Margaret Sanger

Margaret Sanger

Posted on January 24, 2015

She’s the founder of Planned Parenthood and was a champion of women being given access to birth control, but she was also a proponent of eugenics and had some pretty distasteful and racist views on minorities. She felt that “unfit” people should not have children and supported forced sterilization.

Sept. 14, 1879
Margaret Higgins Sanger is born in Corning, New York to strict Roman Catholic parents. The fact that her mother had 11 children would color Margaret’s view of pregnancy and birth control.

The Comstock Law is passed by Congress, prohibiting the importation or mailing of contraception devices or information about contraception and labeling the dissemination of such items “obscene.”

She marries William Sanger.

Gives birth to her first child while suffering with tuberculosis.

The Sangers move to New York City. Margaret works with impoverished families in the slums of Manhattan and begins writing a column for the New York Call entitled, “What Every Girl Should Know.”

Sanger starts The Woman Rebel, a newspaper that advocates birth control. The same year, she separates from her husband.

Oct. 16, 1916
Sanger, her sister Ethel Byrne, and Fania Mindell open the U.S.’s first birth control clinic in Brooklyn, New York.

All three women were immediately arrested and jailed for violating provisions of the Comstock Act- for distributing “obscene materials” at the clinic. The “Brownsville trials” brought national attention and support to their cause, and although Sanger and her co-defendants were convicted, their convictions were eventually overturned. Their campaign led to major changes in the laws governing birth control and sex education in the United States.[11]

Oct. 26, 1916
The three women are arrested and put in jail for operating the contraceptive clinic in defiance of Section 1142 of the New York State Penal Code. The three women claim their actions are humanitarian and integral to the health of women and families.

Nov. 1916
Sanger reopens the Brownsville Clinic, is arrested again, and charged with “creating a public nuisance.”

Sanger publishes “What Every Girl Should Know,” which was later widely distributed as one of the E. Haldeman-Julius “Little Blue Books.” It gives women basic information about menstruation and sexuality.

Jan. 29, 1917
Sanger’s trial begins, often referred to as the Brownsville Trials. In attendance are a group of socialities as well as about 50 Brownsville women who have received contraception at the clinic.

Feb. 2, 1917
The court offers to grant a suspended sentence if Sanger promises to abide by the law. She replies: “With me it is not a question of personal imprisonment or personal disadvantage. I am today and have always been more concerned with changing the law and the sweeping away of the law, regardless of what I have to undergo to have it done.” When the judge asks her for a final answer on whether she will accept their clemency, she replies: “I cannot respect the law as it exists today.” She is found guilty.

Feb. 5, 1917
Sanger chooses a 30 day prison sentence over a $5000 fine.

July 31, 1917
Sanger’s conviction is upheld on appeal, but the court expresses the opinion that there is legal justification for the operation of a clinic under medical auspices.

Jan. 1918
Sanger petitions the U.S. Supreme Court for Writ of Error.

Nov. 17, 1919
The Supreme Court dismisses her case.

June 1920
Sanger publishes an article entitled, “Some Moral Aspects of Eugenics”.

Feb. 1921
She publishes an article entitled, “The Eugenic Conscience”.

She founds The American Birth Control League.

Dec. 1924
She publishes an article, “The purpose of eugenics”.

July 1925
She publishes an article, “Birth Control and Positive Eugenics”.

Aug. 1928
She publishes an article, “Birth Control: The True Eugenics”.

She resigns as president of the American Birth Control League because she is viewed as too radical in her views.

She forms the National Committee on Federal Legislation for Birth Control in order to lobby for the right of physicians to legally hand out contraceptives.

Sanger organizes the Birth Control International Information Centre with British feminist Edith How-Martyn.

The U.S. Court of Appeals rules that physicians are exempt from the Comstock Law’s ban on the importation of birth control materials, giving them the right to prescribe and hand out contraceptives.

Jan. 1939
The American Birth Control League and the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau merge into the Birth Control Federation of America.

Dr. Clarence J. Gamble, of the Procter and Gamble company, is selected to become the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau’s regional director for the South.

Nov. 1939
Gamble draws up a memorandum entitled “Suggestion for Negro Project” that suggests black leaders may regard birth control as an extermination plot. He recommends placing black leaders in positions where it would appear they had authority.

Dec. 10. 1939
She writes to Gamble: “We do not want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten that idea out if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.”

Sanger, living in Tucson, Arizona, is no longer an active participant in the birth control movement.

The American Birth Control League changes its name to Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc.

She comes out of retirement because of the alarm over population growth around the world. She helps found the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and serves as its first president.

She retires as the president of the International Planned Parenthood Federation.

The Supreme Court, in Griswold v. Connecticut, legalizes birth control for married couples.

Sept. 6, 1966
Sanger dies in a Tucson nursing home at the age of 86.