Margaret Sanger: Correcting the False Narratives of Racism

    By Miriam Reed | 30 June 2016
    Church and State

    Kids playing in rural South, c. 1940. (Photo: Rosalie Gwathmey)
    Kids playing in rural South, c. 1940. In 1966, on acceptance of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America Margaret Sanger Award, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. expressed his appreciation for the award and for the work of Sanger. (Photo: Rosalie Gwathmey)

    Adapted from chapter 35 of Miriam Reed’s book, Margaret Sanger: Her Life in Her Words (2004). The book is available at Kindle here.

    Chapter 35: The Negro Project

    In November 1939, with the infighting of the birth controllers settled by the formation of the Birth Control Federation of America, Sanger immediately put under its umbrella her Negro Project, with plans to make contraception available to black communities.1 Just as Sanger when sailing on the Viceroy of India deplored the superior attitude of the British toward the Indian citizens, when in Peking that of the Americans toward the Chinese, and on the Japanese liners that of the whites toward the Orientals, equally she deplored the racism that permeated American culture.2 Margaret Sanger believed that every woman should have the right to control her fertility, that every mother should be able to decide for herself how many children she could care for, and that in this way a better life was ensured for the entire family. It did not even occur to her to categorize a mother as black, white, yellow, or other.

    Despite the assertion by some blacks that birth control was a tool to exterminate the black race, as early as 1918, the Women’s Political Association of Harlem expressed the interest of the black community in birth control, and 1923 their leaders invited Sanger to come to Harlem and speak.3 On December 7, 1932, Sanger was again invited to Harlem, where she lectured at the Abyssinian Baptist Church.4 Over the years Sanger enjoyed the support of W.E.B. DuBois, Mary McLeod Bethune, and the Reverend Adam Clayton Powell Jr., pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church; the NAACP; the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses; National Negro Youth Administration; the Urban League, and the National Council of Negro Women.

    From its inception, the Birth Control Review carried articles and stories sensitive to American racism and expressing the black point of view. The September 1919 issue of the Review was dedicated to the “Negro Question” and included articles such as “The New Emancipation” and “The Negroes’ Need for Birth Control, as Seen by Themselves,” along with Angelina W. Grimke’s “The Closing Door,” a two-part story exploring racism in the September and October 1919 issues.

    Sanger had her first opportunity to speak to an audience of blacks and whites together in November of 1919, when William Oscar Saunders, the liberal editor of a progressive weekly in North Carolina, invited Sanger to Elizabeth City, a shipping town of cotton and hosiery mills. Thirty-seven percent of its population was black. In North Carolina, no laws forbade North Carolinians from discussing contraception, and at her afternoon lecture in Elizabeth City, Sanger had an attendance of about eight hundred. After the lecture, in response to demand, Sanger discussed birth control with about two hundred women in a women-only meeting. That evening, at the request of their committee, Sanger spoke at a local black church, the next morning at a black normal school, and in the afternoon, still within the black community, on methods of birth control to a women-only meeting.5

    Reporting on her North Carolina trip in the Birth Control Review, Sanger wrote,

    Never have I met with more sympathy, more serious attention more complete understanding than in my addresses to the white and black people of this Southern mill town…. These audiences were a striking demonstration of birth control’s universal message of freedom and betterment.6

    In the North, Sanger’s first organized effort to assist the blacks specifically resulted in the Harlem Clinic, opened in 1930 by the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau. At the time of the opening of the Harlem Clinic, the need was clear: “In 1929 out of a thousand births there were 101 deaths among Negro children as compared with 56 among white children.”7 The Harlem Clinic was endorsed, again, by many important black community leaders including W.E.B. DuBois and Mary McLeod Bethune and the local black paper, the Amsterdam News, but in four years of operation, half of the patients visiting the clinic were white. Although a black physician and a black social worker were hired, the white origins of the clinic and the lingering sentiments of Marcus Garvey—who demanded more, not fewer, babies from black women—had their influence.

    Nor is there any denying the racism of some of the white women working at the Harlem clinic, a matter that Sanger immediately and forcefully addressed. For instance, when Antoinette Field, a nurse at the Harlem Clinic turned in a report claiming that the colored patients “failed to keep to definite time for appointments” because of “irresponsibility and laziness,” she received a sharp rejoinder from Sanger:

    Dear Miss Field:

    Never, never in your report state what you do not know. The word “laziness” is out of date. On what do you base such but your own notion. Try to make reports accurate based on knowledge.

    Miss Field was shortly let go.8 But a chief obstacle to acceptance of the Harlem Clinic was the lack of an inexpensive and dependable contraceptive. The New York Clinical Research Bureau, because it had found diaphragm and jelly to be the safest contraceptive, prescribed it exclusively. But research showed a strong correlation between continued use of the diaphragm and income level. For women on low income without private bathroom, the diaphragm and jelly was too expensive and difficult to use. Eighty-three percent of the Harlem clinic users were on public or private relief. The Harlem Clinic closed in 1937, never having been fully used by the black community.9

    Yet experience with the Harlem Clinic had its uses, for it refuted the myth of black promiscuity that circulated and made clear that black women were as open to contraception as were white. But for both white and black women, the problem of a simple, safe, inexpensive contraceptive remained.

    Due to segregation policies in the South, the birth control clinics that opened in the 1930s were for white women only. Sanger wanted to change that. She sought to open clinics in the South staffed by black doctors and nurses, and to educate black women about contraception.

    Clarence Gamble was throughout his life concerned with this problem; he funded a number of Sanger’s projects and many of his own along this line. His clinical trials in North Carolina of foam and sponge contraceptives and the fieldwork of Hazel Moore in Virginia in the late thirties demonstrated the interest of black women in contraception.10 And when Sanger toured the South in the fall of 1938, she saw for herself the neglect of government services that the black community suffered. Concerned that blacks were not being properly served and conscious of the oppression and disadvantage that they lived under, Sanger knew that “birth control knowledge brought to this [Negro] group is the most direct, constructive aid that can be given them to improve their immediate situation.”11 With this in mind, Sanger began the Negro Project.

    Working with Florence Rose, her loyal secretary, tireless worker, and zealous birth control advocate; and Mary Reinhardt, soon to be Mary Reinhardt Lasker, the women sought funding from Albert Lasker, recently retired from advertising and beginning his medical philanthropic career.12 Sanger requested of Lasker funds to train a “modern minister, colored, and an up and doing modern colored medical man” at the New York clinic, who would then tour and educate black communities in the South. Sanger well understood the justified resentment of the blacks to white teachings and preachings and the necessity for black individuals to be the educators of their own community. Her earlier experiences in Harlem, her interactions with many black leaders, and her common sense had made this very clear to her, and in setting up the Negro Project, she stated,

    I do not believe that this project should be directed or run by white medical men. The Federation should direct it with the guidance and assistance of the colored group.13

    If black leaders devoted a year to educating their people, then, Sanger pointed out birth control clinics could be established as a result of demand, and black communities would have contraception available to them. In reiterating the need for blacks themselves to be involved in their birth control education, Sanger wrote, in a letter whose last sentence has been much misquoted,

    It seems to me from my experience … that while the colored Negroes have great respect for white doctors they can get closer to their own members…. If we can train the Negro doctor at the Clinic he can go among them with enthusiasm and with knowledge, which, I believe, will have far reaching results among the colored people…. The minister’s work is also important, and he should also be trained, perhaps by the Federation as to our ideals and the goal that we hope to reach. We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.14

    From such a statement taken out of context, writers Angela Davis and Dinesh D’Souza, among others, have spread the lie that Sanger was a racist and by implication that contraception and birth control lead to race suicide.15 This is an unfortunate insinuation, insulting to black women—and all women—who may not want more children than they can care for, and showing as well ignorance of the relationship between birthrate and infant mortality.16

    Lasker did fund Sanger’s Negro Project, but unfortunately, once funded, it was taken over by white bureaucrats who had no interest in allowing the black community to educate themselves. No black doctors were hired, and understandably black women were not about to go to white doctors to be fitted for a diaphragm. The Negro Project lapsed into a few demonstration clinics that toured parts of the South. There, progress was stymied by both white racist bureaucrats and an unsuitable contraceptive method—the diaphragm and jelly—which was simply not practical at a time when many in the South were without indoor plumbing and running water.17

    With Sanger off in Arizona, the Negro Project was placed under the renamed Planned Parenthood of America’s newly created Special Projects Department, where Florence Rose doggedly kept it going. At the 1942 annual meeting, the meeting at which the Planned Parenthood name change was announced, Florence Rose arranged for Dorothy Boulding Ferebee, an outstanding black physician, to give a paper, “Planned Parenthood as a Public Health Measure for the Negro Race.” Ferebee listed the arguments being brought against birth control within black communities: 1) Birth control encourages race suicide; 2) The men object; 3) Birth control is confused with abortion; 4) Birth control is considered immoral.

    Ferebee’s presentation made little impact. In the face of federation indifference, Florence Rose, with her indefatigable zeal, pushed on, mounting exhibits, arranging local and national press coverage, and flooding every black organization existent in America with birth control literature. The bureaucrats caught up with Rose, however, and when she was forced out of the federation as a Sanger sympathizer, the Negro Project was out as well.

    But life has its mysterious ways. The Laskers were good personal friends of F.D.R. and Eleanor Roosevelt. With the accession of F.D.R. to a third term, Eleanor felt free to come out—quietly—for birth control, in great part because of her concern for American blacks, aware as she, like Sanger, was of the benefits birth control could give the black community.18 Coincidentally, in 1941, came the need to ensure that women working in the World War II factories would not become pregnant. And so in the name of the war effort and with the strength of F.D.R.’s third-term hold on office and despite the stranglehold of the Catholic Church on the Roosevelt administration, birth control moved quietly, without any publicity, at last, finally, into a federal government program where it had long belonged.

    In May 1942, the U.S. Public Health Service supported “child spacing for women in war industries, under medical supervision,” an area judged of federal concern, offering a program that was free, nominally at least, from the constraints of racism, a move that then opened the way for other family planning offerings in government.19

    Fast forward to 2003: In the United States, as federal funding is consistently slashed, women of all colors are denied access to abortion, to contraception, and under the banner of the Abstinence Program, to honest sex education.20

    Throughout all of these years of infighting, Margaret Sanger had her own very personal involvement with a black woman, Daisy Mitchell, her longtime employee, who was for forty years maid, cook, and caretaker.21 Daisy called Margaret “My Madam,” and always approached Margaret with sweetness and charm. With others, the sweetness was somewhat less. In fact, she was known to be “mean as a snake,” especially when she later worked for Grant and his wife, Edwina. “This is ma kitchen. Get outta here,” was her standard greeting. Stuart on his occasional visits would shake his head and giggle.22

    Noah Slee found Daisy difficult. After dinner and dishes, Daisy would come into the living room, sit in a corner, and listen while conversation went on. Finally, Noah would say, “What are you doing in here, Daisy?” “Gettin’ an education. Jes’ getting’ an education,” was her reply. But the best Daisy story came with an Italian dinner that Noah and Margaret were giving. A jug of Italian wine had been set out for the dinner. When Margaret asked Daisy to bring the wine, Daisy said she didn’t “know nuthin’ ’bout no wine.” “Of course you do. I put it right on the bottom shelf in the main cupboard,” responded Margaret. After a few minutes, Daisy came back with a wine jug that was empty. Margaret, dumfounded, said, “Daisy, what happened to the wine?” To which Daisy replied, “Evaporation. Pure evaporation, ma’am.”23

    When her working days were over, the Sanger family found a retirement home for Daisy where she was comfortable, paying for her care there until she died. Daisy was buried in Fishkill next to Margaret Sanger at the implicit request of both.

    The civil rights movement of the sixties remembered Sanger’s stubborn defiance. Her willingness to step forward in the name of rights for the dispossessed put her in jail for thirty days and brought other arrests, but by defying prejudice with nonviolence and an insistent disregard for inhumane laws, she created a template for challenging the status quo. In 1966, on acceptance of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America Margaret Sanger Award, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. expressed his appreciation for the award and for the work of Sanger.24

    There is a striking kinship between our movement and Margaret Sanger’s early efforts…. Our sure beginning in the struggle for equality by nonviolent direct action may not have been so resolute without the tradition established by Margaret Sanger.25

    The Manuscript

    Within the context of the above history, the message of this letter by Sanger is beautifully clear. D. Kenneth Rose had been with John Price Jones, the company that had mediated the merger of the Clinical Research Bureau and Robertson-Jones’ American Birth Control League. Rose then became national director of the new Birth Control Federation of America.26 He was part of the all-male leadership that would now head the birth control movement, who believed that only with male leadership could birth control become generally accepted, since the organizations on which birth control depended were run by men. It was, after all, men who were the heads of “Federal and State legislatures, hospital boards, public health boards, etc.” government, business, and finance.27 It was one point of view. Considering the advances one woman had made over two decades despite the men in high places and despite the opposition of men in church and federal governments, Margaret Sanger had not done so badly.

    The End of the Negro Project:
    A Letter from Margaret Sanger to Ken Rose
    28

    F.R. Return to MS please [Handwritten notation]

    2318 East Elm Street
    February 8, 1945

    Dear Ken:

    Yours of January 25th regarding the negro programme has been received. Please be assured that my notes on the back of the printed programme were not intended to be “a blast,” but simply an intimation of the impression made by a lack of any mention of negro work on the programme. It was especially impressive to me, for I as one was mainly responsible for arousing interest in the negro programme, obtaining the first twenty thousand dollars from Mr. Lasker. After that, and knowing that the end of his contribution had come for that particular project, I got Mrs. Fuld and D[oris] D[uke] to continue their already keen interest.29 So, dear Ken, if you call my slight criticism a blast, then I only regret I did not go “all out” in what I really feel in disappointment on that. I realize, of course, that the project would be taken up and discussed somewhere during the annual meeting, but the fact that the plans and programmes for negro education are discussed during the work shop session is symbolic of the treatment the negro work has been granted from the beginning, three years ago. You have often complained to me that the negro problem was kept isolated and made a side issue from the Federation’s general work by Florence Rose. You rightly protested, and I agreed with you, that it should not be hidden in a corner, but should be part of the whole general National Education Plan of the Federation. But quite recently I have especially watched the reports of the Federation and noticed that nowhere for the past year in field reports or elsewhere has any notice or report been printed on negro activities.

    I have spoken on at least two occasions to Mrs. Trent and suggested that her reports carry some mention of negro activities in the States that her report covered, and she promised and agreed that it was a good idea and it should be done, but such good appeasing resolutions and promises have, like many other things, gone with the wind.30 I do not know just what your aim is in trying to keep up the loyalties and interest and enthusiasm of former members of both the [American Birth Control] League and the [Clinical Research] Bureau, but certainly confining discussions and plans and programmes to the employees and to workshop sessions puts a tremendous limit on enthusiasm and interest and those other old-timers who have not been consulted. Personally, I find that I have lost enthusiasm for your negro project, though I am deeply interested in the whole racial question and in the progress and freedom of the negroes in this country. Pearl Buck in her East and West organization, where I contribute a wee $5.00 a year, pays me the compliment of asking my opinion on issues of national and international importance before these questions are taken up in the policy committees. There are so many splendid movements going on of national importance today and many that I am deeply interested in, that it is very hard to hold one’s self down to activities that have been in the past when a new world is being made all around us. At one time little Florence Rose did her best to keep me informed by sending me her negro reports, but for the last year she has not done this nor has she discussed any phase of her activities within the Federation with me any more than Mrs. Trent, Miss Delp or Mrs. McKennon.31 Consequently, I am adverse to having my name on any committee that is supposed to know what is going on. It is only my own natural integrity and honesty that the public supporters have respected in the past, as they found that we were never playing a game, but that we did carry out our promises to them, and kept them fully informed. I appreciate and agree with you that being so far away, especially during the winter months, is a handicap, and only when some one person has sought my interest and through him or her that I could regularly communicate, could this distance not be a handicap, but you as Director of the Federation have no right to be tied down to the past, or to past personalities, no matter how highly they may regard their own experience. You have had my full cooperation on the majority of ideas and activities that you have wanted to put through, but your short experience of the Movement, plus your being tied to one spot cannot give you the vision nor the background to become the one single person in the movement to dictate how others more experienced must think, or curtail their activities, unless such are cleared through you.

    I am one hundred per cent behind Dr. Gamble’s and Dr. Dickinson’s protest regarding this curtailment of Field or State support, because I realize how not wanting to go over your head, I have gradually withdrawn my own interest, enthusiasm, and activities from this State and from the Tucson Birth Control work as well, for by the time I get to dictate a letter to you on what I should like to do plus getting a group together here, and getting them to decide on activities, I find they resent the idea of having to wait for Mr. Rose or any other person in far-off New York to tell them what they shall do in this locality, so I am free to confess that after one or two attempts this got me down so I decided to take up the more interesting work of painting the mountains.32

    Now as to yours of January 25th, I do sincerely appreciate your wanting to keep me informed, and a weekly letter is, of course, the ideal means of doing this. But I know too well what the pressure on you is, and far too great for you to take up this obligation, and personally I do not think it is worth the effort now. It is a little late to get me all hot and bothered over Federation activities, and I am glad to say that I feel that you have such a splendid support and such excellent personalities around you that you can well go straight ahead.

    I was always anxious and desirous that you send out a news letter personally signed by you to old friends and to large contributors at least once a month. I made a habit of doing this for many years, and I was always able to return to the “big shots” for a renewal of their contribution with practically never a refusal. Even the largest of them were pleased and complimented that they had not only been informed as to good results, but of conflicts and doubts as well.

    Mr. Packard, Miss Paschal, Mrs. Field and dozens of others used to say that they knew more of what was going on in the Movement through the reports from the Bureau than anywhere else, and we made it our business to see that they were informed and it worked out.33 If little Miss Rose is too nave to think that the present set-up in the P.P.F. cares to know what M.S. or other contributors thought or wanted, it just shows how unfitted she is for her present job. She never belonged to the Spartans with routine and drill, but more did she belong to the Athenians who were guided by a spirit of cooperation and usefulness, and as such her accomplishments are eternal in the hearts of her coworkers at least. But she is now guided by you as Director, and if she does not fit into the Spartan spirit, you have every right to let her go.

    I want to thank you again for the telegram you sent me regarding the United States Supreme Court’s decision on Connecticut. The local morning paper carried the statement of the Court the next day. I hope the telegram that I sent to you to be read at the dinner was adequate, for I did not want to just repeat what I gathered was to be the theme of the dinner speakers.

    I think, dear Ken, that my reply to Mrs. Meli’s letter is final, for there is no real reason to make an exception of me. If at a later period I could come to meetings regularly, perhaps I shall then be invited to come back on the Board, but you shall need all the Field help that you can lay your hands on now for the duration, and as such you have my best wishes and loyal spiritual support.

    Most cordially,
    MS

    Mr. D. Kenneth Rose
    501 Madison Avenue
    New York, N.Y.

    MSS/B

    A Second Manuscript

    Sanger never hesitated to speak out against racism, as this letter to Gray Bus Lines in defense of Daisy shows.

    June 19, 1938
    Gray Bus Lines of New York
    254 West 61st Street
    New York City

    Attention General Manager:

    Dear Sir:

    I wish to enter a complaint and make a vigorous protest against the treatment accorded a colored woman in my employ who came from Tucson, Arizona, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, several weeks ago on your bus. Her name is Mrs. Daisy Mitchell. She has been in my family for over fifteen years. She bought a ticket at Tucson, Arizona, to Philadelphia.

    She was refused food at the various stations where your bus stopped because she was colored. Fortunately, she had a little food with her, but not enough to last her the entire way. Various passengers on the line helped obtain a sandwich or a cup of coffee for her. But she was refused food at various stops through the state of Kansas. In fact, it was in Madison, Ohio, that she was able to get some food. This was the only place where it was possible for her to have something to eat. Even a cup of coffee was refused her through Kansas and at Wheeling, West Virginia.

    When she arrived in Philadelphia, she was ill. It seems to me the most inconsiderate procedure for any organization to accept the responsibility of transporting a client to a certain destination and not make arrangements for the various necessities of the journey. Perhaps you can explain this to me to my satisfaction. I certainly am anxious to know how you could allow this discrimination or at least why you do not provide against it if it exists in certain states.

    Sincerely yours,
    National Chairman
    NS/SL

    Notes

    1 In 1938, both the American Birth Control League and Sanger’s newly formed Committee on Public Progress were lobbying Congress for government sponsorship of birth control. It was clear that these efforts were confusing to potential supporters and that a united front was needed, particularly since the Catholic Church was such an effective and well-heeled lobbyist against birth control.

    2 To call Sanger a racist would be laughable were it not such a serious charge. Although she may have been autocratic with her peers, never was Sanger less than just with the women and mothers who came to her. As she noted on her visit to Hawaii, “What surprised and pleased me most was the complete absence of race prejudice. I looked out over faces, mostly American but with a liberal sprinkling of Chinese and Japanese in their native costumes and Hawaiian in bright Mother Hubbards. Honolulu was the only place I had found where, class for class, internationalism did exist.” Sanger, An Autobiography, pp. 317-318, 343-344, 464; “Birth Control in China and Japan,” Reel 128, The Papers of Margaret Sanger, Library of Congress.

    3 Peter C. Engelman and Cathy Moran Hajo, “Margaret Sanger and the Question of Racism,” Margaret Sanger Papers Project, New York University, Department of History, New York, N.Y. 10003, p. 2.

    4 Container 221, The Papers of Margaret Sanger, Library of Congress.

    5 Katz, Selected Papers, pp. 262-263.

    6 “Breaking into the South—A Contrast,” Birth Control Review, Volume III, Number 12 [December 1919], p. 7.

    7 Reel 32, The Papers of Margaret Sanger, Library of Congress.

    8 Similarly, when Sanger received a letter from Mabel K. Staupers of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses, dated August 2, 1935, in which Staupers pointed to the “childish procedures” used by the white women who dealt with the black nurses, Sanger responded immediately and regretfully. By this time, however, the Clinical Research Bureau was not involved with the Harlem Clinic, having turned its management over to the Harlem Advisory Committee. Reel 33, The Papers of Margaret Sanger, Library of Congress.

    9 Chesler, Woman of Valor, pp. 296-298.

    10 Hazel Moore, a savvy professional lobbyist who knew her way around Washington politics, worked for Sanger in the National Committee on Federal Legislation for Birth Control. She was a fieldworker for the Birth Control Federation of America and for Clarence Gamble, for whom she distributed foam and sponges in the North Carolina trials in the late thirties.

    11 “Birth Control or Race Control? Sanger and the Negro Project,” Sanger Papers Project Newsletter, Number 28 (Fall 2001), p. 1.

    12 In 1940, Mary Reinhardt Lasker was Secretary and on the Executive Committee and the Board of Directors of the National Birth Control Federation of America. Albert Lasker, who died in 1952, was an innovative advertising executive, who established the Lasker Foundation in 1942 to promote medical research. After his marriage to Mary Rhinehart, they oversaw the work of the Foundation together, and after his death, Mary continued the work.

    13 “Birth Control or Race Control? Sanger and the Negro Project,” Sanger Papers Project Newsletter, Number 28 (Fall 2001), p. 3.

    14 Quoted, Engelman and Hajo, “Questions of Racism,” Primary Documents, p. 4.

    15 The statements of many individuals are attributed to Margaret Sanger, regardless of their source, such as this which follows by W.E.B. DuBois, when he was writing for the June 1932 issue of the Birth Control Review. DuBois, founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, in his discussion of the effects of birth control on quality of life for blacks, says: “The mass of ignorant Negroes still breed carelessly and disastrously, so that the increase among Negroes, even more than the increase among whites, is from that portion of the population least intelligent and fit, and least able to rear their children properly.”

    16 Going as far back as her studies in Europe with Dr. Rutgers and drawing from many studies on the matter, Sanger proved, as have others, that child spacing reduces infant mortality and that the more closely spaced are the infants, the higher the death rate and the more sickly the infant. See “To Mothers—Our Duty” and “Margaret Sanger as Feminist Author” herein.

    17 Some of the Lasker money did go into hiring a few black nurses, who successfully taught contraception in areas of Tennessee and North Carolina.

    18 Pressure on Roosevelt and his government by Roman Catholic leadership required that Eleanor Roosevelt keep mute on her support of birth control, as witness the opprobrium she endured when she merely attended the American Woman’s Association dinner honoring Sanger in 1931 with the AWA medal.

    19 U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Thomas Parran Jr., who originally refused to supply even condoms to protect against syphilis, under Eleanor Roosevelt-instigated pressure in 1942 finally stated that he would support family planning programs originating with the states. Chesler, Woman of Valor, pp. 381, 389-390.

    20 Many Catholic hospitals, to which poor women are assigned under government programs, deny contraception. In the state of New York, this has been a contentious matter in the New York State legislature. See, for instance, articles in the New York Times under these headlines: “Albany Bill Would Cover Birth Control,“ February 4, 2002; “Playing Politics with Women’s Health: Cardinal Lobbies Against Bill for Contraceptive Coverage,” March 13, 2002; “Bishops Sue State to Block Coverage for Birth Control,” June 4, 2002. From 1980 to 2000, government spending on family planning and contraceptive services has been cut sixty-five percent. In addition, a maze of state laws make obtaining an abortion both difficult and emotionally wearing. States can require counseling, a waiting period, parental consents or notification; insurance does not cover abortion, even in the case of rape (and often not contraception); and providers are subject to bombings, arson, vandalism, protests, and blockades. Finally, the Hyde amendment forbids federal funds for abortion. Under these conditions, not unexpectedly, abortion providers are steadily declining. In the year 2000, “34% of women aged 15-44 lived in the 87% of the counties with no provider, and 86% of the nation’s 276 metropolitan areas had no [abortion] provider.” Lawrence B. Finer and Stanley K. Henshaw, “Abortion Incidence and Services in the United States in 2000,” Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, Alan Guttmacher Institute, New York.

    21 Daisy Mitchell (1883-1959) was working for J. J. Goldstein, the attorney who handled the Brownsville case, when Goldstein gave a dinner in honor of Sanger and Mitchell was the cook. As Mitchell writes, “I put my best Foot forward, with the Dinner I had taken a liking to Mrs. Sanger & I went to work Part Time for Mrs. S…. [In the year of 1917 or 1916] Mrs. Sanger Went to Europe for a Month or 2. When she return I was here with open arms. Mrs. S. Brought Back a wonderful pair of Shoes. Later on, something Happen so I took them to a Shoe Maker. Not from where Mrs. S. live. I went for them & he told me I did not bring them their. I was so angry with him I was going to hit him with a shoe last but Mrs. S. believe me from then on I love her & Mrs. S. love me I was put in charge of the 2 young boys. In the summer we went to Turo until the open of their school…. Dr Grant & they look after me in my aged. I will not say old aged. It really do not seem that I have been with them 42 years in 1958. I go to Mt. Kisco in the Summer for 2 or 3 month to be with Dr & Mrs. Grant Sanger & their family. Still hold My own here is a photo of Me when I came Home from the Hospital 1953. I have been in the Sanger Family for 42 years. May God bless them.” In the winters, Mitchell was living in the “Aged Colored Home Brooklyn. NY.” Daisy Mitchell to Olive Byrne Richard, February 24, 1958. Courtesy of Margaret Sanger Lampe.

    22 As told to the author by Margaret Sanger Lampe.

    23 Lader, Margaret Sanger Story, pp. 271-272.

    24 “Family Planning, A Special and Urgent Concern,” acceptance speech, May 5, 1966.

    25 D. Kenneth Rose, a Yale man, took an exceedingly cautious approach in his leadership, apparently believing that in so doing the Catholic hierarchy would tolerate incorporation of contraceptives into federal programs. As part of this strategy, in 1942 he oversaw the name change from Birth Control Federation of America to Planned Parenthood Federation of America and emphasized child spacing.

    26 Chesler, Woman of Valor, p. 392.

    27 Margaret Sanger to Ken Rose, Reel 117, The Papers of Margaret Sanger, Library of Congress.

    28 Mrs. Felix Fuld had funded the Harlem Clinic, and Doris Duke, the tobacco heiress, supported Sanger regularly throughout the years.

    29 Kathryn Trent was director, Regional Organizational Department of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

    30 Mildred Delp, a nurse employed by the Farm Security Administration to work in the “Okie” camps on the West Coast, seeing the need for birth control, wrote to Margaret Sanger for information and supplies. Delp was instrumental in spreading birth control services by 1940 into migrant farm worker camps throughout Arizona and California. Lader, Margaret Sanger Story, pp. 307-308. Edna Rankin McKinnon, the sister of Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin, worked with Sanger on the National Committee for Federal Legislation, assisted in the field trials of sponges and foam in North Carolina, and was a part of the Bombay conference.

    31 Dr. Gamble is Clarence James Gamble, Dr. Dickinson is Robert Latou Dickinson, the prominent gynecologist who founded the Committee on Maternal Health in 1923. Sanger, typically, gathered the most prominent women of Tucson to contribute to founding the Tucson Birth Control Clinic.

    32 Mr. Arthur Packard was longtime senior manager of the Rockefeller Foundation charitable staff.

    33 Mrs. Henry J. Mali was chairman of the regional committee of the Birth Control Federation of America.

    Miriam Reed earned her Ph.D. from the Comparative Literature Department of University of California, Los Angeles, in 1980. She has published Oscar Wilde’s Vera and has taught English composition and rhetoric from the basis of her textbook, How to Write Great Prose (almost) Instantly. Miriam Reed is an actress and the writer of her one-woman shows on powerful women: Louisa May Alcott: Living Little Women; Oscar Wilde’s Women; Talking Abortion, and of course, Margaret Sanger: Radiant Rebel.

    Margaret Sanger Her Life

    Margaret Sanger – Mini Biography

    A Brief History of Contraception

    Be sure to ‘like’ us on Facebook

    LEAVE A REPLY

    Please enter your comment!
    Please enter your name here