Women’s History Roundup: The Margaret Sanger Edition

How could we celebrate Women’s History Month without a discussion of Margaret Sanger, the founder of the birth control movement and the organization that became Planned Parenthood? Here’s a roundup of all the articles we’ve done on Margaret Sanger. If you’ve got others you’d like to share, please post the links in the comments section. THANKS!

Margaret Sanger Fun Facts – Feminists for Choice
Was Margaret Sanger a Racist? – Feminists for Choice
Margaret Sanger Slept Here – Feminists for Choice
The Sanger-Keller Connection – Feminists for Choice
Leadership Lessons from Margaret Sanger – Feminists for Choice
Remembering Margaret Sanger – Feminists for Choice

For a collection of articles about Margaret Sanger’s life in Tucson, visit the Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona blog. And for more in-depth coverage of Sanger’s life, visit the Margaret Sanger Papers Project.

Don’t forget to check out this open thread from Feministe to see what others are saying about Margaret Sanger.

Was Margaret Sanger a Racist?

Last week our tributes to Margaret Sanger, the founder of the modern birth control movement, drew some heavy discussion over on Facebook and Twitter. Many friends and members of our Facebook group e-mailed me to say that they have a difficult time honoring Sanger, because of her participation in the eugenics movement. I had already planned to write about post about the eugenics link, but the discussions I had last week reconfirmed the necessity of interrogating the question: was Margaret Sanger a racist?

It is no secret that Margaret Sanger was a eugenicist, but that statement needs to be put into historical context. The discussion of historical context is not meant to be an excuse or an apology for Margaret Sanger’s beliefs. But it is important to judge Sanger’s beliefs according to the scientific culture of her time.

Eugenics was a theory about improving hereditary qualities by socially controlling human reproduction. Eugenicists were hoping to improve the human race by preventing people with genetic defects from reproducing, and limiting birth control and abortion for women who were considered “fit” or healthy. This concept got interpreted as a justification for racism, and eugenics was incorporated into the Nazi regime. [Read more...]

Friday News Roundup

A random hodge-podge of articles for you this week.

Celebrate Margaret Sanger’s Birthday – Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona
Margaret Sanger in Tucson: The Golden Years – Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona
10 Gender Stereotypes That Scientists Love – MCC.com
Dr. Tiller Works in the World – I Am Dr. Tiller
New York Abortion Access Fund Needs Your Help – Radical Doula
We Will Keep Our Clinics Open – Abortioneers

Margaret Sanger Slept Here

In the early 1900s, New York City served as the perfect stomping grounds for revolutionaries who required ready access to the rest of the world in order to spread their ideas and work. Margaret Sanger took full advantage of the Big Apple to gain acceptance for her mission of making birth control accessible to all women. There are many sites throughout the city that Margaret Sanger used to establish the importance of contraceptives and women’s rights. I have had the pleasure recently of visiting many of them recently and for the occasion of her birthday want to share some information I have learned with our fabulous readers. Enjoy!

46 Amboy St., First U.S. birth control clinic
Opened in 1916, the Brownsville clinic became the country’s first birth control clinic. Sanger and her sister Ethel, who simply distributed information about contraception, staffed the clinic. Although it was shut down by police under the Comstock Laws after only nine days, the immediate success of the clinic proved to Sanger and other activists how vital such services were to their community. In nine days the clinic served roughly 500 people. [Read more...]

Dear Margaret Sanger

Dear Margaret Sanger,

Happy birthday! Have I told you lately how awesome you were, how much I appreciate the work you dedicated your life to?

I have two children Ms. Sanger, and while I love them I also know I’m not mentally capable of having any more. Because of you, I can grab a box of condoms while I’m doing the regular grocery shopping (they’re one aisle over from the toothpaste), no fuss, no questions, no disapproving looks.

[Read more...]

Happy Birthday, Margaret Sanger!


When I was twenty-three, I spent a month on a tiny island off the coast of South Carolina. This was the first trip I had planned in what would be about seven weeks of travel before I began graduate school, and I couldn’t wait for unstructured days full of writing, photography, and running around on the beach in the chill winter breeze. What I had not planned was hauling out the phone book my third morning on the island and looking up the information for the closest Planned Parenthood.

I had volunteered at Planned Parenthood when I was in college, but that was in a liberal Northern town. I was ill-prepared for the sight of an armed security guard sitting at the front desk, and my fear at facing an unplanned pregnancy was momentarily subsumed by my fear of guns. I fumbled through my wallet, finally finding my driver’s license, and didn’t move a muscle as he wrote down my information and pressed the buzzer to open the heavy metal door behind him.
[Read more...]

Margaret Sanger Roundup

September 14th is the birthday of Margaret Sanger, the founder of the modern birth control movement and the organization that would become Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Here are some links in honor of Margaret Sanger. She loved throw grand parties – so be sure to drink a toast in her honor today!

Margaret Sanger Fun Facts – Feminists For Choice
The Helen Keller Connection – Feminists For Choice
Debunking the Eugenics Link – Feminists For Choice

Feel free to leave a birthday message for her in the comments section. I, for one, want to say thank you for fighting to make sure that women could control their destinies by gaining access to birth control. You were a rabel rouser, a practical joker, and someone who never gave up. I’m so proud to live in Tucson, because it makes me feel like the two of us have something in common. Happy birthday, Margaret Sanger!

The Sanger-Keller connection

“No one has ever given me a good reason why we should obey unjust laws.” Helen Keller, 1914.

The same year that Helen Keller made the above statement, Margaret Sanger was publishing articles advocating birth control in her journal The Woman Rebel, and knowingly breaking anti-obscenity laws by doing so.

Margaret Sanger and Helen Keller shared more than a love of justice. The two women had remarkable lives that were intertwined in many ways.

The women’s names were first associated in 1915 when Keller publicly commented on the Bollinger baby case. In a manner similar to the Terri Schiavo controversy, the Bollinger’s story acted as a line in the sand for individuals to publicly proclaim their position on birth control and eugenics. And just like the Schiavo case, everyone in America seemed to have an opinion, making it one of the year’s biggest news stories. [Read more...]

Wednesday News Roundup

The Fight for Women’s Suffrage – The History Channel
Is Porn Headed in a Different Direction? – Alter Net
How Can I Stop Feeling So Guilty About Having Sex? – RH Reality Check
Queering The Klan – Tenured Radical
Dr. Tillerisms – The Abortioneers
Abortion Pioneer Still Telling the Truth – Words of Choice
Margaret Sanger Fun Facts – Feminists For Choice
Lesbian American History – Wikipedia

Gandhi’s birth control of choice

I recently read an article about the correspondence and meeting between two of the most independent thinkers of the 20th Century, Margaret Sanger and Mahatma Gandhi. The two activists met in 1936 when Sanger traveled to India to speak with Gandhi about birth control. By that time Sanger was advocating internationally for artificial contraceptives and sought to make Gandhi an ally.

Despite the fact that the movement was gaining popularity in a society with a serious poverty crisis, Gandhi was an outspoken critic of artificial birth control. His general attitude was that

“Persons who use contraceptives will never learn the value of self-restraint. They will not need it. Self-indulgence with contraceptives may prevent the coming of children but will sap the vitality of both men and women, perhaps more of men than of women. It is unmanly to refuse battle with the devil.”

Sanger, on the other hand, once told her granddaughter that “for intercourse, I’d say three times a day was about right.” (Go girl!) [Read more...]