Margaret Higgins Sanger

Areas of Achievement: 
Social Service

Honored By

Honored by: Amazon Foundation
Date submitted: October 24, 2006
Gift: Arch with Seating
Honored by: Marshall Foundation
Date submitted: October 24, 2006
Gift: Gateway Entry and Two Arches with Seating

"Margaret Louise Higgins Sanger began her career as a women's health advocate in New York City at the beginning of the 20th century. As a nurse, her interest was focused on sex education and women's health, and she saw first-hand the frequent childbirth, miscarriage and abortion experienced by the poor women of New York's Lower East Side who had no access to information about contraception. She began to argue for the need for family limitation as a tool by which working-class women would liberate themselves from the economic burden of unwanted pregnancy.

Fighting against the state and federal Comstock laws that banned the dissemination of contraceptive information, she was indicted for the violating postal obscenity laws through her publication and distribution of The Woman Rebel, a radical feminist monthly that advocated militant feminism, including the right to practice birth control. She jumped bail and fled to England, leaving behind Family Limitation, a 16-page pamphlet which provided instructions on a variety of birth control methods. She returned to New York when her only daughter died at 5 years old, and sympathetic publicity convinced the government to drop her prosecution. In 1916 she opened the nation's first birth control clinic in Brownsville, Brooklyn. She was arrested, and the publicity provided her with a base of wealthy supporters for her continued efforts.

Through the 1920s and 30s she worked to change birth control legislation, headed international birth control efforts, and in 1939 the organization that would become Planned Parenthood was begun. With her second husband, she helped fund research that made possible the development of the birth control pill in the 1950s. In 1965, the Supreme Court decided to make birth control legal for married couples, and six months later Margaret Sanger died in a nursing home in Tucson, Arizona." --Planned Parenthood