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Women of the Hall

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Year Honored: 1981
Birth: 1879 - Death: 1966
Born In: ,
Died In: ,
Achievements: Humanities
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Margaret Sanger

Born in Corning, New York, Margaret Higgins learned from her nonconformist father to be a rebel and to reject prejudice. She married William Sanger, an architect, but after three children and ten years in an affluent Westchester suburb, she yearned for more. The Sangers moved to New York City and plunged into the world of bohemian radicalism in Greenwich Village. Perhaps the radical activist Emma Goldman first introduced her to the issue of birth control. Margaret Sanger worked as a visiting nurse on the Lower East Side. She always said that a poor woman named Sadie Sachs, dying after trying to end an unwanted pregnancy, made her determined to take up the fight. Sanger published The Women Rebel, a newspaper advocating birth control, and when indicted for sending "obscene" materials through the mails, she fled to Europe and gathered information there. In 1916 she opened a clinic in Brooklyn, was arrested, and served thirty days for distributing information about contraceptives. From then on Sanger assumed leadership of the struggle for free access to birth control. She was persuasive, tireless, singleminded, and unafraid of a fight. Her arguments might vary -- at first she saw birth control as part of a socialist reordering of society, later as a means to prevent the multiplication of the inflicted or to assure happy marriages. But always Margaret Sanger saw it as a woman's issue and she was prepared to take on the medical establishment, the churches, the legislatures, and the courts.
Additional Sources:
Chesler, Ellen. Woman of Valor: Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control Movement in America. New York: Simon & Schuster, c1992.

Gray, Madeline. Margaret Sanger: A Biography of the Champion of Birth Control. New York: R. Marek, c1979.

Douglas, Emily Taft. Margaret Sanger; Pioneer of the Future. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston [1969, c1970].

The Case for Birth Control. Prepared by Margaret H. Sanger. New York: Modern Art Printing Co., 1917.

Margaret Sanger: An Autobiography. New York: W.W. Norton, 1938.

Papers 1900-1966 (bulk 1928-1940), Library of Congress, Manuscript Division. Washington D.C.