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.

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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.

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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.

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

Dan Kois is Slate's culture editor and a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine.

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