Margaret Sanger

American Birth Control Activist

Who is Margaret Sanger?

Margaret Sanger was the first public American birth control advocate. She gained this title through her many years she spent preventing unwanted pregnancies and self induced abortions. She founded The American Birth Control League in 1921, which was the start of the women's health foundation we know today as Planned Parenthood.

About Margaret Sanger

Margaret Sanger was born on September 14, 1879 in Corning, NY to Michael Hennessy Higgins and Anne Purcell Higgins. Her family immigrated from Ireland. She was born into an impoverished family and was one of eleven children. She was exposed to how women in poverty were affected by having numerous children and this sparked her interest for women's health. Margaret received her education at Claverack College and Hudson River Institute. She died on September 6, 1966 in Tuscon, AZ. Sanger married to William Sanger. Together, they had two sons: Stuart and Grant Sanger.

1920's Impact

Margaret Sanger believed that women needed to be able to control their own bodies. She believed this was necessary for women to be more equal in American society. She answered many letters from young women who were curious about birth control. Sanger believed that contraception was the only practical way to prevent abortions and unwanted pregnancies. In 1921, Margaret Sanger founded the first birth control clinic in America, the American Birth Control League (later to become Planned Parenthood Federation of America). This family planning and birth control clinics staff consisted of all female doctors. Together, Sanger and her staff began to see women and gave out diaphragms as a form of birth control. Only nine days after this clinic opened, Sanger was arrested. Once she was released, she continued doing the same work she was doing before, only to get arrested a second time. She was arrested under the Comstock Law which made obscene literature, birth control devices, information on these devices, abortions, and information on sexuality and sexually transmitted diseases illegal. Sanger continued to fight these laws. Through continuing to fight these laws, the federal government made birth control and information on it legal.

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