Dr. Spock
Dr. Spock at Anti War Protest
Photo: Jo Freeman

Dr. Benjamin M. Spock

1903 - 1998

Millions of Americans take part in anti-war activities. Most are young, and relatively few are radical enough to encourage arrest. There are some outspoken celebrities, such as Jane Fonda. But Dr. Spock holds a unique position as both a once-trusted member of the establishment, and a radical capable of rattling the government.

In 1946, just as the baby boom begins, Dr. Spock writes Baby and Child Care, a common-sense book about childhood ailments. The pediatrician advises parents to reject harsh discipline, and be more affectionate-radical ideas at the time. Spock's warm and reassuring book sells 50 million copies. By the mid-1960s, Dr. Spock is the trusted family friend of an entire generation.

As the U.S. becomes mired in Vietnam, Dr. Spock appears at peace protests, condemning the war and the administration. Some parents and establishment figures respond by joining the peace movement; others blame Spock's permissive parenting advice for all the student activism.

"We were hearing by 1968—over and over—an analysis that we were a generation of spoiled kids. That we were 'Dr. Spock's kids.'"

Barbara Ehrenreich
activist and author

In 1967, Spock and other activists circulate A Call to Resist Illegitimate Authority, an anti-war document signed by thousands. This document provides the impetus for federal conspiracy charges against Dr. Spock and fellow activists Marcus Raskin, Mitchell Goodman, Michael Ferber, and Rev. William Sloane Coffin.

Their 1968 trial, for conspiracy to "counsel, aid, and abet resistance" to the draft, becomes another rallying cause for antiwar activists. Four of the men are convicted. Spock's two-year prison term is reversed on appeal in 1969. For the rest of his life, Spock continues to engage in political protests and peace activism.

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