By Dorothy Day
New York Call Sunday, February 4, 1917, page 2
BIRTH CONTROL MARTYR’S FAMILY DOCTOR FLATLY CONTRADICTS LEWIS AND GIBBS.
Mrs. Ethel Byrne, hunger striker for the cause of birth control, has improved considerably since her release three days ago from Blackwells island.
Drs. A. F. Goldwater and M. H. Kahn, who are attending her with the help of day and night nurses, say that she is on the road to recovery. Yesterday she was able to take milk and broth and the night before she slept three hours. Although her sister’s conviction depressed her considerably, her general frame of mind is cheerful.
Since her release she has been unable to see any one. Even her sister has been barred from the sickroom by the aggressive nurses. Yesterday Mrs. Sanger was able to enter the room only twice, once in the morning and once in the evening.
Dr. Morris H. Kahn, who has been Mrs. Byrne’s family physician for some time, made the following detailed statement to a Call reporter last night:
In State of Semi-Coma “When I took charge of Mrs. Byrne after her return from the island I found her in a state of semi-coma. Her eyes were sunken, her lips parched, her fingers trembling. Her heart was weak and her blood pressure low. Her kidneys were in what may be termed an acidosis state, which is found in a condition of extreme exhaustion and prolonged starvation. Any attempt to walk or stand would cause collapse. Her stomach would not retain food. She is now slowly recovering and is able to take small amounts of fluid nourishment.
“She was in an excellent state of health before she went to the island and I can positively deny Commissioner Lewis’ and Dr. Gibbs’ statement to the effect that Mrs. Byrne was in better condition when she came out than when she went in.”
Dr. A. F. Goldwater, attendant physician, verified Dr. Kahn’s report and went on to say:
Dr. Goldwater Is Sarcastic
“I found Mrs. Byrne in a cardiac and nephritic condition, and, according to Lewis and Dr. Gibbs she was in a worse state when she went in that she is now. If this is true, then five days’ total abstinence from food and water and forcible feeding for six succeeding days is a scientific discovery. This treatment is a distinct advance in scientific knowledge and Dr. Gibbs and Commissioner Lewis should write some articles for the magazines on their humanitarian discovery.”
“Dr. Irma Ruth Howard and Dr. Gibbs were unnecessarily brutal in their treatment of my sister,’ said Mrs. Sanger last night. “I am waiting with great anxiety for my sister to recover and tell the public just the kind of treatment she received from Dr. Howard. Up to the present time, I haven’t been able to talk much with her and what she says is incoherent. Her voice is very weak as yet.
Brands Morning “Interview” a Fake “The statement that the American had this morning, supposed to be from Mrs. Byrne, is false. It is a fake story from the beginning. My sister has seen no one and has been unable to make any statement. Also, I should like to know where the papers are getting the idea that I am going on a hunger strike. I have made no such assertion.”
During the interview with Mrs. Sanger the fact came out that all mail offering encouragement to Mrs. Byrne was kept form her in her eleven days’ sojourn at the workhouse.
“They flaunted before her eyes any telegram or letter that discouraged or deplored her hunger strike. ‘See,’ they said, ‘it’s no use, this strike of yours. The newspapers aren’t giving you any publicity, so you are gaining nothing by this action.’ They kept from her all letters of encouragement and used every trick they could think of to move her from her purpose.
“The head attendant came to her when no one was around and tried to persuade her to take a drop of water. She told her that no one would know and that she was a good friend of the prisoners and that she always stuck by them. The others in attendance tried to trick her, but Mrs. Byrne was true to herself all the way through.”
Mrs. Sanger Gets Ready for Jail Mrs. Sanger was busy all yesterday settling her affairs and providing for the care of her two children in anticipation of a month on the island. She takes her own conviction cheerfully, but is indignant at the idea her assistant, Fania Mindell, being sentenced for the sale of “What Every Girl Should Know,” which was published serially in the columns of The Call.
Many expressions of approval of Mrs. Byrne’s fight have been sent to her, among them the following little poem by Gertrude Boyle, a California sculptress:
Straight Towards the Gates of Death.
Willing to lay down her life for the cause,
Glad to be but a footprint on the way,
To what she deemed freedom for her kind,
Indifferent to praise or blame.
In silent action – more eloquent than silvery tongue – proclaiming her goal –
Fearlessly she strode forth straight towards the gates of Death!