Margaret Sanger

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The American social reformer, Margaret Sanger (b. September 14, 1879, as Margaret Louisa Higgins; d. September 6, 1966) "almost single-handedly founded the birth control movement in America and was the driving force in the development of modern contraceptives."[1] "Sanger has been praised as a brave advocate of sexual liberation and reproductive autonomy for women, and damned as a racist and eugenicist who advocated sterilization of the "unfit" and helped to create a culture in which millions of the "unborn" are murdered through contraception and inducted abortion." [2] In 1995, a movie entitled Choices of the Heart: The Margaret Sanger Story was made starring actor Dana Delany.

Early life

Born Margaret Louisa Higgins in Corning, NY, she was one of 11 children.


Training as a nurse

Marriage to William Sanger

Establishment of birth control clinics

The Comstock laws

Founded organizations for public education in contraception

  • National Birth Control League in 1914
  • Planned Parenthood Foundation of America in 1921

Oral contraceptives

"Sanger in 1950 enlisted the aid of Gregory Pincus, a reproductive biologist at the Worcester Foundation in Massachusetts. Pincus's research led to the development of the birth control pill, and Sanger would be credited as one of the "mothers" of "the pill.""((Margaret Sanger," in American Decades. Gale Research, 1998 Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson Gale. 2007)


  1. "Margaret Sanger," in American Decades. Gale Research, 1998. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson Gale. 2007)
  2. Reed, James :The Selected Papers of Margaret Sanger, Vol. 1, The Woman Rebel, 1900-1928 (review) Bulletin of the History of Medicine - Volume 78, Number 1, Spring 2004, pp. 237-238)

Further reading

  • From the publisher: A history of the birth control movement in the United States must necessarily be in part a biography of the movement’s leader – Margaret Sanger. In this volume Mr. Kennedy describes Mrs. Sanger’s great personal influence on the course of the birth control movement and examines those elements of her thought and character which shed light on the nature of twentieth-century feminism and reform. He shows that Mrs. Sanger contributed as much to women’s continuing subordination as she did to their liberation. Similarly, he describes how she took the birth control issue with her as she moved from a commitment to radical anarchism to middle-class respectability, thereby transforming what she had conceived as a proletarian weapon in the class struggle into a conservative instrument of social control....Mr. Kennedy also explores the heritage of nineteenth-century attitudes about the family, women, and sex which influenced the reception given to Mrs. Sanger’s proposed reform. He discusses the impact of the birth control movement upon organized religion, the medical profession, and the law where, in each instance, initial antipathy slowly gave way to qualified acceptance. Even the federal government, which had prosecuted Mrs. Sanger in 1914, was itself promoting birth control by the time of the Second World War.
  • From the publisher: Ellen Chesler's 1992 biography of Margaret Sanger is acclaimed as definitive and is widely used and cited by scholars and activists alike in the fields of women's health and reproductive rights. Chesler's substantive new Afterword considers how Sanger's life and work hold up in light of subsequent developments, such as U.S. Supreme Court cases challenging the constitutional doctrine of privacy and international definitions of reproductive health as an essential human right.
  • From the publisher: Margaret Sanger was the founder of the birth control movement in the United States. A trained nurse by profession she founded a magazine on birth control as well as the first birth control clinic in the U.S. located in Brooklyn. She organized the first World Population Conference and was the first president of the International Planned Parenthood Federation. This is her fascinating story.
  • From the publisher: This volume covers a twenty-eight-year period from her nurse's training and early socialist involvement in pre-World War I Greenwich Village to her adoption of birth control (a term she helped coin in 1914) as a fundamental tenet of women's rights. It also highlights her legislative and organizational efforts, her support of the eugenics movement, and the alliances she secured with medical professionals in her quest to make birth control legal, respectable, and accessible. Supplemented by an introduction, brief essays providing narrative and chronological links, and substantial notes, the volume is an invaluable tool for understanding Sanger's actions and accomplishments.
  • Note: Introduces the reader to the conditions of life Margaret Sanger found in 1912 in New York.
  • Excerpt: On her lecture tours, in her editorial and clinical work, and dur¬ing her trial and imprisonment in 1916 Mrs. Sanger obviously ran into a complex whirlpool of public emotions. Expressions of horror and outrage were many; to some her purpose seemed an almost unbelievable apology for lust. Yet there was clearly another side. Many respectable feminists shared her view that motherhood must not be brought about by uncontrolled male passion, and some so-ciologists believed that the poorer classes at least must be helped to restrict their offspring. Mrs. Sanger's admirers extended far be¬yond the desperate and frantic women from the slums who saw her as a personal deliverer from slavery and death. The press no¬ticed that limousines drew up outside her Western lectures. The government, goaded by Comstock and others into persecution, handled Mrs. Sanger with obvious gingerliness and timidity.

External links

  • The Margaret Sanger Papers Project (full text with free registration) [1]