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Margaret Sanger Timeline

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.

1873: 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."

1902: Marries William Sanger.

1903: Gives birth to her first child while suffering with tuberculosis.

1912: 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."

1914: Sanger starts The Woman Rebel, a newspaper that advocates birth control. The same year, she separates from her husband.

1916: Sanger opens a contraceptive clinic in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn.

Oct. 26, 1916: Sanger, her sister Ethel, and a translator named Fania Mindell are arrested 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."

1916: 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. In attendance are a group of socialities as well as about 50 Brownsville women who had 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 petitioned 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".

1921: The American Birth Control League is founded by Margaret Sanger, a birth control advocate who had been jailed numerous times in New York for disseminating birth control information.

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".

1928: Sanger resigns as president of the American Birth Control League because she is viewed as too radical in her views.

1929: Sanger forms the National Committee on Federal Legislation for Birth Control in order to lobby for the right of physicians to legally hand out contraceptives.

1930: Sanger organizes the Birth Control International Information Centre with British feminist Edith How-Martyn.

1936: 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.

1939: 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: Sanger 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."

1942: Sanger, living in Tucson, Arizona, is no longer an active participant in the birth control movement.

1942: The American Birth Control League changes its name to Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc.

1952: Sanger 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.

1959: Sanger retires as the president of the International Planned Parenthood Federation.

1965: 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.

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