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June 2016

Author Michael Helquist Combines Scholarship with New History Comic

 The Oregon Historical Quarterly features the scholarship of OSU Press author Michael Helquist with two contributions in its Special Summer Issue on Birth. Helquist analyzes the 1916 visit to Portland by birth control advocate Margaret Sanger and he collaborates with Portland graphic artist Khris Soden to present a graphic comic account of the occasion. Titled “Family Limitation,” the collaboration is the first time the journal has published a history comic. Helquist and Soden wrote the comic narrative, and Soden drew the four pages of comic panels.

In his current OHQ article, Helquist documents Sanger’s visit, one of her final lecture stops on her first national tour. During Sanger’s lecture at the Heilig Theater in downtown Portland, local authorities arrested three men who distributed her basic how-to guide “Family Limitation.” The men were charged with providing obscene materials to the public. Sanger then asked local Portland physician Marie Equi to revise the pamphlet. The 1916 “Portland edition” reflects a stronger focus on working class concerns, less explicit support for abortion, and a pointed criticism of Portland’s leaders for the arrests of Sanger supporters. When Sanger delivered a second lecture, she, Equi, and two other women were also arrested and jailed. The trial judge found all the defendants guilty for making available “lewd, indecent, and obscene” materials. The incidents created a furor among hundreds of Portlanders who objected to the conviction.

In the same issue, OHQ recognizes Helquist as the winner of the 2016 Joel Palmer Award for the best article written in the quarterly the previous year. In “Criminal Operations,” The First Fifty Years of Abortion Trials in Portland, Oregon,” Helquist examined the factors that complicated and discouraged successful abortion prosecutions during the period 1875 to 1925.

To complement the journal’s observance of Sanger’s centennial visit, the Oregon Historical Society Library is presenting an exhibit of the rare vintage “Portland edition” of “Family Limitation.” Helquist loaned the pamphlet, and he disclosed that several years earlier he purchased it for a modest sum from Ebay. The exhibit also features poster-size versions of Soden’s comic. During the last weekend of June, Helquist will present three talks in Portland related to his biography -- Marie Equi: Radical Politics and Outlaw Passions published by OSU Press in September 2015.


·      The McMenamins History Pub presents “Portland to the Rescue: The Rose City’s Rush to 1906 Stricken San Francisco,” Kennedy School, 5736 NE 33rd Av, 7pm, free and open to the public.

·      The diversity programs of the US Fish & Wildlife Service and the Bonneville Power Administration present, “Whatever Happened to Marie Equi?” and the Eastside Federal Complex, 911 NE 11th Av, 1:30 pm. Note this talk is limited to federal employees.

·      The Equi Institute and the Q Center present, “Whatever Happened to Marie Equi?” at the Q Center, 4115 N. Mississippi, 7pm, free and open to the public.


Helquist and activist Charley Downing will also be interviewed on Monday, June 27 at 9am on the KBOO radio program “Old Mole Variety Hour.” On Wednesday, June 29, Helquist and other historians and reproductive rights activists will re-enact the 1916 Sanger arrest and discuss current restrictions that block full access to reproductive services. 


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