Peter Bagge’s biography of Margaret Sanger, Woman Rebel, reviewed.
A Comics Biography of the Inspiring, Infuriating Margaret Sanger
Reading between the lines.
Oct. 11 2013 7:00 AM

The Birth of Planned Parenthood

A comics biography of the inspiring, infuriating Margaret Sanger.

Panels from Woman Rebel.

Courtesy of Drawn and Quarterly

Peter Bagge made his name as the cartoonist behind Hate, the seminal ’90s comic of Gen-X anomie and suburban rage. So at first it might seem surprising that Bagge’s new comic is a thoroughly researched graphic biography of a major figure in early 20th-century medicine and feminism. Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story, out this month from Drawn and Quarterly, tells the remarkable story of Sanger’s life: her fight to provide women around the world with contraception options, her questionable pas de deux with eugenicists, and the creation of Planned Parenthood.


Bagge’s drawing style remains clearly identifiable: His rubbery, expressive characters are just top-hatted and corseted versions of the people who populated Seattle and New Jersey in Hate. And in fact the contraception pioneer Margaret Sanger is a perfect fit for Bagge’s style; with her short temper, disrespect of authority, and overall pigheadedness, she often seems like Buddy Bradley’s more intelligent great-grandmother. The book is a fascinating testament to the ability of one person to make a difference in this world, as long as she’s a huge pain in everyone’s ass. We’re very pleased to have Peter Bagge illustrating the October issue of the Slate Book Review.



Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story by Peter Bagge. Drawn and Quarterly.

Dan Kois is Slate’s culture editor, co-host of Mom and Dad Are Fighting, and a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine.

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