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January 5, 1968: Dr. Spock Indictment

Image: AP Photo

The year started off on a sour note for America’s most influential pediatrician. On January 5, Dr. Benjamin Spock – the man whose 1946 child-rearing handbook, The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care, gently coached millions of post-World War II parents to trust their own instincts and common sense while raising their children – was indicted on charges of conspiring to counsel young men to violate draft laws.

By 1968, Spock was a celebrity. Since it was first published, Baby and Child Care was the second bestselling book in the U.S. behind the Bible. But in the 1960s, Spock had expanded his interests beyond parenting and into politics, devoting himself to the antiwar movement and fighting for nuclear disarmament. “There's no point in raising children if they're going to be burned alive,” he argued. But many people didn’t agree with Spock’s political views, and some even blamed him for having helped form the generation of young Americans that protested the Vietnam War, launching the youth counterculture movement. His book sales during the war years suffered as a result.

In June of 1968, following his January indictment, Spock and three other men were found guilty of draft evasion counseling, although the convictions were later overturned on appeal. Spock’s activism didn’t end there; in 1972 he was the presidential candidate of the People’s Party, a coalition of left-wing organizations, and he continued to participate in antiwar and anti-nuclear rallies throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Dr. Spock, however, never abandoned his love for parenting, and by the time he died in 1998, Baby and Child Care had sold nearly 50 million copies worldwide.

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