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  Sanger, Margaret Louise Higgins
NameMargaret Louise Higgins Sanger
New York, New York , United States
Born September 14, 1883
DiedSeptember 05, 1966 (82 years)
ContributorThomas Walker
Last ModifedThomas Walker
Dec 10, 2003 02:09pm
Tags Pro-Choice -
InfoThe movement she started will grow to be, a hundred years from now, the most influential of all time," predicted futurist and historian H.G. Wells in 1931. "When the history of our civilization is written, it will be a biological history, and Margaret Sanger will be its heroine."


Margaret Louise Higgins Sanger
Margaret Sanger was educated as and worked as a nurse. In her work with poor women on the Lower East Side of New York, she was aware of the effects of unplanned and unwelcome pregnancies. Her mother's health had suffered as she bore eleven children. She came to believe in the importance to women's lives and women's health of the availability of birth control, a term which she's credited with inventing.

In 1912, Sanger gave up nursing work to dedicate herself to the distribution of birth control information. However, the Comstock Act of 1873 was used to forbid distribution of birth control devices and information. She wrote articles on health for the Socialist Party paper, the Call, and collected and published articles as What Every Girl Should Know (1916) and What Every Mother Should Know (1917).

In 1913 she went to Europe, founding a paper, Woman Rebel, on her return. She was indicted for "mailing obscenities," fled to Europe, and the indictment was withdrawn. In 1914 she founded the National Birth Control League which was taken over by Mary Ware Dennett and others while Sanger was in Europe.

In 1916 (1917 according to some sources), Sanger set up the first birth control clinic in the United States, and the following year, she was sent to the workhouse for "creating a public nuisance." Her many arrests and prosecutions, and the resulting outcries, helped lead to changes in laws giving doctors the right to give birth control advice (and later, birth control devices) to patients.

In 1927 Sanger helped organize the first World Population Conference in Geneva. In 1942, after several organizational mergers and name changes, Planned Parenthood Federation came into being.

Sanger wrote many books and articles on birth control, marriage and an autobiography (the latter in 1938).

Her first marriage, to William Sanger in 1900, ended in divorce in 1920; she was remarried in 1922 to J. Noah H. Slee, though she kept her by-then-famous (or infamous) name.

Today, organizations and individuals which oppose abortion and, sometimes, birth control, have charged Sanger with eugenicism and racism. Sanger supporters consider the charges exaggerated or false.


Founder of the American birth control movement, Margaret H. Sanger fought for revision of archaic legislation which prohibited publication of facts about contraception. In her early career, Sanger practiced nursing among the impoverished families of New York's lower east side. There she became aware of the interrelationships between overpopulation, high infant and maternal mortality rates, and poverty. In 1914, Sanger began publishing material about contraception. In Brooklyn, two years later, she opened the first American birth control clinic. She served 30 days in the workhouse in 1917 for "maintaining a public nuisance," but this and other legal difficulties only served to garner public sympathy for her work. Sanger founded the American Birth Control League, serving as president for seven years. In 1927, she organized the first World Population Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, and was the first president of the International Planned Parenthood Federation.


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