Ethel Higgins Byrne

Activist / Nurse
Date Of Birth:
Date Of Death:
Place Of Birth:
Corning, New York
Best Known As:
Margaret Sanger’s sister and co-founder of the first birth control clinic
Ethel Higgins Byrne was a co-founder of the first birth control clinic in the United States. She is less famous than her sister, Margaret Sanger. Also from Corning, New York, Ethel studied nursing and was briefly married, but left her family and devoted her career to being a nurse to the poor. While Margaret was in the news and gaining fans and fame in her quest to legalize birth control, Ethel worked as a registered nurse. Together with Fania Mindell, they decided to open a clinic in New York as a direct challenge to contraceptive laws. They opened in October of 1916 and all three women were arrested by the end of the month for passing knowledge of birth control to an undercover police woman. While serving a 30 day sentence in jail, Ethel went on an 8 day hunger strike, which ultimately led to her being force fed while a prisoner. Little else is known about Ethel’s life and career, other than she and Margaret Sanger were not particularly close as sisters.
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