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Margaret Sanger - Feminism and WomenMargaret Sanger - Feminism and Women


Margaret Sanger (1879-1966)


American feminist (pictured right) who:

  • campaigned to legalize contraception (being the first person to call it birth control).
  • helped to develop a contraceptive pill.


Why was she successful and influential?


1. Women’s liberation

Sanger believed in


a) birth control

(to give women greater control over their lives).Margaret Sanger - Feminism and Women

She saw her Irish mother’s early death, worn out by 18 pregnancies and 11 live births.

Her campaign for birth control inspired the women’s liberation movement in the 1960’s, led in America by Betty Friedan (pictured right).


b) women's role in society

Sanger believed that women’s mission was to:

“create a human world by the infusion of the feminine element into all of its activities”.

 Margaret Sanger - Feminism and Women

2. Courage and determination

In 1914 she launched a monthly feminist newspaper, The Woman Rebel, supporting birth control, even though it was illegal.

Sanger was:

  • charged with promoting obscenity.
  • strongly opposed by the Roman Catholic Church.

The strength of her opponents prevented the legalization of birth control in America until:

  • 1965 (for married couples).
  • 1972 (for single people).

 Margaret Sanger - Feminism and Women

3. Revolutionary


  • was the first person who publicly campaigned for birth control, having been encouraged by her father to be radical and question everything.
  • published the Birth Control Review  1917-29 (pictured right in 1919)
  • opened in 1916 America’s first family planning clinic for women in Brooklyn, New York, despite being jailed for 30 days.
  • founded the American Birth Control League in 1921 (now called Planned Parenthood).
  • organized the first international conference on world population control.

 Margaret Sanger - Feminism and Women

4. Principles

Sanger (pictured right with her two sons c1919) was dedicated to the principle that women must have the right to control their own destinies.

So she believed that social and economic obstacles to women's equality must be removed:

  • poor education.
  • poverty.
  • discrimination (particularly against African Americans).

She did not say, as some people believe, “more children from the fit, less from the unfit - that is the chief issue of birth control”.

But she did controversially support:

  • eugenics (which aims to improve the quality of people's genes).
  • birth control and sterilization for the genetically 'inferior'.


Key quotes on women

Woman must not accept, she must challenge.

No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will, or will not be, a mother.

A free race cannot be born of slave mothers.

Nothing short of contraceptives can put an end to the horrors of abortion and infanticide.

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