Fem. MARGARET SANGER gave us contraception

386/478 13 Apr 90 13:43:49
From: Coeta Mills
                      MARGARET SANGER

   Sanger's concern for women began in her  own  home  while
growing up.    According to her own account, she had watched
her mother wither and die, largely as the result  of  having
had too  many  children  too close together.  Later on, as a
nurse, Sanger saw more of the same:  young  women,  old  and
infirm  before  their  time  because of having more children
than they physically or emotionally cold tolerate.  All  too
often  Sanger  saw  their determination to control their own
fertility  expressed  in  seeking   help   from   back-alley
abortionists   or   attempting   to   terminate  pregnancies

   The turning point for Margaret Sanger, and  for  American
women,  came  on  a  steamy  summer day in 1912 when she was
summoned to a New York City tenement house to tend a Russian
Jewish woman who was  about  28  years  old.    The  woman's
husband,  Jake Sachs, had come home to the cramped apartment
and had  found  his  three  children  crying  and  his  wife
unconscious  on  the  floor  from  a  self-induced abortion.
Sanger did her best to patch the woman up, and after about 2
weeks it looked as if the patient would recover.  At the end
of her 3rd week of looking in on  Mrs.    Sachs,  the  frail
woman  said  to  Sanger,  "Another  baby  will  finish me, I
suppose?"  Sanger gently put the woman  off,  but  when  the
doctor came,  discussed  it with him.  The doctor agreed and
warned Mrs.  Sachs, "Any more such capers, young woman,  and
there'll be no need to send for me."  When Mrs.  Sachs asked
what  she  could do to prevent another pregnancy, the doctor
told her, "Tell Jake to sleep on the roof."

   After the  doctor  left,  Mrs.    Sachs  begged  Margaret
Sanger, "Please tell me the secret, and I'll never breath it
to another  soul".    Sadly, Sanger did not know the secret.
Yet, About 3 months after this exchange, Jake  Sachs  called
to say his wife was sick again--with the same problem.  With
utter dread,  Mrs.    Sanger  pushed  herself  to  go to the

   Mrs.  Sachs was in a coma and  died  within  10  minutes.
Mrs.   Sanger  folded  her  still  hands  across  her breast
remembering how they had pleaded, begging for the  knowledge
which was  her  right.    She drew the sheet over her pallid
face.  Jake was sobbing, running his hands through his  hair
and pulling  it out like an insane person.  Over and over he
wailed, "My God!  My God!  My God!"

   After leaving the young grief-stricken  husband  and  his
three  motherless  children, Sanger walked through the quiet
city streets for hours before going home.  She stood in  her
dark apartment staring out the window, with one tragic scene
after  another playing itself out in her consciousness with,
as she put it "photographic clarity", for the pathetic  Mrs.
Sachs was only one of many:

   Quote: "As  I  stood  there, the darkness faded.  The sun
came up and threw its reflection over the house  tops.    It
was the  dawn  of  a new day in my life also.  The doubt and
the questioning, the experimenting and trying, were  now  to
be put  behind  me.    I  knew I could not go back to merely
keeping people alive.  I went to bed knowing that no  matter
what  it  might  cost,  I  was finished with palliatives and
superficial cures; I was resolved to seek out  the  root  of
evil, to do something to change the destiny of mothers whose
miseries were as vast as the sky."  Unquote

   At  that time there were numerous states that had enacted
laws that banned the practice of  birth  control.    In  New
York,  there  were  laws  against "pornography" that made it
unlawful to disseminate any materials that made reference to
pregnancy, contraception,  or  veneral  disease.    Sanger's
greatest  adversary  would  prove  to  be  Anthony Comstock,
director of the Society for the Suppression of Vice  in  New
York  City,  who  invoked the law against pornography to get
Sanger arrested.  Interestingly, Comstock,  a  never-married
man,  like  many  anti-abortionists  today,  was  opposed to
contraception as well as abortion.

   Ultimately Sanger went to Europe seeking effective  birth
control.   She  went  to Holland for the purpose of bringing
the diaphragm to  American  women  and  she  was  in  for  a
surprise.   In contrast to the narrow-minded views regarding
birth control back home, Sanger found that not only did  the
diaphragm  come in fourteen different sizes, but it was sold
in shops  throughout  the  country!      Sanger's   research
indicated  that  as  a  result  of  effective birth control,
infant   and   maternal   mortality   rates   had    dropped

   She  devoted the rest of her life to the struggle to make
birth control available and  often  went  to  jail  for  the
cause.   At  the  time  of  her  death in 1966, although the
distribution of birth control devices was still illegal in 3
states,  most  American  women  had  access   to   effective
contraception,   including   not  only  the  diaphragm,  but
spermicides and the Pill.  An interesting footnote  is  that
the  Pill  might  not have come into use had it not been for
Margaret Sanger.  In the early  1950s,  it  was  Sanger  who
encouraged  Gregory Pincus to create the first birth-control
pill and raised the money for him to do it.  As  Dr.    John
Rock  (who  is often singly credited with the development of
the Pill, but was in fact a collaborator  with  Pincus)  has
noted,  there  was no government or foundation support, just
Margaret Sanger's influence on a woman willing to contribute
the necessary funds.