How did Planned Parenthood get started?
A member association of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), PPFA has its roots in Brooklyn, New York, where Margaret Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in the U.S. in 1916. In 1921, Sanger founded the American Birth Control League, which changed its name to Planned Parenthood in 1942.
What did Margaret Sanger do?
Margaret Sanger devoted her life to legalizing birth control and making it universally available for women. Born in 1879, Sanger came of age during the heyday of the Comstock Act, a federal statute that criminalized contraceptives.
Where did Margaret Sanger live?
Sanger stepped out of the spotlight for a time, choosing to live in Tucson, Arizona. Her retirement did not last long, however. She worked on the birth control issue in other countries in Europe and Asia, and she established the International Planned Parenthood Federation in 1952.
When was the first birth control clinic opened?
On October 16, 1916, Sanger opened a family planning and birth control clinic at 46 Amboy St. in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn, the first of its kind in the United States. Nine days after the clinic opened, Sanger was arrested.
Who coined the phrase birth control?
Margaret Sanger was an early feminist and women’s rights activist who coined the term “birth control” and worked towards its legalization.
She’s the founder of Planned Parenthood and was a champion of women being given access to birth control, but she was also a proponent of eugenics and had some pretty distasteful and racist views on minorities. She felt that “unfit” people should not have children and supported forced sterilization.
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.
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.”
She marries William Sanger.
Gives birth to her first child while suffering with tuberculosis.
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.”
Sanger starts The Woman Rebel, a newspaper that advocates birth control. The same year, she separates from her husband.
Oct. 16, 1916
Sanger, her sister Ethel Byrne, and Fania Mindell open the U.S.’s first birth control clinic in Brooklyn, New York.
All three women were immediately arrested and jailed for violating provisions of the Comstock Act- for distributing “obscene materials” at the clinic. The “Brownsville trials” brought national attention and support to their cause, and although Sanger and her co-defendants were convicted, their convictions were eventually overturned. Their campaign led to major changes in the laws governing birth control and sex education in the United States.
Oct. 26, 1916
The three women are arrested and put in jail 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.
Sanger reopens the Brownsville Clinic, is arrested again, and charged with “creating a public nuisance.”
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, often referred to as the Brownsville Trials. In attendance are a group of socialities as well as about 50 Brownsville women who have 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.
Sanger petitions the U.S. Supreme Court for Writ of Error.
Nov. 17, 1919
The Supreme Court dismisses her case.
Sanger publishes an article entitled, “Some Moral Aspects of Eugenics”.
She publishes an article entitled, “The Eugenic Conscience”.
She founds The American Birth Control League.
She publishes an article, “The purpose of eugenics”.
She publishes an article, “Birth Control and Positive Eugenics”.
She publishes an article, “Birth Control: The True Eugenics”.
She resigns as president of the American Birth Control League because she is viewed as too radical in her views.
She forms the National Committee on Federal Legislation for Birth Control in order to lobby for the right of physicians to legally hand out contraceptives.
Sanger organizes the Birth Control International Information Centre with British feminist Edith How-Martyn.
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.
The American Birth Control League and the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau merge into the Birth Control Federation of America.
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.
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
She 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.”
Sanger, living in Tucson, Arizona, is no longer an active participant in the birth control movement.
The American Birth Control League changes its name to Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc.
She 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.
She retires as the president of the International Planned Parenthood Federation.
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.
Woman And The Future
by Margaret Sanger
President of the National Committee On
Federal Legislation for Birth Control
Speech given at the 17th Annual Convention of the Federation Of Jewish Women’s Organizations – Hotel Astor, NY (Radio Broadcast Station WMCA, January 25, 1937, 11:45am-12noon
Margaret Sanger, who is recognized as the leader of the birth control movement both in America and abroad, will speak today on the subject “Women and the Future.” Mrs. Sanger has devoted her life to the cause of womanhood, and the success which she has won gives her the right to speak with authority on this subject. Mrs. Sanger.
Mrs. Sanger Speaking:
Just four years ago the Federation of Jewish Women’s Organizations at whose annual convention I am speaking today went on record in support of the legalization of birth control. It is in great measure due to the active help of this organization and other groups of courageous women, such as the National Council of Jewish Women, the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, and the Y.W.C.A. that the birth control movements is today celebrating a glorious victory and looking forward to the inspiring and constructive work which lies ahead.
We can today with some measure of clarity and hope talk about Woman and the Future. It has been a good fight but a long one.
In 1873 Congress, urged on by Anthony Comstock, passed the so-called obscenity laws, prohibiting the use of the mails and common carriers for items which were considered lewd and obscene. The general aim of these laws was perhaps laudable enough. But unfortunately articles and information relating to the prevention of conception were also classed as obscene. It was made a crime, publishable by $500 fine or five years imprisonment or both, for anyone, even a physician, to send contraceptive information or supplies through the mails or by common carrier, that is by express. Importation was also forbidden.
The birth control movement has spent years of effort in rectifying this mistake. For with the law thus tangled and confused, many doctors hesitated to give birth control advice, hospitals and dispensaries which should have been telling women how to space their children and plan their families were afraid to do so.
For the past seven years the National Committee on Federal Legislation for Birth Control, of which I am the president, has been seeking to have this law amended. We have found men in Congress brave enough to introduce bills exempting physicians from the restrictions of the law in matters relating to contraception. It may be hard for you to realize it, but at first it took courage for a member of Congress to come out openly for birth control. Hearings were held; the press gave its support, more and more men in Congress came to see the right and justice of what we were asking; a hundred thousand individuals and a thousand organizations placed themselves on record approving of what we were trying to do, and pledging their help.
A wise and reasonable court decision in a test case on the importation of birth control materials sent to a doctor for research purposes, (U.S. v. One Package) has given the medical profession what we were seeking through Congress. The United States Court of Appeals for the second circuit, in unanimously upholding the decisions of the lower court has interpreted the Comstock Laws, and has defined the rights of the American physician in regard to birth control.
A decision, handed down on November 30, 1936, comes as a result of an informed public opinion, as the result of the support of organizations such as this Federation. “We are satisfied,” said the judges, “that this statute embraced only such articles as Congress would have denounced as immoral if it had understood all the conditions under which they were to be used.” That is, birth control as we understand it today, would not have been included in the statute.
“Its design” the decision continued, “was not to prevent the importation, sale or carriage by mail of things which might intelligently be employed by conscientious and competent physicians for the purposes of saving life or promoting the well-being of their parents.”
With the tangles and confusions of the past cleared away, we can now look ahead. We can envisage what birth control can do for the woman of today and tomorrow. For up to now, woman has been a victim of her own powers of reproduction. It has been the comparatively few and more fortunate who have known how to have only as many children as they could take care of. A small fraction of all women have known how to make motherhood a matter of conscious and joyful choice, not a thing of tragedy and chance.
I will not speak today of what needs to be done in far countries, in China and India, in Japan. Nor will I speak of the women of Italy and Germany, who are being prodded and cajoled to produce cannon fodder for future wars. Let us think first of America.
Here a new epoch in the birth control movements has begun. Scientific and reliable information can now be given to every women in the land. Every hospital, and there are seven thousand of them, every health unit and welfare center, every place which cares for the health of women, can now have a physician give birth control advice.
Last month, several hundred physicians, scientists, and representatives from birth control clinics, met in a two day Conference of Contraceptive Research and Clinical Practice. It was no longer necessary to prove the case for birth control. It was no longer necessary to talk of belief or disbelief, or of legality, or to bandy arguments or opinions. The entire matter had passed from the realm of propaganda to the realm of science. These fine men and women came together to confer and interchange their knowledge and experiences, so that we might have better methods, better ways of teaching women, more knowledge in the field. There was discussion at one interesting session as to what a birth control center should be called. Many thought it might better be called a Mother’s Health Center or a Race Betterment Center, and these terms well describe what such a center is.
But I confess that I am in favor of the simple phrase birth control. As you may know, I coined it more than twenty years ago, and it must have something good in it, for it stuck. You will find it i dictionaries and encyclopedias, in scientific journals and in newspaper columns. Wherever people speak of bettering the lives of women, of bring[ing] forth a better, stronger, happier and healthier race, they speak of birth control.
Emphasis should be placed on the words control. Controlling the size of the family does not mean that births should be limited to any arbitrary number. Birth control is not a program for a one or two child family. We control our automobiles; we control the heat that keeps us warm in winter, and before long, so they tell us, we shall be controlling the heat that makes us unhappy in the summer. We control our time, our appetites, our incomes, our lives. It is simple common sense to control the number of children in a family, in order that they may be cherished and loved, cared for properly and raised to become useful and happy citizens.
Children should be wanted. They should be conceived in marital love, born of the parents’ conscious desire and given of health[y] bodies and sound minds.
I believe that the bearing and nurture of children are not the aim and end of women’s existence. I want to see woman of the future liberated, spiritually free, conscious of her creative powers. I want to see her using them with vision and intelligence, for greater happiness, for security, for peace. To do this, woman must first liberate herself. Motherhood must be conscious and voluntary, before it can be creative. Then she can make the most of the greatest of all her gifts and responsibilities, the handling of the precious, mysterious gift of life.
Through birth control women gain control not only of their bodies, but they will develop their souls. They will lead the race to heights we cannot yet see. Birth Control is one of the greatest movement[s] of today and of tomorrow, and what it will do for the children, for the women of the future, none of us can yet visualize.
But we can believe and push on.