Margaret Sanger
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1.Sensationalism- the use of exciting or shocking stories or language at the expense of accuracy.

2.Unambiguous- not open to more than one interpretation.

3.Decrying- publicly denounce

4.Mandate- an office order or commission to do something.

5.Consolation- comfort received by a person after

6.Provision- the action of providing or supplying something for use

7.Hierchy- a system or organization in which people or groups are ranked one above the other according to status or authority

8.Precedent- an earlier event or action that is regarded as an example or guide to be considered in subsequent similar circumstances

9.Pensive- engaged in involving or reflecting deep or serious thoughts

10.Balked- hesitating or be unwilling to accept an idea or undertaking

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Issues Today on Birth Control Doc #2

“We need to take sensationalism out of this topic so that it can no longer be used by militants who have no real knowledge of the voluntary nature of the program but, rather, are using it as a political stepping stone,” said George H.W. Bush. “If family planning is anything, it is a public health matter.”

Title X, the law he sponsored that still funds family planning for the poor, passed the House by a vote of 298 to 32. It passed the Senate unanimously. A Republican president, Richard Nixon, enthusiastically signed it.

That was 1970.

This is now: The issue of birth control has suddenly become an obsession of the 2012 presidential campaign. To many observers, it seems that the clock has indeed been turned back.

Using birth control to have sex without making a baby has been settled social behavior, not a taboo but an ordinary prescription that virtually all American women present at the drugstore counter at some point in their lives. For many, it seems the common-sense way to avoid the prospect of abortion, which has been the really divisive issue of sexual politics.

Now gender warfare is erupting anew, at least in the spheres where political agitation thrives.

“Now you have a group of inflamed, enraged and constantly provoked women,” says Clare Coleman, who heads the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association.

Or, as Planned Parenthood’s president, Cecile Richards, said incredulously on Saturday during a rally in Austin:

“Somehow in this country, in 2012, this election might turn on whether women should have access to birth control.”

This might seem a bewildering turn of events, particularly when polls consistently show that (a) voters place jobs and the economy atop the list of their concerns and (b) large majorities of Americans of all faiths support the use of birth control, the most commonly prescribed drug for women between 18 and 44, and have done so for years.

But elections have a way of becoming national conversations — often unwieldy ones.

On the surface, this battle seems to have been joined by liberals and conservatives over President Obama’s insistence that all employers, including religious institutions, who provide health insurance include birth control at no cost.

This expansion of reproductive rights has thrilled liberals and dismayed conservatives, who see it as a violation of the separation of church and state enshrined in the Constitution.

Catholic bishops have been most opposed to the policy directive, because doctrine holds that any birth control except natural family planning is a sin against God. And the bishops have gained allies among those eager to overturn the entire health-care act. Repealing Obamacare, as Republicans call it, is a central pledge of all the men who want to be the Republican presidential nominee.

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Margaret Sanger on Working Women Primary Doc #1

Margaret Sanger on Working Women



1.She started birth-control.


2.Felt like women should have the right to choose what they wanted for themselves.


3.Margaret wants freedom and leisure time.


4.She got to witness how children are supposed to be treated Famous for organizing the birth-control system.


5.Created the Woman Rebel article


Primary source: Margaret Sanger, "Comstockery in America," journal article, 1915. Caption: Margaret Sanger became nationally famous for organizing a birth-control movement. In this 1915 issue of the International Socialist Review, Sanger discusses working women. "The Woman Rebel" told the Working Woman that there is no freedom for her until she has this knowledge which will enable her to say if she will become a mother or not. The fewer children she had to cook, wash and toil for, the more leisure she would have to read, think and develop. That freedom demands leisure, and her first freedom must be in her right of herself over her own body; the right to say what she will do with it in marriage and out of it; the right to become a mother, or not, as she desires and sees fit to do; that all these rights swing around the pivot of the means to prevent conception, and every woman had the right to have this knowledge if she wished it. . . I resolved, after a visit to France, where children are loved and wanted and cared for and educated, to devote my time and effort in giving this information to women who applied for it. I resolved to defy the law, not behind a barricade of law books and technicalities, but by giving the information to the workers directly in factory and workshop... Margaret Sanger, "Comstockery in America," International Socialist Review (1915), 46–49.

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Women in the Progressive Era Website #1

Women in the Progressive Era Website #1 | Margaret Sanger |

Introduction to the Progressive Era Tenement Building in New York City, Library of Congress, LC-DIG-nclc-04208 The Progressive Era was a time period in American history lasting from the 1890s through the 1920s. At the turn of the century, America was experiencing rapid urbanization and industrialization. Waves of immigrants were arriving, many from southeastern Europe. As a result of these processes, countless city dwellers were crowded into tenement slums, with high rates of disease and infant mortality. In urban areas, party bosses controlled power through political machines. In addition, corporations were consolidating into “trusts” and a few companies controlled the majority of the nation’s finances. Ida Tarbell, Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-117944 Click for a larger image. Front page of expose of the Standard Oil Company, written by Ida Tarbell, Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-51280 These problems were increasingly exposed by “muckraking” journalists, who wrote articles about political corruption, harsh factory conditions, and unhealthy tenement slums. In 1904, female journalist Ida Tarbell exposed the unfair business practices of the Standard Oil Company. As a result of her expose, the government prosecuted the company under anti-trust legislation. As people became aware of these problems, large numbers, particularly from the middle-class, worked to reform the nation, at the local, state, and federal levels. Reformers sought to improve living and working conditions for working-class Americans. They sought to eliminate waste and corruption in municipal governments. They sought to break up trusts and regulate private industry. They sought to improve public health, education, and sanitation. Many sought to conserve the environment. Theodore Roosevelt makes a speech in New Jersey during 1912, the year he ran for president on the Progressive Party ticket, Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-90405 A huge number of people were involved in progressive reforms. All three presidents during this time period, including Theodore Roosevelt, Howard Taft, and Woodrow Wilson, implemented some progressive reforms. After leaving office, Republican Roosevelt created a third political party, the Progressive Party, to challenge his successor, Taft. Reformers were successful in implementing reform legislation at all levels of government. At the federal level, progressives were successful in passing the Sixteenth Amendment (1913), which allowed for an income tax, the Seventeenth Amendment (1913), which allowed citizens to elect Senators directly, the Eighteenth Amendment (1919), which prohibited the sale of alcohol, and the Nineteenth Amendment (1920), which enfranchised women. Many historians argue that reformers from the Progressive Era laid the groundwork for Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal” programs of the 1930s.

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24 Sentences (2 paragraphs)

      In the early 1900’s Margaret Sanger thought of birth control. First, Margaret Sanger felt that it was only right to start birth control. She felt that it could change the abortions and adoptions of women who weren’t ready for children. Also She started it because she felt that it would have a positive effect on women who aren’t ready for kids. It affects now because women in Africa to this day still don’t have birth control and women are still dying for diseases. Then She dedicated her life to making birth control because a lot of women were dying because of bad abortions or were hurt badly. Fourth she was willing to break laws because she felt that women’s health were more important than laws. After everybody heard about birth control the men’s society didn’t quite agree with it. To make her point clear, she was willing to undermine laws and get her point across. Long and hard, she tries to get society to agree with her. Last she started making direct actions, making magazines with her facts and opinions and start telling people why they should get birth control. She wanted birth control all over the world and soon 1 day she did. In conclusion birth control had it’s ups and down’s.


     In the 1900’s Margaret Sanger became known as a social activist for women. First she created birth control because she felt that " "No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother." Next in 1879 to 1979, she became known as a reformer. She Became A reformer because all the pregnancies that her mother had led to her early death. Third, in 1912 she started campaign to educate women. She wrote a newspaper to educate young girls and she also worked as a nurse. Fourth, the society had problems with any ideas of birth control. The society thought what she was doing was obscene and immoral. They created laws to prevent circulation of her newspaper. Last, today she is known for starting many health clinics. In conclusion there are still issues today surrounding about birth control. However her belief that "Every child should be a wanted child", is still true.

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Issues on Birth Control Today Doc #1

WASHINGTON – Congressional leaders and Republican presidential candidates joined Catholic religious groups on Wednesday in denouncing the Obama administration's mandate requiring health insurers to offer birth control coverage, but the White House stood its ground.

By Susan Walsh, AP

Carney: White House officials "are very sensitive and understand some of the concerns."


By Susan Walsh, AP

Carney: White House officials "are very sensitive and understand some of the concerns."

Sponsored Links

House Speaker John Boehner called it "an unambiguous attack on religious freedom" in a rare House floor speech decrying the mandate, a part of President Obama's health care law that has picked up Roman Catholic and conservative opposition in the past three weeks.

"If the president does not reverse the … attack on religious freedom, then the Congress, acting on behalf of the American people and the Constitution we are sworn to uphold and defend, must," Boehner said. "This attack by the federal government on religious freedom in our country must not stand and will not stand."

STORY: New surveys: Catholics want birth control coverageSTORY: Obama takes heat from Catholic leadersSTORY: Catholics blast birth control mandate

The issue has heated up since Jan. 20, when Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius issued a final rule requiring that all women have access to free preventive care services, including contraceptives. The rule includes an exemption for churches and houses of worship, but not for other religious institutions such as hospitals, universities and charities.

Republican leaders have been joined by a few Democrats — such as Sens. Robert Casey of Pennsylvania and Joe Manchin of West Virginia and House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson of Connecticut — in calling for changes in the policy.

Faced with growing criticism, the White House indicated a willingness to review the issue but insisted that women be allowed free access to birth control. One possible solution could be to make contraceptive coverage available to employees of religious institutions without their employers' direct involvement.

"We are very sensitive and understand some of the concerns that have been expressed," White House press secretary Jay Carney said. "The president takes those concerns very seriously."

Carney said Obama remains "very aware of and engaged in this issue" as the administration seeks to allay the concerns expressed by religious institutions. "We're not trying to win an argument here," he said. "We're trying to implement a policy that will affect millions of women."

On the campaign trail, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum said the policy, which he blistered in his victory speech Tuesday night, had not been a major factor in his sweep of contests in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri. He has based much of his campaign on social issues such as abortion and gay marriage.

"When government gives you rights, the government can tell you how to exercise those rights," Santorum said during his victory speech in St. Charles, Mo. "And we saw that just in the last week, with a group of people, a small group of people — just Catholics in the United States of America! — who were told you have a right to health care, but you will have the health care that we tell you you have to give your people, whether it is against the teachings of your church or not."

Mitt Romney, who until Tuesday was the prohibitive front-runner for the nomination, found himself on the defensive after Carney said the former governor had presided over a "virtually identical" policy in Massachusetts.

"That was a provision that got there before I did, and it was one that I fought to remove," Romney said.

The White House has pointed to 28 states with similar laws, including eight without the religious exemption contained in the federal rule, as proof that requiring free access to contraceptives is workable.

The rule goes into effect Aug. 1, but if objections are raised, another year's extension is possible.

That was no consolation to Catholic leaders. The White House is "all talk, no action" on moving toward compromise, said Anthony Picarello, general counsel for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. "There has been a lot of talk in the last couple days about compromise, but it sounds to us like a way to turn down the heat, to placate people without doing anything in particular," Picarello said. "We're not going to do anything until this is fixed."

That means removing the provision from the health care law altogether, he said, not simply changing it for Catholic employers and their insurers. He cited the problem that would create for "good Catholic business people who can't in good conscience cooperate with this."

"If I quit this job and opened a Taco Bell, I'd be covered by the mandate," Picarello said.

Senate Democrats who met with Obama on Wednesday came away convinced he would not back down on requiring some form of access for all women, regardless of where they work.

"We support the right of women in this country to have access to birth control through their insurance policies, and anybody who stands in the way is going to have to deal with us and our friends," said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., flanked by four colleagues. Boxer said she had spoken to Obama adviser David Axelrod, who assured her that the administration would not weaken its position.

More than 600 physicians and medical students from 49 states signed a letter to Obama and Sebelius, urging them to stand firm in defense of the rule. They said millions of women rely on birth control pills for other medical conditions.

Roman Catholic leaders showed no sign of backing down, either.

"There's no room for compromise on this. The mandate has to go," said John Allen, senior correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter and author of numerous books on the Catholic church. "There's not much room for a conversation here."

Contributing: Susan Davis

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WGBH American Experience . Eleanor Roosevelt | PBS Website #2

WGBH American Experience . Eleanor Roosevelt | PBS Website #2 | Margaret Sanger |
General Article: The Progressive Movement (1900-1918)...


Other General Articles

For Eleanor Roosevelt and others of her generation, early 20th century America was the training ground for a transformation of the relationship between a democratic government and its people. Perhaps the best known results of this era are the 18th and 19th Amendments, Prohibition and woman suffrage respectively. But this legislation really came at the tail end of the period which has come to be known as the "Age of Reform." The amendments were actually the byproducts of an immense social and political upheaval which changed forever the expectations of the role government would play in American society.

It was during this brief interlude, 1900-1918, that America was completing its rapid shift from an agrarian to an urban society. This caused major anxiety among the country's predominantly Yankee, Protestant middle-class because it introduced "disturbing" changes in their society. Large corporations and "trusts," representing materialism and greed, were controlling more and more of the country's finances. Immigrants from southeastern Europe -- "dark-skinned" Italians and peasant Jews from Russia -- were flocking to major industrial centers, competing for low wages and settling in the ethnic enclaves of tenement slums. Party bosses manipulated the political ignorance and desperation of the newcomers to advance their own party machines. To the native middle-class, these ills of society seemed to be escalating out of control. In the name of democratic ideals and social justice, progressives made themselves the arbiters of a "new" America in which the ideals of the founding fathers could find a place within the nation's changing landscape.

The progressives came from a long tradition of middle-class elites possessing a strong sense of social duty to the poor. The social hierarchy wherein blue-blooded, native stock was at the top and the poor along with the "darker-skinned" were at the bottom, was accepted by the elite. But inherent in their role as privileged members of society was a certain degree of responsibility for the less fortunate. Growing up in this social class, Eleanor Roosevelt remarked, "In that society you were kind to the poor, you did not neglect your philanthropic duties, you assisted the hospitals and did something for the needy." The Progressive Era is unique in that this impulse spread to foster an all-encompassing mood and effort for reform. From farmers to politicians, the need for change and for direct responsibility for the country's ills became paramount and spread from social service to journalism. During his presidency, Theodore Roosevelt commented on the need: "No hard-and-fast rule can be laid down as to the way in which such work [reform] must be done; but most certainly every man, whatever his position, should strive to do it in some way and to some degree."

Applying this sense of duty to all ills of society, middle-class reformers attempted to restore democracy by limiting big business, "Americanizing" the immigrants, and curbing the political machines. Theodore Roosevelt, wanting to ensure free competition, was particularly instrumental in curtailing monopolistic business practices during his time in the White House. He extended the powers of the executive branch and the powers of the government within the economy, departing from the laissez-faire attitude of previous administrations. By supporting labor in the settlement of the Anthracite Coal Strike in 1902, Roosevelt became the first president to assign the government such a direct role and duty to the people.

The immigrant "problem" was handled for the most part by white, middle-class young women. Many of these female reformers had been educated in the new women's colleges which had sprung up in the late nineteenth century. Possessing an education yet barred from most professional careers, these women took to "association building" as a means to be active in public life. Among these associations were the Women's Trade Union League, the Women's Christian Temperance Union, the National Consumers' League, and a vast system of "Americanizing" centers known as settlement houses. These organizations were meant to "purify" the public sphere of men in which vice and corruption were bred. The WTUL and the NCL sought to cleanse the largely male-owned garment factories in which female workers were harshly exploited. The Temperance Union sought to eliminate the dominantly male immigrant worker's drinking habits and with them, saloons and prostitution. With settlement houses, women such as Jane Addams and Lillian Wald set out to uplift the immigrant masses and to teach them "proper" ways of life and moral values. These houses, of which there were 400 in America by 1910, instructed immigrants on everything from proper dancing forms (intentionally steering them away from more popular and sexually suggestive dances like the "cakewalk") to proper housekeeping and civic reforms. Settlement house work influenced woman and child labor laws, welfare benefits, and factory inspection legislation.

By helping the immigrants, female reformers hoped to curb the influence of the political bosses in the urban slums. Ironically, however, their efforts only added to the bosses' popularity. Many immigrants saw the reformers as meddlesome outsiders with little regard or respect for their ways of life. Such nuances as temperance and woman suffrage meant far less to them than issues of subsistence: securing a vendor's license for their pushcart or obtaining false birth certificates so that their children could contribute to the family income. The political boss could provide these services while the reformer only hampered them.

Also working to expunge the ills of society were progressive, "muckraking" journalists. Jacob Riis exposed the poor living conditions of the tenement slums in How the Other Half Lives (1890) and inspired significant tenement reforms. In The Shame of the Cities (1904), Lincoln Steffens revealed the political corruption in the party machines of Chicago and New York. Most shocking to contemporary readers was Upton Sinclair's The Jungle (1906) in which he traced an immigrant family's exploitation and downward spiral in Chicago's meat packing industry. The novel resulted in the Pure Food and Drug and the Meat Inspection Acts in 1906, the first legislation of its kind.

At the outset of the First World War, the progressive spirit turned from domestic issues to international concerns. Extending their democratic sensibilities and sense of moral duty to the situation in Europe, the pro-war progressives approached the conflict with the same moralizing impulse. Under Woodrow Wilson's leadership, America entered WWI in order to extend democracy and spread its ideals beyond its own borders. When this could not be achieved -- the death of the League of Nations and Wilson's failing health being significant setbacks -- the reforming spirit significantly lessened. The nation was tired of war and it lacked the widespread desire for change to carry on the moralizing crusade.

The window of time that the Progressive Era inhabits is a brief one, but not at all insignificant. Its reforms introduced a new role for government. In dealing with the problems of urbanization and industrialization, the country's democratic institutions had to address problems on a very local level. This precedent would provide the backbone for the New Deal and would inspire the reforming spirit of the nation's leaders during the Great Depression.

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Women's History - Biographies - Margaret Sanger Primary Doc #2

Women's History - Biographies - Margaret Sanger Primary Doc #2 | Margaret Sanger |



1.Margaret worked with friends on the Woman Rebel


2.Cared a great amount about women and children


3.Margaret’s father influenced the majority of her decisions


4.Has 3 kids


5.Chose a poor section in Brooklyn to have her first birth control clinic




1879-1966 American social activist


Margaret Sanger dedicated her life to making birth control available to all women in the world and thereby increased the quality and length of women's and children's lives.



Margaret Louise Higgins was born on September 14, 1879, in Corning, New York. The sixth of eleven children born to Anne Purcell and Michael Hennessey Higgins, Margaret grew up in a bustling household in the woods on the outskirts of town. While her mother took care of the large family, her father worked as a sculptor, chiseling headstones for local cemeteries. His work was unsteady, and with so many mouths to feed the family usually struggled to make ends meet.

Though poor themselves, the Higginses believed in helping others and taught Margaret to do the same. Her father often told her: "You have no right to material comforts without giving back to society the benefits of your honest experience" (Sanger, p. 23). Margaret greatly admired her father, who was known as somewhat of a rebel in town, and took his words to heart.

Rebel influence


A "freethinker" who was active in the cause of labor reform and social equality, Michael Higgins was no stranger to controversy. He often arranged for labor leaders and social reformers to speak in Corning and made his overcrowded house a center for political activity. His efforts were usually greeted with scorn from the townspeople, and as a result, Margaret and her siblings grew up being called "children of the devil" (Sanger, p. 21). But Margaret paid little attention to the name-calling. In fact, she rather liked being the daughter of a rebel and living amid controversy. The young girl developed a defiant spirit akin to her father's that would last a lifetime.



Margaret attended public school through the eighth grade and then boarding school at the Claverick College and Hudson River Institute. (Her expenses were paid by two of her sisters.) Away from home for the first time in her life, Margaret flourished and began developing her leadership abilities. She became active in theater groups and for a time had an ambition to become a professional actress. However, when she learned that in order to get an acting job she would have to write down her leg measurements, she defiantly refused and "turned to other fields where something besides legs was to count" (Sanger, p. 38).

Awareness of the women's issue


The leg episode proved to be an important experience for Margaret. It alerted her to the ongoing debate about women's rights and illustrated for her the discrimination women faced. She developed a strong interest in women's rights and began studying the great female leaders in history. While researching women such as Helen of Troy, Ruth, Poppaea, and Cleopatra VII, Margaret became greatly inspired and wrote an essay on women's equality, which she read aloud to her class. She was filled with youthful optimism and wanted not only to help women, but to make the world a better place. Exactly how she could achieve this, she did not yet know.

Nursing sparks medical interest


After graduating from the Institute, Margaret worked as a teacher for a year and then was called home to take care of her mother, who was dying from tuberculosis. Her mother had been severely weakened by having so many children, and within a few months of Margaret's return home, she died.

Though it had been a sad time in her life, Margaret gained new direction from the experience of nursing her mother. She had always wanted to help society and she realized that working as a nurse was a way to do that. Shortly after her mother's death, she entered the nursing program at White Plains Hospital. She completed the year-long program then finished her training at the Manhattan Eye and Ear clinic in New York City in 1900 at the age of twenty-one.



While working in New York, Margaret met a young architect, much like her father, named William Sanger. Sanger was politically active and had the same "artist's temperament" as Margaret's father. Her attraction to him led to their getting married shortly after Margaret's graduation from nursing school. They were soon expecting their first son, Stuart, who was followed by a second son, Grant, and a daughter, Peggy. Margaret quit nursing to be a full-time mother until after Peggy was born.

Sees connection between social ills and birth control


When Sanger returned to nursing, she worked as a visiting nurse in some of the worst slums in New York City. She most often was called upon to help deliver babies or nurse desperately weak mothers back to health. Some of these mothers suffered from bearing too many children. Others nearly bled to death because of unsafe abortions, operations that were performed on them to end their pregnancies. With each visit, the women, most of whom had more than ten children, desperately begged Sanger: "Tell me something to keep from having another baby. We cannot afford another yet" (Sanger, p. 87). But by law, Sanger was forbidden from teaching the knowledge they so eagerly sought.

Hearing the desperate cries for birth control on a daily basis, Sanger grew very depressed. Visions of weak and dying mothers — women who could never pull themselves from the depths of poverty because of their fragile health and burdens of their ever-growing families — haunted her sleep. "One by one worried, sad, pensive, and aging faces marshaled themselves before me in my dreams, sometimes appealingly, sometimes accusingly," Sanger said (Sanger, p. 89). She not only felt sad and angry about the condition of these masses of women but felt guilty because there was nothing she could do to help them. Finally, when a young mother who had begged Margaret months before for some means of birth control died from giving birth to yet another child, Sanger snapped. Convinced that the woman had only sought "the knowledge which was her right" and died from lack of that knowledge, Sanger vowed from that moment on "to do something to change the destiny of mothers whose miseries [are] as vast as the sky" (Sanger, p. 92). Sanger had found her cause and was ready to take on the world to fight for it.

Population growth


Sanger became convinced that the overall improvement of women's lives and society in general rested on controlling population growth. With this in mind, she quit nursing and spent the next year researching birth control at the library. Sanger then traveled with her family to Europe to learn family-planning techniques. She returned to New York in 1914, armed with knowledge and eager to pass it along to the mothers of New York.

Sanger was ready to take direct action, even if it meant breaking the laws she considered unconstitutional. She decided to take a three-pronged approach to promoting birth control in the United States: education, organization, and legislation. First she would educate the public on birth control using the information she had gathered. Then she would form a birth control organization that would help raise awareness and money for the cause. And finally she would seek to get the Comstock Law, which restricted the sending of birth control information through the mail, overturned. She would also lobby, or pressure, Congress for federal legislation allowing doctors to prescribe birth control devices.

At the time, it was illegal even for married couples to use most forms of birth control, except in the case of medical emergency. While most wealthy women could afford reliable — and illegal — forms of birth control or safe abortions, poor women could only continue to have children or risk death due to unsafe, illegal abortions. Sanger had seen enough women, including her own mother, die due to lack of birth control information and access, and she was determined to bring both to the poor women of the world.

Woman Rebel


As the first step in that process, Sanger started her own magazine, the Woman Rebel. Working with friends who volunteered their services and funding it through subscriptions paid in advance, she produced and mailed the first issue of the Woman Rebel in March 1914 from her small New York City apartment.

As publisher, Sanger had complete control over the magazine's content. She wrote her articles for mothers and adolescent young women, announcing in the first issue that the goal was to "stimulate women to think for themselves and to build up a conscious fighting character" (Gray, p. 67). Further, she invited all readers to contribute articles on any subject and promised to back the idea of birth control and convey any knowledge that would help achieve that end.

Not one to back down from controversy, Sanger had a highly combative style, which both helped promote her cause and earned her many enemies. The Catholic Church, opposed to any form of birth control, became one of her fiercest opponents from the outset. Also, she made enemies of politicians and even among many women's groups who thought she should be focusing her attention on women's suffrage (right to vote) instead of family planning. But true to her family background and magazine title, Sanger was proud to be a "woman rebel" and never balked in the face of opposition.



There was plenty of opposition. Under the Comstock Law, several issues of the Woman Rebel were banned by the U.S. Postal Service, which had sole authority to refuse the mailing of any material it termed "obscene." Rather than tone down her editorial content, however, Sanger wrote in capital letters on the front page of her next issue: "THE WOMAN REBEL FEELS PROUD THAT THE POST OFFICE AUTHORITIES DID NOT APPROVE OF HER. SHE SHALL BLUSH WITH SHAME IF EVER SHE BE APPROVED BY OFFICIALISM OR 'COMSTOCKISM'" (Sanger in Gray, p. 69).

When the postal authorities realized they were not going to stop Sanger's efforts, the government stepped in and charged her with nine counts of breaking obscenity laws, which carried a maximum sentence of forty-five years in prison. As a result, Sanger was forced to flee to London for two years, leaving behind her children and husband.

Though the years apart from her home and family were trying for Sanger, she used the time to increase her knowledge and political connections. She gathered information both to strengthen her argument in favor of birth control and to mount a defense against the charges that faced her in the United States. She became familiar with the theory by Thomas Robert Malthus that advocated birth control as a means of world stability and peace and with similar arguments by John Stuart Mill and other birth control advocates. Sanger began working such arguments, which were gaining popularity throughout Europe at the time, into her own philosophy.

Starts clinic


In 1915, after repeated attempts through her attorneys in the United States, Sanger was finally able to get the charges against her dropped. She returned to New York, reclaimed her children, and resumed her birth control fight where she had left off. Ready to mount the second and third phases of her plan, organization and legislation, Sanger founded the National Birth Control League (now the Planned Parenthood Federation of America) and began lecturing across the country and gathering supporters and funds to aid her efforts. Having seen the successful operation of birth control clinics in the Netherlands, Sanger decided she must "challenge the law directly" in the United States and open a birth control clinic in New York City (Sanger, p. 211).

Clinic and jail


Sanger chose the poor Brownsville section of Brooklyn as the sight of the first birth control clinic in the United States because she knew it was the poor and middle class women who most needed birth control information. Run by three registered nurses — Sanger, her sister Ethel Higgins, and Fania Mindell — the clinic opened on October 16, 1916, and hundreds of women lined up for blocks to get inside. The nurses distributed to all the patients pamphlets printed in English, Yiddish, and Italian titled What Every Girl Should Know. The nurses also conducted general checkups, recording details about economic status and number of children to establish case histories. The histories would be used to prove the benefits of birth control on the physical, emotional, and economic well-being of women and their families.

The clinic proved overwhelmingly popular but, as expected, within a few weeks the police conducted a raid and shut it down. Sanger, Higgins, and Mindell were all arrested as hundreds of women poured into the streets of Brooklyn to protest. One woman, who had just arrived as Sanger was being led away by police, chased the police car for blocks and shouted: "Come back! Come back and save me!" (Rossi, p. 532). Sanger was so moved by this woman's plea for help that she became more determined than ever to fight for her clinic. The following day, when the judge told her he was willing to dismiss the charges if she agreed to respect the law and close her clinic, Sanger recalled the woman's desperate words and refused the judge's offer. "I cannot respect the law as it stands today," she said (Sanger, p. 237). She was sentenced to thirty days in a workhouse.

It's only just begun


Unmoved by her second brush with the law, Sanger reopened the clinic upon her release, but this time operated it out of her home. This second clinic employed a female doctor and was funded by an English contributor whom she had met while abroad. Though she was helping women in New York, Sanger felt the need for something to be done on a national level. So she began a national publication to advocate birth control and lectured throughout the country.

Sanger started The Birth Control Review in 1921, and during the first five years of publication she received more than one million letters from mothers throughout the nation. On a regular basis, the letters detailed personal horror stories of poverty, dying children, and mothers, sisters, and friends bleeding to death. Women described how they could never get an education or a decent job because they were continually pregnant. Many told of not being able to afford one child yet having ten or more simply because they were not allowed to legally plan the size of their families. Most of the women were poor and could not afford to deliver their babies at hospitals. All the women, no matter what their story, age, or income level, requested birth control information and pleaded for answers to their medical questions.

Hearing such an overwhelming national outcry for birth control, Sanger realized that if federal legislators could read these letters they would see the tremendous need for birth control on the part of the general population. With that in mind, Sanger assembled the best 500 letters into a book titled Mothers in Bondage, which she published in 1928. The book proved to be highly influential, and Sanger used it to rally her cause through the next decade.

A million projects


The 1920s and 1930s brought with them not only tremendous political turmoil but great personal turbulence for Sanger. In 1923 she divorced William Sanger and married an older man named Noah Slee. Her daughter, Peggy, died suddenly of tuberculosis, and her two sons entered college.

After Peggy's tragic death, Sanger buried herself in her work. She traveled throughout the world spreading her message of birth control but spent the bulk of her time in America lobbying legislators and the American Medical Association (AMA) in addition to lecturing and publishing her newspaper. She founded a lobbyist group in Washington, D.C., called the National Committee and set up the Clinical Research Bureau of the American Birth Control League to invent cheaper and more effective means of birth control. She organized the first national and international birth control conferences in the world and wrote extensively on the subject, publishing eleven books and pamphlets through 1938.

Sanger attacked birth control opponents on all fronts, and after numerous defeats of birth control legislation in Congress she focused her attention on persuading the AMA to allow doctors to distribute birth control devices. Finally in 1936, after the Supreme Court issued a decision permitting the mailing of birth control information (striking down the Comstock Law), the AMA reversed its position and decided that doctors had the right to distribute birth control devices to their patients. For Sanger, now fifty-seven, the victory could not have been sweeter. A lifetime of effort had finally paid off, and birth control in America became a reality.

Final years


After 1936 Sanger continued to work for affordable and efficient means of birth control and to push for worldwide acceptance of family planning. In 1943 her second husband died and she contracted leukemia. She moved to Tucson, Arizona, and died there on September 6, 1966, at age eighty-seven.

As her son, Grant, said at her death, Sanger was a dedicated woman who nearly single-handedly brought about the legalization of birth control in the United States: "One thing about my mother that to me was most impressive was her utmost concentration on the [birth control] problem. From the time she started this business until she finished, she never deviated" (Coigney, p. 167).



Sanger did more than make birth control a reality in the United States. She demonstrated that dedication to a cause could be rewarded in one's lifetime and that there were several ways, from writing a magazine to lobbying Congress, that women in America could effect change.



While men in Europe called for birth control because of economics and world peace, Sanger declared that birth control was necessary because of the personal tragedies of women. She argued that women were denied the right to fulfill themselves as human beings because they were often pregnant and died early deaths on account of too many pregnancies or illegal abortions. Also, children suffered from being born into large, poverty-stricken families. Sanger viewed birth control as basic to freedom: "no woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother" (Sanger in Rossi, p. 533).

Further Reading


Coigney, Virginia, Margaret Sanger: Rebel With a Cause, Doubleday, 1969. Douglas, Emily Taft, Margaret Sanger: Pioneer of the Future, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1970. Gray, Madeline, Margaret Sanger: Champion of Birth Control, Richard Marek, 1979. Rossi, Alice S., ed., The Feminist Papers: From Adams to de Beauvoir, Columbia University Press, 1973. Sanger, Margaret, Margaret Sanger, An Autobiography, Norton, 1938.


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Margaret Sanger Primary Doc #3

Margaret Sanger Primary Doc #3 | Margaret Sanger |
A biography of Margaret Sanger, the nurse who promoted birth control as a means by which a woman could exercise control over her life and health.




1.Margaret Sanger worked as a nurse for poor women on the lower East side of New York.


2.In 1913 she went to Europe, founding a paper, Woman Rebel, on her return. She was indicted for "mailing obscenities," fled to Europe


3.Her first marriage, to architect William Sanger in 1902, ended in divorce in 1920


4.Today, organizations and individuals which oppose abortion and, sometimes, birth control, have charged Sanger with eugenicism and racism.


5.In 1916 Sanger set up the first birth control clinic in the United States and, the following year.


Margaret Sanger Biography: Margaret Sanger was educated as and worked as a nurse. In her work with poor women on the Lower East Side of New York, she was aware of the effects of unplanned and unwelcome pregnancies. Her mother's health had suffered as she bore eleven children. She came to believe in the importance to women's lives and women's health of the availability of birth control, a term which she's credited with inventing. In 1912, Sanger gave up nursing work to dedicate herself to the distribution of birth control information. However, the Comstock Act of 1873 was used to forbid distribution of birth control devices and information. She wrote articles on health for the Socialist Party paper, the Call, and collected and published articles as What Every Girl Should Know (1916) and What Every Mother Should Know (1917). In 1913 she went to Europe, founding a paper, Woman Rebel, on her return. She was indicted for "mailing obscenities," fled to Europe, and the indictment was withdrawn. In 1914 she founded the National Birth Control League which was taken over by Mary Ware Dennett and others while Sanger was in Europe. In 1916 (1917 according to some sources), Sanger set up the first birth control clinic in the United States and, the following year, as sent to the workhouse for "creating a public nuisance." Her many arrests and prosecutions, and the resulting outcries, helped lead to changes in laws, giving doctors the right to give birth control advice (and later, birth control devices) to patients. In 1927 Sanger helped organize the first World Population Conference in Geneva. In 1942, after several organizational mergers and name changes, Planned Parenthood Federation came into being. Sanger wrote many books and articles on birth control and marriage, and an autobiography (the latter in 1938). Her first marriage, to architect William Sanger in 1902, ended in divorce in 1920; she was remarried in 1922 to J. Noah H. Slee, though she kept her by-then-famous (or infamous) name from her first marriage. Today, organizations and individuals which oppose abortion and, sometimes, birth control, have charged Sanger with eugenicism and racism. Sanger's supporters consider the charges exaggerated or false.

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