Margaret Sanger: Social Reformer and Activist for Women's Rights
Margaret Sanger was born on September 14, 1879, in Corning, New York. In 1910 she moved to Greenwich Village and started a publication promoting a woman's right to birth control (a term that she coined). Obscenity laws forced her to flee the country until 1915. In 1916 she opened the first birth control clinic in the U.S. Sanger fought for women's rights her entire life. She died in 1966.
Activist, social reformer. Born Margaret Higgins on September 14, 1879, in Corning, New York. She was one of 11 children born into a Roman Catholic working-class Irish American family. Her mother, Anne, had several miscarriages, and Margaret believed that all of these pregnancies took a toll on her mother's health and contributed to her early death at the age of 40 (some reports say 50). The family lived in poverty as her father, Michael, an Irish stonemason, preferred to drink and talk politics than earn a steady wage.
Seeking a better life, Sanger attended Claverack College and Hudson River Institute in 1896. She went on to study nursing at White Plains Hospital four years later. In 1902, she married William Sanger, an architect. The couple eventually had three children together.
In 1910, the Sangers moved to New York City, settling in the Manhattan neighborhood of Greenwich Village. The area was a bohemian enclave known for its radical politics at the time, and the couple became immersed in that world. They socialized with the likes of writer Upton Sinclair and anarchist Emma Goldman. Sanger joined the Women's Committee of the New York Socialist Party and the Liberal Club. A supporter of the Industrial Workers of the World union, she participated in a number of strikes.
Sanger started her campaign to educate women about sex in 1912 by writing a newspaper column called "What Every Girl Should Know." She also worked as a nurse on the Lower East Side, at the time a predominantly poor immigrant neighborhood. Through her work, Sanger treated a number of women who had undergone back-alley abortions or tried to self-terminate their pregnancies. Sanger objected to the unnecessary suffering endured by these women, and she fought to make birth control information and contraceptives available. She also began dreaming of a "magic pill" to be used to control pregnancy. "No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother," Sanger said.
In 1914, Sanger started a feminist publication called The Woman Rebel, which promoted a woman's right to have birth control.
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