Edward Bliss Foote

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Foote, Edward Bliss (20 February 1829—1909)

Foote was brought up in a conforming Presbyterian household, taught as a twelve-year-old Presbyterian to regard Paine, Hume, and Voltaire as frightfully vicious men. He was a physician with a hand in the newspaper business, publishing the first newspaper in New Britain, Connecticut.

While visiting in Boston, he heard the Unitarian minister, Theodore Parker. He also heard the liberal Unitarian minister, O. B. Frothingham, and contributed money to D. M. Bennett’s The Truth Seeker.

A physician, Foote was the only foe of the first Comstock bill, which was introduced in the New York legislature in 1872 and passed despite his efforts. The repressive Comstock Act was soon adopted by Congress, creating censorship of the press through postal regulations. Comstock went after his early foe in 1874, charging Foote with violating postal laws for mailing an educational pamphlet advocating the right of families to limit their size through "contraceptics." Foote was fined $3,500 by Judge Benedict of the U.S. Circuit Court of the southern district of New York in 1876.

Foote helped to organize the National Defense Association seeking repeal of the Comstock laws, and aided other Comstock victims. He worked actively within medical societies and at the state legislature to oppose the legitimization of Christian scientists and faith healers.

A lifelong advocate of woman's suffrage, he sent a check of $25 to Susan B. Anthony when in Rochester, New York, she was fined $100 for voting in the 1872 presidential election.

Foote was a member of the Federation of Freethought, the Secular Union, the Manhattan Liberal Club, the Institute of Heredity, and the Constitutional Liberty League. His son Edward Bond Foote also became a physician and freethinker.