Margaret Sanger and the planned parenthood movement

Carol RoachStarred Page By Carol Roach, 24th Jun 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Family>Health

The fight for birth control in America has been long and hard. We will now look at Margaret Sanger, a nurse and social activist for women's health.

Who was Margaret Sanger?

Who was Margaret Sanger?

Margaret Higgins Sanger Slee was born in 1879 as a woman well ahead of her time. Margaret's mother, Anne Purcell Higgins had 18 children; 11 of them survived. Both parents were devout Roman Catholics. Her father, Michael Hennessy Higgins was also a women's suffragist activist and so Margaret was able to learn about the woman's issues from an early age.

Margaret attended Claverack, a private boarding school for two years but was called back by her father to nurse her sick and dying mother. After her mother died she was fortunate enough to attend nursing school funded by her close friends. She also married and had a son. Sanger also contracted tuberculosis from nursing her dying mother.

Sanger started writing her first column in the New York Call, in 1912, called What a Girl Should know. She also sent out a pamphlet called, Family Limitations. She also worked in lower east Manhattan slums.

Sanger was provocative and vocal and risked having to serve a jail sentence several times for defying the Comstock Laws, which prohibited the distribution of birth control material.

Margaret Sanger's beliefs

Margaret Sanger's beliefs were formulated from her personal life and her professional life

Margaret's beliefs about women being able to control the amount of children they had, rather than breed like rabbits, was fueled by working with the poor, and witnessing her own mother struggling with all those childbirths
. Margaret was convinced that women had to be on equal level with a man and not dictated to by their husbands when it came to producing offspring. Margaret also voiced that if women were to have any sexual pleasure from relations with their husband the fear of pregnancy had to be eliminated. This was a very critical psychological need for women for women of that time period.

The Sadie Sachs story

Sanger worked among the poor and she saw for herself in her duties as a nurse, how the women's health was jeopardized because of too many pregnancies. She saw the horrors of desperate women suffering from self-induced abortions and she knew without a shadow of a doubt that women needed to be educated about birth control, even though the laws said otherwise.

The only advise Sanger was allowed to tell her critically ill patients who dared to self-abort was to abstain from having sexual relations. This advice did not work for Sadie Sachs who died after a second failed self-induced abortion attempt. The Sachs case was the turning point for Sanger; she realized that women were willing to die in order to prevent unwanted or needed pregnancies. She knew from that point on that she had to get birth control information out to these women before they became that desperate.

Though things were not much better in Canada at the time, with the strong arm of the Roman Catholic Church, it did get better after the influence of such people as Margaret Sanger.

Margaret Sanger's Activism

Margaret Sanger's Activism

In 1914, Margaret Sanger began publishing the Woman Rebel, a newsletter concerned with the issues of contraception. Her slogan became, No Gods and no Masters. Yes, Margaret Sanger was an atheist, but that does not take away from the fine work she has done.

According to Margaret Sanger, a woman was to be, "the absolute mistress of her own body."

Margaret Sanger was found in violation of the US postal laws for distributing her contraception material and jumped bail. She fled to England and returned at the end of 1915.

Sanger's husband had distributed a copy of his wife's pamphlet Family Limitations to whom he thought was a postal worker, who was actually working undercover. Michael Sanger, champion of his wife's work and the women's cause, was jailed for 30 days while his wife was still in England.

Margaret Sanger did have the opportunity to visit a Dutch birth control clinic while in Europe and she discovered that the diaphragm was a much better birth control method than douches and suppositories. Sanger was instrumental in bringing the diaphragm to America.

She published What Every Girl Should Know dealing with issues of menstruation and teenage sexuality, which had become one of the series of Little Blue Books in 1916. A year later she published What Every Mother Should Know.

Sanger had opened a family planning clinic in 1916, it was raided 9 days later, and she was jailed for 30 days. Her appeal was rejected, but it did lead to reform. By 1918 New York doctors were allowed to prescribe contraceptives.

Margaret Sanger co-founded the American Birth Control League in 1921. She started traveling to Japan in 1922 to meet with the feminist birth control lobbyist, Kato Shidzue. It was during this period she married for the second time, this time to the oil baron, James Noah H. Slee.

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Birth Control, Feminism, Feminist Icons, Margaret Sanger, Menstruation, Planned Parenthood, Pregnancy, Teenage Sexuality, Venereal Disease, Vm Abortions

Meet the author

author avatar Carol Roach
Retired therapist and author of two books, freelance writer, newsletter editor, and blogger. I write, health, mental health, women's issues, animal , celebrity, history, and SEO articles.

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