1879 September 14

Margaret Sanger, Birth Control Pioneer, is Born


Margaret Sanger, the most prominent birth control advocate in the first half of the twentieth century, was born on this day. Her long fight for legal access to birth control was filled with many dramatic events.

Sanger’s career as a birth control advocate was filled with many dramatic events. Her magazine, Woman Rebel, was banned from the mails on April 2, 1914. She opened the first birth control clinic in the U.S. in Brooklyn on October 16, 1916. For this she was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to 30 days in jail on February 2, 1917. She was prevented from speaking on a number of occasions: See for example, October 25, 1916 and April 16, 1929. A planned trip to Japan in 1949 was cancelled because of sensitivity over birth control on August 30, 1949, but she had a triumphal visit several years later.

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

In the summer of 2015 an anti-abortion group, the Center for Medical Progress, released a series of videos which had been secretly recorded and then selectively edited to create the false impression that Planned Parenthood had been selling fetal tissue obtained from abortions. The videos sparked political attacks on Planned Parenthood from Republican Governors and presidential candidates. On September 29, 2015, Planned Parenthood Cecile Richards replied to criticisms of the organization in a long hearing before the House of Representatives.

Read a biography of Sanger: 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/

Watch a documentary on Sanger: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ndQXLx3pdA

Follow a timeline of her life and career: http://www.timetoast.com/timelines/115774

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

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