Today in Feminist History: Birth Control Advocate Ethel Byrne is Force-fed (January 27, 1917)

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Today in Feminist History is our daily recap of the major milestones and minor advancements that shaped women’s history in the U.S.—from suffrage to Shirley Chisholm and beyond. These posts were written by, and are presented in homage to, our late staff historian and archivist, David Dismore.

January 27, 1917: Force-feeding of birth control advocate Ethel Byrne at the Workhouse on Blackwell’s Island has begun, and will continue on a three-times-per-day basis.

She’s currently serving a 30-day sentence for violating New York State law by distributing contraceptive information at what was America’s first—and so far only—birth control clinic, until it was raided and closed on October 26, 10 days after its opening.

Hunger-striker Byrne had gone without food for four and a half days when prison authorities decided that her condition warranted…

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