In 1860, two members of the Sheffield Secular Society, Charles Bradlaugh, and Joseph Barker, formed a new journal called the National Reformer. Bradlaugh and Barker believed that religion was blocking progress and advocated what they called an atheistic Secularism. The newspaper advocated a whole range of reforms including universal suffrage and republicanism.
Sales of the National Reformer reached 5,000 but in 1861 Joseph Barker left the journal because he disagreed with Bradlaugh's advocacy of birth control. Bradlaugh became ill in 1863 and John Watts became the new editor. Charles Bradlaugh returned in 1866 and soon afterwards helped form the National Secular Society.
In 1874 met Annie Besant, a member of the Secular Society in London and an advocate of women's rights. Bradlaugh recruited Besant to work on the National Reformer, and over the next few years wrote a series articles on marriage and the political status of women. In the 1880s Edward Aveling also contributed a large number of articles on science and religion.