1916 October 25

Birth Control Pioneer Margaret Sanger Arrested For Opening First Birth Control Clinic in U.S.


Birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in America, in Brooklyn, New York, on October 16, 1916. She and her sister were arrested on this day for operating the clinic in violation of New York state law after it had served 448 clients. She was convicted and sentenced to a month in jail. On February 2, 1917, she rejected a plea bargain under which she would not serve time in jail if she would agree to obey the law, and chose to go to jail. During her month in jail, she spent her time reading to illiterate inmates.

Sanger had many run-ins with the law in her long crusade for birth control. On several occasions she was prevented from speaking on the subject of birth control; see, for example: May 22, 1916 and April 16, 1929 (where she famously appeared on stage in Boston with a gag over her mouth).

Sanger’s organization, the American Birth Control League, evolved into today’s Planned Parenthood Federation (see January 18, 1939).

Read: Ellen Chesler, Woman of Valor: Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control Movement in America  (1992)

Learn more about Sanger: https://www.nwhm.org/education-resources/biography/biographies/margaret-sanger/

Learn more about the long struggle over sex and civil liberties: Leigh Ann Wheeler, How Sex Became a Civil Liberty (2013)

Read: Linda Gordon, The Moral Property of Women: A History of Birth Control Politics in America, 3rd ed. (2007)

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