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November 17: The Hobo Doctor

November 17, 2011

Ben Lewis Reitman, an anarchist doctor who served and consorted with hobos, prostitutes, the poor, and other outcasts in Chicago, died on this date in 1942. Reitman provided abortions, under risk of prosecution, and served six months in prison for advocating birth control — the longest sentence handed out under the Comstock Laws. He suffered tar and feathering and other forms of torture for his beliefs. In 1908, Reitman became Emma Goldman’s lover and “manager” (she called the relationship the “Great Grand Passion” of her life). In the 1930s, he established the Chicago Society for the Prevention of Venereal Disease.

“When Ben was handing out grub, he wasn’t arrogant. It was as if you were doing Doc a favor by sitting down beside him to eat.” — a fellow hobo

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