because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Margaret Sanger

Margaret Sanger was the sixth of eleven children born to her devout Catholic mother who got pregnant eighteen times in twenty-two years before she died at only fifty years of age. It may be this graphic reality that inspired Sanger to say over and over later in her life: "No woman can call herself free that does not own and control her own body."

After becoming a nurse and working with poverty-stricken immigrant women on the East Side of Manhattan in New York City, Sanger was further disheartened by seeing the effects of multiple pregnancies and self-induced abortions that were common among her patients. So, in 1914, she began producing an eight-page monthly newsletter promoting contraception and other radical ideas. It was entitled, of course, The Woman Rebel and freely discussed what she called "birth control." As if this wasn't enough, Sanger and her husband also made available a booklet called Family Limitation, describing in clear detail various methods to prevent pregnancy.

At the time, federal anti-obscenity laws banned dissemination of such information, which Sanger perfectly well knew. And in truth, within a few months, she'd been charged with violating obscenity laws and "inciting murder and assassination." So she left the country. By the time she returned the following year, however, support for her and her work was so strong that the government ultimately had to drop the charges.

It doesn't take much to encourage an in-your-face woman to do what she wants to do anyway, so Sanger soon opened the first family planning and birth control clinic in the United States, where she began distributing, among other things, diaphragms imported from Denmark and widely used in Europe but not typically available in America. Nine days later, she was arrested again and this time she was tried and convicted, but she was offered a deal if she would just stop doing what she was doing. Her response: "I cannot respect the law as it exists today."

Even though the judge in that case ruled that "women do not have the right to copulate with the security that there will be no resulting conception" and sentenced Sanger to twenty days in jail, a subsequent appellate court eventually ruled that doctors could prescribe contraception. And in-your-face woman Margaret Sanger had beaten the big boys. In court.

No comments:

Post a Comment