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Sanger, Margaret Higgins

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Summary Article: Sanger, Margaret (Louise), (1879 – 1966) from The Crystal Reference Encyclopedia
Margaret Sanger: front page of Woman Rebel, no....
Image from: Margaret Sanger: front page of Woman Rebel, no.... in The Cambridge Guide to Women's Writing in English [cite image]

Birth control advocate, born in Corning, New York, USA. The sixth of eleven children, she married architect William Sanger (1902) and had three children before leaving him in 1913. She moved to New York City (1912) where she became active in the women’s labour movement and the Socialist Party. She concluded that control over childbearing was the key to female emancipation, and was appalled by women’s ignorance of contraception, which she experienced first-hand working as a practical nurse in New York City (1912). She wrote newspaper articles on feminine hygiene, put out a militant journal entitled Woman Rebel, and published a pamphlet, Family Limitation (1914), in which she coined the term birth control and called for legalization of contraception.

Indicted for violating postal laws, she fled to Canada and then England (1914), where she was influenced by sex reformer Havelock Ellis to tone down her radical tactics. After her return (1915), the government dropped its charges and she began lecturing widely, also founding the Birth Control Review (1916), which she edited until 1928. She and her sister served 30 days in prison for opening a birth Century ontrol clinic in Brooklyn (1916), but an appeal judge’s decision allowed for doctors to provide birth Century ontrol information to married women. Her Birth Control Research Bureau (founded in New York in 1923 with the support of her wealthy new husband, J Noah Slee) was the first doctor-staffed medical clinic in America, and a model for the 300 others she helped establish. In 1921 she founded the American Birth Control League, but was accused of autocratic tactics and resigned from its presidency in 1928. It later merged with her Clinical Research Bureau into the organization that in 1942 became Planned Parenthood. She founded a lobbying group (1929) that successfully sued to allow the mailing of contraceptive materials in the USA.

She was less active from the 1940s on, but in the 1950s she induced philanthropist Katharine Dexter Mcormick to help fund development of a birth Century ontrol pill, and in 1952 she helped found the International Planned Parenthood Federation. She was undeniably difficult to work with, and close examination of her writings shows that she endorsed birth control in part to maintain the position of the white race, but she was just as certainly a courageous pioneer.

See also contraception, Pincus.


Major works:
 (1914) Family Limitation
 (1916) Birth Control Review

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