Title"The dynamic side of life"
NameLederer, Lynn (author), Lugg, Catherine A (chair), Giarelli, James M (internal member), Karpinski, Carol F (outside member), Rutgers University, Graduate School of Education,
SubjectSocial and Philosophical Foundations of Education,
Sex educators--United States--Biography,
Sex instruction--United States,
Reproductive rights--United States,
Dennett, Mary Ware, 1872-1947,
Dennett, Mary Ware, 1872-1947. Sex side of life.
DescriptionIn 1915, Mary Ware Dennett wrote a significant yet little known sex education manual for her two sons entitled The Sex Side of Life, an Explanation for Young People.
In it, she defied convention by expressing her radical views about sexuality, first to her own two sons and later to the public. Dennett offered forthright and specific information about the physiological, scientific, moral and emotional aspects of sexuality at a time when sex education and sex educators, if they existed at all, typically attempted to repress or control sexuality, and education about it, rather than to inform.1 Many people
considered Dennett’s book radical because she challenged prevailing Victorian attitudes about sexuality, women and the transfer of culture. Additionally, she dared to express the view that sex was not just for procreation but was pleasurable. Dennett’s manual for her sons was copied and passed along to her son’s friends and to the children of her friends and colleagues. It was published in The Medical Review
of Reviews in 1918 and thousands of copies were distributed to institutions and individuals worldwide before she was arrested for sending obscenity through the mail in 1929. Fourteen years after publication, her arrest became a cause célèbre. Through narrative inquiry, the study researched Dennett’s transition from the private to the public side of life by looking at her cultural and intellectual heritage, personal life and the historical context of industrial capitalism. Dennett’s unequivocal conviction that all members of a truly democratic society have the right to know was
quite radical in its time. It is still radical today because implicit in that outlook is the belief that with knowledge, ordinary people have the ability and the responsibility to
chart their own course in life without control from those on top of the social hierarchy. Freire said, “A real humanist can be identified more by his trust in people, which engages him in their struggle, than by a thousand actions in their favor without that
trust.” Dennett was a true humanist, trusting in the ability of ordinary people. Nearly a century after publication, the lessons that surfaced from Dennett’s
transition from the private to the public side of life are still valid. The ability to actively engage with the world is critical for empowerment and active engagement can only occur with complete access to knowledge and information. Sexuality is part of the knowledge and comprehensive information that is necessary to experience The Dynamic Side of Life
NoteIncludes bibliographical references
Noteby Lynn Lederer
CollectionGraduate School of Education Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Organization NameRutgers, The State University of New Jersey
RightsThe author owns the copyright to this work.