Sanger, Margaret Higgins

Sanger, Margaret Higgins, 1879–1966, American leader in the birth control movement, b. Corning, N.Y. Personal experience and work as a public-health nurse, much of it on New York City's Lower East Side, convinced her that family planning, especially where poverty was a factor, was a necessary step in social progress. More broadly, she also was supportive of some aspects of the eugenics movement. She studied in London with Havelock Ellis and others and, back in the United States, began her campaign almost single-handedly. Indicted in 1915 for sending birth control information through the mails and arrested the next year for conducting a birth control clinic in Brooklyn, Sanger gradually won support from the public and the courts. A clinic opened (1923) in New York City functioned until the 1970s. She organized the first American (1921) and international (1925) birth control conferences and formed (1923) the National Committee on Federal Legislation for Birth Control. She was president of the committee until its dissolution (1937) after birth control under medical direction was legalized in most of the states. In the 1960s, Sanger actively supported the use of the newly available birth control pill. She visited many countries in Europe, Africa, and Asia, lecturing and helping to establish clinics. Her books include Woman and the New Race (1920), Happiness in Marriage (1926), and an autobiography (1938).

See biographies by L. Lader (1955, repr. 1975), E. Chesler (1992), and J. H. Baker (2011); studies by D. M. Kennedy (1970) and E. T. Douglas (1975); L. V. Marks, Sexual Chemistry: A History of the Contraceptive Pill (2001); bibliography by R. and G. Moore (1986).

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