Quote of the day: MARGARET SANGER

November 20, 2011

MARGARET SANGER
The first birth-control clinic in the United States opened on October 16, 1916, on Amboy Street in Brooklyn. There were two rooms, and three employees: Ethel Byrne, a nurse; Fania Mindell, a receptionist who was fluent in Yiddish; and Byrne’s sister, Margaret Sanger, a thirty-seven-year-old nurse and mother…Between 1912 and 1913, Sanger wrote a twelve-part series for The Call, the socialist daily, titled “What Every Girl Should Know.” Because any discussion of venereal matters violated the Comstock law, Sanger’s final essay, “Some Consequences of Ignorance and Silence,” was banned on the ground of obscenity. By way of protest, The Call ran, in place of the essay, an announcement: “’What Every Girl Should Know’ – NOTHING!”…
In 1914, Sanger began publishing The Woman Rebel, an eight-page feminist monthly, in which she coined the term “birth control”…[The following year she rented a storefront and opened the birth control clinic that eventually became Planned Parenthood.] Nine days later, an undercover policewoman came, posing as a mother of two who couldn’t afford any more children. Mindell sold her a copy of “What Every Girl Should Know.” Byrne discussed contraception with her. The next day, the police arrived, arrested Sanger, confiscated an examination table, and shut down the clinic…
At Sanger’s trial, during which the judge waved a cervical cap from the bench, Sanger hoped to argue that the law preventing the distribution of contraception was unconstitutional; exposing women, against their will, to the danger of dying in childbirth violated a woman’s right t life. But the judge ruled that no woman had “the right to copulate with a feeling of security that there will be no resulting conception.” In other words, if a woman wasn’t willing to die in childbirth, she shouldn’t have sex. Sanger went to Queens County Penitentiary. She was sentenced to thirty days.

— Jill Lepore, “Birthright: what’s next for Planned Parenthood?,” The New Yorker

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