control Review wrongly attributed to the racist Planned Parenthood muse (Sanger disliked the unpleasant business of actually peddling papers and left that and the subsequent arrest to Marion) and fitful attempts by academic feminists to revive interest in her that never manage to go very far.
The pro-choice movement has managed to brand itself as the victim of terrorism and the pro-life movement as terroristic. But Kitty Marion’s story identifies a violent terrorist at the heart of the organization that would one day become Planned Parenthood. Marion did not commit any known terrorist attacks in the United States. The scrapbook, in which she assiduously collected newspaper clippings about her attacks in the UK (which allowed the authorities to posthumously solve a number of crimes) don’t contain any headlines about trains or homes mysteriously burned in New York City.
Kitty Marion had started out throwing bricks through windows and then went on to pipe bombs. The cause she did it for, votes for women, didn’t require it. And was only harmed by it. But Marion is emblematic of a certain type of personality that is attracted to leftist causes out of a desire to explode into violence and martyrdom. Marion migrated through various causes. Her defining attribute was not one of ideas, that is another reason why she is little remembered, but self-promotion and violence.
When Marion moved on from terrorism to peddling copies of the Birth Control Review, her salesmanship was so good that she claimed to have sold almost 100,000 copies of the publication.
But Birth Control Review, despite the bland name, contained much more than technique.
Above Marion’s “Scattered Memories” in Birth Control Review, Havelock Ellis had wrapped up his, “Eugenics and Birth Control” review. Ellis, a British Socialist radical and impotent sex expert, was responsible for many of the ideas about human sexuality that are at the heart of our social wars.
Despite being childless due to his marriage to a lesbian feminist, he presided over the Eugenics Society and believed in dictating which sorts of people should be allowed to have children.
In Sanger’s Birth Control Review, Ellis was praising Caleb Saleeby's The Eugenic Prospect: National and Racial. Saleeby, both a eugenicist and suffrage supporter, was also a racist whose views were hard to distinguish from those that would characterize Nazi Germany. The presence of British radicals like Ellis, Saleeby and Marion in the pages of what was purportedly an American publication (as Marion claimed at the end of her story) also demonstrated the transnational aspects of leftist radicalism.
Ellis had been a member of the Fabian Society whose original image of a wolf in sheep’s clothing had to be replaced because it too accurately defined their mission of covertly shifting society through a war of attrition thereby winning a Fabian victory. Marion had also seen political conflict as war. And in this guerrilla war the individual causes mattered less than the cumulative traumas of social warfare.
Activism was just political terrorism by another means.
We live in a country and a world battered by the Fabian tactics of fighting a thousand small social wars instead of one greatest leftist revolution. Like Kitty Marion, the enemy evolved from revolutionary terrorism, what it calls direct action, to the wolf in sheep’s clothing, activism. What appears to be a narrow humanitarian cause, in this case birth control, was really a foot in the door for something oppressive and terrifying, total control of human reproduction. What appeared to be an offer to empower individual women actually hid a plot to completely disempower them.
We fall into the fallacy of thinking about radicalism in terms of the pros and cons of specific causes. Conservatives attempt to call out leftists for their hypocrisy on feminism or race. But to the left, causes are a means, not an end. They’re a radicalizing and recruitment tool. A campaign of political terror. And like wars, they leave a society of power-mad victors and shell-shocked survivors in their wake.
When Marion switched from suffrage to birth control, many of her former comrades considered it a betrayal of their movement’s ideals. But the German radical wasn’t driven by ideals, but by activism. And her activism followed the familiar pathway of confrontation to radicalization. Her causes induced a sense of alienation, social shock and conflict. And when one cause was done, she moved to another one that offered the same pleasures of provocation, political martyrdom and justifications for violence.
That is the toxic soil out of which Planned Parenthood, like so much of the left, ultimately grew. It is why no cause is enough, no victory is final and no settlement of a social debate ever leads to peace.
The left is not a movement of rights, but of unsettled souls, of aimless anger, a hunger for power and a desire to destroy. It isn’t forced to commit violence, but drawn to it by an empty place in its soul. Its only means of finding a temporary happiness is by overturning the security and contentment of others.