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A wealth of information about the birth-control movement and the dedicated woman who was long at the center of it. There was a problem adding your email address. Please try again.


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ISBN 13: 9780809067572

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Born in , the mother of birth control was one of 11 children. The former was a devout Catholic who was pregnant 18 times during her year marriage.

From these beginnings, Margaret Sanger became one of the most important reformers in American history - a woman who by the mids needed no introduction, certainly not to women desperate for information about how to limit their families. Thousands of them wrote her directly, needing to put nothing more on the envelope than "Margaret Sanger, New York. Sadly, as historian Jean H. Baker notes in her new biography "Margaret Sanger: A Life of Passion," Sanger has gone from renown to unknown - unclaimed by feminists critical of her support of eugenics, and thoughtlessly overlooked by a country still uncomfortable with women's reproductive rights.

Sanger's young life was defined by her class - she was born to a poor Irish family in upstate New York - her father's suspicion of religion, and her mother's bad health.

As a young adult, she attended nursing school, but dropped out shortly after marrying. Before long, she was living in the suburbs with three children. This, however, was as conventional as Sanger ever got - and it didn't last for long. There, she worked as a nurse on the Lower East Side, where she saw the effects of the Comstock laws, which made it illegal, even for medicinal reasons, to mail any "erotic" materials, including information and devices related to masturbation, abortion and contraception.

Even medical textbooks could not mention these things.


One night in , Sanger helped a doctor attend to a woman, Sadie Sachs , ill from a botched abortion. Sachs had begged the doctor for information about contraception, but the doctor refused. In New York, it was illegal even to give oral information about contraception. A few months later, Sanger was called back to the same apartment, where Sadie died from septicemia, the result of self-inflicted abortion.

She was 28 and the mother of three.


Margaret Sanger: A Life of Passion - AbeBooks - Jean H. Baker:

From that moment, birth control became, as Baker puts it, "the plot of Margaret Sanger's life. Her first act was to print publications that unabashedly promised defiance of the Comstock laws - and delivered. For this a warrant for her arrest was made, punishable by up to 40 years in prison.

To avoid this, she fled to England for a year. When she returned, the charges were dropped, though her activism continued, often in the form of clinics that disseminated contraceptive information to mothers and she eventually landed in jail plenty. It's questionable whether Baker's biography adds much to Ellen Chesler 's "Woman of Valor: Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control Movement in America," but nearly pages shorter, it is concise and still comprehensive.

While she decries it, Baker notes that Sanger's support of eugenics was in accordance with the day's leading scientists. Baker also notes that Sanger never supported eugenics to propagate the white race, as many did, but only to control suffering brought on by overpopulation. Baker especially excels at capturing the radicalness of Sanger's movement. There were other female reformers in her time, supporting suffrage and temperance, but while controversial, these issues were more or less considered acceptable female "complaints. Best of all, Sanger never held back.