Happy Birthday, Margaret Sanger!

margaret-sangerMargaret Higgins Sanger was born on September 14, 1879 into a large family with 11 surviving children, to a Catholic mother and an atheist father. Her mother died at about age 50 from tuberculosis. As young Margaret saw it, her tubercular mother died too early because she was worn out from her 18 pregnancies, and would cite this as one of the many reasons she so passionately advocated for the right of women to control their own bodies.

She went on to become a nurse who worked with poor women in New York City in the 19-‘teens and twenties. As she saw these women struggle with the toll that uncontrolled pregnancies took on their families’ finances and their own health, Sanger became convinced that ‘birth control’, a term she invented, was essential if these women hoped to escape poverty and oppression. She opened America’s first birth control clinic and despite numerous arrests and fines, she continued her fight for reproductive rights. She founded the American Birth Control League in 1921, which became the Birth Control Federation of America in 1939 after merging with another organization, which in turn became Planned Parenthood in 1942. She continued her activism right up to her death in 1966. Sanger was instrumental in the creation of the first birth control pill Enovid, first available to the public in 1957. She also lived to see the Supreme Court validate her beliefs in the basic human rights to openly talk about sex and to control their own fertility in the Griswold v. Connecticut decision of June 7, 1965.

Sanger remains a controversial figure today. An ardent feminist, human rights activist, and advocate of sex-positivity, Sanger was also a eugenicist, believing that birth control was at least as important a tool for limiting the production of ‘the unfit’ (her words) as it was for women’s liberation. Sanger agreed with many leading scientists and progressives of her day in ascribing to so-called Social Darwinism (a problematic term since it doesn’t reflect Darwin’s own views as he expressed them), which applied the principles of natural selection to human social practice.  She did not, however, support most compulsory or coercive forms of birth or population control, such as that practiced by the Nazis or even by the United States government, who forcibly sterilized thousands of so-called ‘feebleminded’ women. Unfortunately, she did initially advocate forced sterilization of criminals and of those she believed could not make rational choices for themselves, such as the insane. Except in this awful instance of very poor judgment, Sanger was an ardent advocate of self-determination, free speech, open discussions of sex and sexuality, and education, education, education. It was up to informed and thoughtful people, Sanger believed, to take responsibility for their own sexual choices and to convince others to do the same.

Unlike many other eugenicists, however, Sanger was not a racist. She did her nursing and much of her social justice work in poor immigrant communities, and worked closely with many leading black civil rights figures, believing, as they did, that birth control would have the same liberating effect on the black community as would for women generally. By limiting the number of children according to how many they could afford to raise and when, parents could more readily pursue an education, start a business, or otherwise devote their time, energy, and health to improving their standard of living which, in turn, they could pass down to their children.

Aside from her human rights activism, I find Sanger’s beliefs about human sexuality and its important role in spiritual and mental health most fascinating. To discover more about this complex and fascinating woman, please see my History of Ideas Travel Series following Sanger in the places she lived and worked in New York City.

Ordinary Philosophy and its Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas series is a labor of love and ad-free, supported by patrons and readers like you. Please offer your support today!

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Sources and Inspiration:

Eig, Jonathan. The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution. W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 2014.

Margaret Sanger Papers Project ~ Research Annex. Accompanying blog to The Sanger Papers Project by New York University.

The Pill, People & Events: Margaret Sanger (1879-1966)‘. From the American Experience website by PBS.

Sanger, Margaret. The Pivot of Civilization, 1922. Free online version by Project Gutenberg, 2008, 2013.

Tong, Ng Suat. Which Margaret Sanger?The Hooded Utilitarian blog, April 14, 2014.

New Podcast Episode: Margaret Sanger NYC Sites, Day 4

Planned Parenthood Clinic at Margaret Sanger Square, Mott and Bleeker Streets, NYC

Planned Parenthood Clinic at Margaret Sanger Square, Mott and Bleeker Streets, NYC

Listen to this podcast episode here or on Google Play, or subscribe on iTunes

Friday, October 21st, 2016

It’s cold and rainy, so I spend a long morning with my coffee as I do more research. Try as I might, I just can’t identify, with any certainty, the exact site of the Queens County Penitentiary, Long Island City, where Margaret Sanger was imprisoned for thirty days in 1917 for operating her Brownsville birth control clinic. Nor do I locate the site of the original White Plains Hospital where Sanger trained as a nurse. I had pored over the atlases of that town, from that time, in the New York Public Library map division, and I searched assiduously in their digitized records this morning. No luck.

So I finish my account of the first site I visited on Tuesday and publish it, then head out. It keeps raining, but oh well, it’s not a terribly long walk and besides, I welcome a walk in the rain, under my umbrella, of course. The drought back home had been mostly unrelenting for ages and it’s nice to experience a good rain again.

My first destination is Planned Parenthood’s Margaret Sanger Center at Mott and Bleecker Streets… Read the written version here

Ordinary Philosophy and its Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas series is a labor of love and ad-free, supported by patrons and readers like you. Please offer your support today!

 

Margaret Sanger NYC Sites, Day 3 Part 2

24 Post Ave near Dyckman St, Inglewood, Manhattan, NYC, 2016 by Amy Cools

24 Post Ave near Dyckman St, Inglewood, Manhattan, NYC, 2016 by Amy Cools

Listen to this podcast episode here or on Google Play, or subscribe on iTunes

Thursday, October 20th, 2016, continued

I exit the A train at the Dyckman St station, the second to the last stop on the line, and walk a couple of blocks to 34 Post Ave. Margaret Sanger moved into ‘an inexpensive little flat’ here in January of 1914 leaving her husband William, or Bill as she called him, behind in Paris. The Sangers had lived there for a few months as Sanger researched and wrote and William worked to establish himself as a painter. En route to Paris, they stopped in Glasgow, Scotland, so that Sanger could observe and write about the effects of municipal ownership, a system of public ownership often endorsed by Socialists, for a newspaper assignment. While in Paris, Sanger met with many socialists and activists, all the while researching French methods of contraception. But she was growing bored and restless, eager to get back to work and engage in activism once again. She and the three children returned to New York City around the New Year, leaving William behind to continue his artistic pursuits… Read the written version here

Ordinary Philosophy and its Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas series is a labor of love and ad-free, supported by patrons and readers like you. Please offer your support today!

 

New Podcast Episode: Margaret Sanger NYC Sites, Day 3, Part 1

Margaret Sanger with Fania Mindell inside Brownsville clinic, forerunner of Palanned Parenthood, Oct. 1916, public domain via Library of Congress

Margaret Sanger with Fania Mindell inside Brownsville clinic, forerunner of Palanned Parenthood, Oct. 1916, public domain via Library of Congress

Listen to this podcast episode here or on Google Play, or subscribe on iTunes

Thursday, October 20th, 2016

I get out in decent time to start the day’s explorations, just after eight, but it’s not long before I realize I’m tired and hence, a little cranky. My friends and I watched the third Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump debate last night and some of the commentary which followed, then finally went to sleep very late after we talked about what we just watched, and other things. I’m mostly on New York time now, but not quite.

The abortion issue came up almost immediately in the debate since the first question from the moderator was about the Supreme Court and the appointment of justices. Trump pledged to nominate only strongly anti-abortion candidates. Clinton was adamant that Roe v. Wade and laws protecting women’s access to birth control and abortion (with appropriate limitations) be upheld. Clinton also strongly endorsed Planned Parenthood, praising the services it provides and criticizing all efforts to defund it. I, for one, am grateful to Planned Parenthood, the organization that Margaret Sanger founded…. Read the written version here

Ordinary Philosophy and its Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas series is a labor of love and ad-free, supported by patrons and readers like you. Please offer your support today!

Margaret Sanger NYC Sites, Day 4

Planned Parenthood Clinic at Margaret Sanger Square, Mott and Bleeker Streets, NYC

Planned Parenthood Margaret Sanger Center at Margaret Sanger Square, Mott and Bleeker Streets, NYC

Friday, October 21st, 2016

It’s cold and rainy, so I spend a long morning with my coffee as I do more research. Try as I might, I just can’t identify, with any certainty, the exact site of the Queens County Penitentiary, Long Island City, where Margaret Sanger was imprisoned for thirty days in 1917 for operating her Brownsville birth control clinic. Nor do I locate the site of the original White Plains Hospital where Sanger trained as a nurse. I had pored over the atlases of that town, from that time, in the New York Public Library map division, and I searched assiduously in their digitized records this morning. No luck.

So I finish my account of the first site I visited on Tuesday and publish it, then head out. It keeps raining, but oh well, it’s not a terribly long walk and besides, I welcome a walk in the rain, under my umbrella, of course. The drought back home had been mostly unrelenting for ages and it’s nice to experience a good rain again.

My first destination is Planned Parenthood’s Margaret Sanger Center at Mott and Bleecker Streets. The rain is really coming down and I’m fairly wet by the time I get here, so I hurriedly enter the lobby. Immediately, a man approaches me and asks what I’m looking for, while another man at the desk trains his eye on me. Not unfriendly, but alert. I explain my mission and present my driver’s license and business card. He makes a call upstairs to see if the director of the center has a moment to meet with me, but she’s heading out for a meeting. I ask if I can take a photo of the colorful mural on the lobby wall, but they say no: for security reasons, no photos are allowed inside the building. I express my understanding: after all, such establishments are under constant threats of terrorism and negative, often distorted and falsified media. I’m content with taking photos of the outside, and note the array of security cameras.

Advice to Married Ladies Madame Restell abortion ad in the New York Times, Nov 9th 1865

‘Advice to Married Ladies’, Madame Restell abortion ad in the New York Times, Nov 9th, 1865

New York City has a long history as a place where a woman can more readily obtain an abortion than just about anywhere else. In his detailed article on the subject, Robert Nizza wrote for New York magazine:

‘In many ways, the story of abortion in the United States is the story of abortion in New York. There were no laws against the procedure until the 1820s. Before that, British common law allowed abortions before “quickening,” or the moment when the fetus first moved. It was in New York in 1828 that America’s first real abortion law was passed. The debate of the day wasn’t driven by religious concerns about when life begins. Instead, as James C. Mohr’s classic history of the subject, Abortion in America, explains, Albany responded to pressure from doctors who were aghast at quacks’ butchering women and scamming them with phony abortifacient potions. The law was really about medical regulation, and, according to Mohr, it went completely unenforced.’

Sanger opposed abortion on the same health and safety grounds as the medical community Nizza refers to. We can only guess what her stance would be on abortion today, though based on her stated reasons for opposition to the practice as well as her refusal to condemn the women who sought abortions, I think her position would echo Bill Clinton’s: that abortion should be safe, legal, and through the ready availability of safe, legal, and affordable birth control, rare.

http://www.nyu.edu/pages/projects/sanger/articles/sanger_on_trial.php

The Pleasure Chest ‘Free Pleasure’ painted storefront window, New York City

I take the subway to my next destination, which is close enough so that I’d ordinarily walk but I don’t want to spend the day in soaking wet pants; I’m already very damp from my first long walk. On my way from the station, just around the corner from where I’m headed, I’m amused to see a sex shop storefront that’s vibrantly painted with the words ‘Free Pleasure’ surrounded by cartoon-like images of pleasure devices. It’s apropos to the birth control debate that I’ve been considering throughout this journey. Each side might find it illustrates their views: those who share Sanger’s view that sex and reproduction are not and should not be necessarily linked, and those that oppose all forms of artificial birth control on the grounds that they’re contrary to nature and to God’s will. The latter also find the idea of sex unmoored from reproduction repellent because they believe it will lead to irresponsible and extramarital sex, and corrode family values and ideals of sexual purity. They might interpret the colorful shop window as a negative demonstration of the cheapening of sex from permissive birth control laws and secular sexual mores. Sanger, like her fellow sex-positivists, believed instead that unmooring sex from reproduction leads to happier, more romantic and less stressful marriages, and to healthier and more prosperous families while providing a broader scope for women to enjoy and explore their sexual natures. They would likely interpret this painting as a positive demonstration of sexual freedom.

4 Perry St, Manhattan, New York City

4 Perry St, Manhattan, New York City

Just around the corner, I arrive at 4 Perry Street, where according to Robin Pokorski of NYU’s Mapping Margaret Sanger project, Sanger lived for a short while in 1914, between Waverly Place and Greenwich Ave in Greenwich Village. A couple of other sources mention this as well. Yet aside from brief statements of this fact in those secondary and tertiary sources, I’m unable to discover anything else about her time here with online research alone, including the exact stretch of time she lived here, but there’s plenty of readily available evidence that shows where Sanger lived elsewhere that same year. Sanger’s correspondence, both to and from, were addressed ’34 Post Ave’ from March to October of that year, and her journal The Woman Rebel directs all inquiries be sent there. She arrived in New York City from Paris in early January 1914. According to her autobiography, she rented the apartment on Post St ‘as soon as possible’ after she arrived, and she left New York for Europe again in late October to flee another obscenity trial for her Woman Rebel publications. That pretty much leaves January and February of 1914 as the time frame in which she could have lived here on Perry St. In these first two months of the year, she was reestablishing herself as an activist, now for birth control. As you many remember, she had just left her husband William behind in Paris to do so.

I duck into an inviting establishment right down the way on Greenwich Ave at Perry, lured by the promise of handmade meatballs and a tasty ale. This is my last day in NYC this trip, and I’m going to slow down and take it easier today. I write notes and linger over my meal, hoping the rain will stop. I like the rain, but it’s very difficult to take photos I require for this project since that requires both hands. I balance my umbrella over my head with the handle tucked under my arm, but it tends to flop over as I move to get the best shots. So I linger until the rainfall lightens, though it doesn’t really stop for awhile.

Carnegie Hall, Manhattan, New York City

Carnegie Hall, Manhattan, New York City

Margaret Sanger, Ethel Byrne, Carnegie Hall, New York Times Jan 29th, 1917, p 1

Margaret Sanger, Ethel Byrne, Carnegie Hall, The New York Times, Jan 29th, 1917, p 1. To see this article continued on p 3, click here

My next destination is another landmark I’ve been wanting to visit: Carnegie Hall. There are three particular Sanger-related occasions which bring me here to 881 Seventh Ave at 56th St.

On the afternoon of Jan 29th, 1917, there was a protest rally and mass meeting here at Carnegie Hall. Sanger’s sister Ethel Byrne had been sentenced to 30 days in jail the week before for running the Brownsville birth control clinic with Sanger. Sanger and nurse Fania Mandeil went on trial on the day of the Carnegie Hall protest; Sanger was certain she would be convicted and imprisoned, outcomes she did nothing to avoid. Byrne and Sanger were both determined to attract as much attention as possible to their cause, be it fame, notoriety, or otherwise. Byrne, tried, convicted, and imprisoned first, went on a hunger strike. She was forcibly fed after several days without food and water left her in terrible shape, even close to death. Sanger, initially supportive of her sister’s decision to hunger strike, changed her mind when she observed its awful toll on her health. She decided not to go on her own planned hunger strike after all, as she was determined to fight tirelessly for her cause. Instead, Sanger passed out copies of the first edition of the Birth Control Review to the attendees of the protest at Carnegie Hall, and announced to the press that there would be five hundred babies and their mothers present to demonstrate that their work was, in fact, pro-baby and pro-family. Sanger, Byrne, and Mandeil certainly had the support of very many mothers, as well as non-mothers, in the Brownsville community they served.

The New York Times published a transcript of the brief speech she delivered here that day. It goes:

‘I come to you tonight from a crowded courtroom, from a vortex of persecution. I come not from the stake at Salem, where women were burned for blasphemy, but from the shadow of Blackwell’s Island, where women are tortured for “obscenity.”

Birth control is the one means by which the working man shall find emancipation. I was one of eleven children. My mother died when I was 17 because she had had too many children and had worked herself to death. I became a nurse to help support my family, and I soon discovered that 75 per cent of the diseases of men and women are due to sex ignorance. I determined that when I was able I would do what I could to solve that problem. I found that the average person was as ignorant of sex matters as our most primitive ancestors. There has been progress in every department of our lives except in the most important–creation. So I came to the conclusion that the greatest good I could do was to help poor women to have fewer children to be brought up in want and poverty. I threw my nurse’s bag away and swore I would take it up no more. I went to Europe and studied the birth control clinics there and came back to America to do what I could.

Colonel Roosevelt goes all about the country telling people to have large families and he is neither arrested nor molested. But can he tell me why I got sixty-three letters in one week from poor mothers in Oyster Bay asking me for birth control information? No woman can call herself free until she can choose the time she will become a mother.

My purpose in life is to arouse sentiment for the repeal of the law, State and Federal. It is we women who have paid for the folly of this law, and it is up to us to repeal it. It is only by birth control that woman can prepare with man, her brother, for the emancipation of the race.’

Margaret Sanger and her son in Japan, 1922, public domain via Library of Congress

Margaret Sanger and her son Grant in Japan, 1922, public domain via Library of Congress

Some years later, on October 11th, 1922, the American Birth Control League hosted a ‘Welcome Back’ event for Sanger here. She had returned in August from a tour of Japan, Korea, China, Hong Kong, Egypt, Yemen, and London that year. She commenced her journey in Japan, setting sail in late February and arriving on March 10th. The Japanese government initially denied her a visa on the grounds that her birth control message was contrary to their official position: strong population growth was necessary for the military and political strength of Japan. But Sanger, ever energetic, and persuasive, forceful, and charming as the circumstances called for, bought passage on a ship bound for China via Japan. During the voyage, she finagled a way in, prevailing upon Japanese officials she met on board to use their influence to get her a visa. Upon arrival, she was welcomed by a large crowd of citizens, reporters, police, and other government officials, many welcoming but some not. In the end, she was able to speak, travel, and tour Japan’s fledgling community of birth control providers as planned, and continued in like vein throughout Asia. While in Japan, she stayed with Shidzue Ishimoto, a fellow feminist, activist, and proponent of birth control, and they would work together throughout the years. While on this world tour, she also attended the Fifth International Neo-Malthusian and Birth Control Conference at Kingsway Hall in London, from July 11th-14th.

Margaret Sanger, Dorothy Bocker, and Anne Kennedy

Margaret Sanger (center), Dorothy Bocker (right), and Anne Kennedy

Sanger also spoke at a birth control meeting held here at Carnegie Hall on December 6th, 1924, introducing many of her friends and fellow activists in the birth control movement. One of the speakers she introduced was her colleague Dr. Dorothy Bocker, who worked with her at the first iteration of the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau, founded almost two years before. As Sanger often pointed out, much of the opposition to birth control stemmed from ignorance, especially on the part of the medical and scientific community. Strange as it may seem today, this ignorance was mostly born of squeamishness and a fear of offending prevailing views of sexual propriety. Now, we’d think of a physician or scientist’s interest in sex and reproduction as worthy examples of proper scientific and humanitarian interest, but this was rarely the case in Sanger’s time. So she decided that her second birth control clinic needed to be staffed by a licensed physician and that this physician would gather clinical data so thoroughly and systematically that it could be accepted as evidence by the medical and scientific community. Over time, Bocker and Sanger differed in their methods of evidence gathering sufficiently that, according to Sanger, she and Dr. Bocker ‘agreed to part company in December of the second year’, which is the very month this conference was held here at Carnegie Hall. Sanger pushed for far more rigorous record keeping and longer-term patient follow-up than Bocker was willing to undertake. However much they were disagreeing at the time of this Carnegie Hall meeting, Sanger introduced Dr. Bocker warmly, if succinctly. Dr. Hannah Stone, who was rounded up in the raid on the 46 W. 15th Street location in 1929, replaced Dr. Bocker as medical director early the next year.

353 W. 57th Street, formerly the American Women's Association Clubhouse, NYC

353 W. 57th Street, formerly the American Women’s Association Clubhouse, NYC

Margaret Sanger with H.G. Wells (right), 1920

Margaret Sanger with H.G. Wells (right) and Otis Skinner, 1920

I have one site left on my list to visit for my Margaret Sanger journey here in NYC: the former location of the American Women’s Association Clubhouse. There are two occasions which bring me here. The first is an event on November 12, 1931, when Sanger received the Medal of Achievement from the American Women’s Association. According to Pokorski of the Mapping Margaret Sanger project, Eleanor Roosevelt spoke at this event. Roosevelt was a supporter of birth control, and along with her husband Franklin, was a friend of Sanger’s. But when Franklin Roosevelt was running for the presidency and then, once he had won it, neither he nor Eleanor would publicly endorse birth control on the advice of his staff and political supporters. This AWA event was, then, was one of the last occasions where Eleanor would publicly endorse this movement until the Roosevelt presidency was far behind her.

Almost half a year later, on April 20, 1932, the AWA also gave a testimonial dinner here in Sanger’s honor. Sanger was deeply moved as so many of her friends and colleagues extolled her hard work and thanked her for it; her great friend and occasional lover H.G. Wells extolled her as ‘the greatest revolutionary bacteriologist the world has ever known.’

I have now completed this particular journey following the life and ideas of Margaret Sanger in New York City. But I am not done with her life and ideas by any means. Please stay tuned as I continued to explore her ideas and the ways in which they change the world! And thank you for accompanying me thus far…

*Listen to the podcast version here or on Google Play, or subscribe on iTunes

Ordinary Philosophy and its Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas series is a labor of love and ad-free, supported by patrons and readers like you. Please offer your support today!

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Sources and inspiration: 

Advice to Married Ladies‘, Madame Restell abortion ad in The New York Times, Nov 9th, 1865, via Newspapers.com

Bromley, G.W. and Co. Atlas of the Borough of Manhattan, City of New York. Desk and Library edition, 1916, Plate*** and Plate***. Retrieved from Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division Digital Collection, The New York Public Library.

Buhle, Mari Jo. ‘Women & the Socialist PartyRadical America, Feb 1970, Vol, IV, 4F2, via National Progressive Review

Chesler, Ellen. Woman of Valor: Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control Movement in America. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992

Engelman, Peter C., ““Dangerous Thoughts”? Margaret Sanger’s World Trip Journal, Japan, 1922” (2010). Documentary Editing: Journal of the Association for Documentary Editing (1979-2011). Paper 28.

Eig, Jonathan. The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution. W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 2014.

Gray, Christopher. ‘Streetscapes/The Henry Hudson Hotel, 353 West 57th Street; From Women’s Clubhouse to WNET to $75 a Night.’ The New York Times, Jan. 4, 1998

Lizza, Ryan. ‘The Abortion Capital of America: As the Pro-Life Movement Intensifies Nationwide, New York Contemplates its History and Future as a Refuge‘. New York magazine, June 2014

Margaret Sanger and Eleanor Roosevelt – The Burden of Public Life‘, The Margaret Sanger Papers Project Newsletter #11 (Winter 1995)

Margaret Sanger On Trial – Will Hunger Strike‘. The Day Book, Chicago, Jan 29, 1917, last edition, Image 29, via LOC’s Chronicling America

Moran Hajo, Cathy. ‘What Happened Next? A Look at Birth Control Organizing in China Following Margaret Sanger’s 1922 visit’. Jan 9, 2014, The Margaret Sanger Papers Project at NYU

Mrs. Byrne to Have a Feeding Schedule‘, The New York Times, Jan 29th 1917, pp 1, 3, via Newspapers.com

Pokorski, Robin. ‘Mapping Margaret Sanger‘ from The Margaret Sanger Papers Project at NYU

Sanger on Trial: The Brownsville Clinic Testimony‘. Newsletter #25 (Fall 2000) of The Margaret Sanger Papers Project at NYU

Sanger, Margaret. ‘American Women’s Association Testimonial Dinner Address,’ April 20th, 1932. Margaret Sanger Papers, L.O.C., LCM 128:0237B-243A, The Margaret Sanger Papers Project at NYU

Sanger, Margaret. ‘Carnegie Hall Address,’ Jan 29, 1917. Source: Mrs. Sanger Defies Courts Before 3,0000, New York Times, Jan. 30, 1917, via The Margaret Sanger Papers Project at NYU

Sanger, Margaret. ‘Individual and Family Aspects of Birth Control‘, Report of the Fifth International Neo-Malthusian and Birth Control Conference, July 11-14, 1922. From The Margaret Sanger Papers Project at NYU

Sanger, Margaret. Margaret Sanger, an Autobiography. Cooper Square Press: New York 1999, originally published by W.W. Norton & Co: New York, 1938

Sanger, Margaret. ‘Opening Remarks at Carnegie Hall Meeting‘, Dec 6th, 1924. Source: Margaret Sanger Papers, Library of Congress, Microfilm 130:701, via The Margaret Sanger Papers Project at NYU

Sanger, Margaret. The Pivot of Civilization, 1922. Free online version courtesy of Project Gutenberg, 2008, 2013

Sanger, Margaret. Woman and the New Race, 1920. Free online version courtesy of W. W. Norton & Company

Samples from The Margaret Sanger Papers Project for the Model Editions Partnership, eds. Esther Katz, Cathy Moran Hajo and Peter Engelman (Columbia, S.C.: Model Editions Partnership, 1999)

What Every Girl Should Know About Nursing‘. The Truth About Nursing, Oct 15, 2006

Margaret Sanger NYC Sites, Day 3 Part 2

24 Post Ave near Dyckman St, Inglewood, Manhattan, NYC, 2016 by Amy Cools

34 Post Ave near Dyckman St, Inglewood, Manhattan, NYC, 2016 by Amy Cools

Thursday, October 20th, 2016, continued

I exit the A train at the Dyckman St station, the second to the last stop on the line, and walk a couple of blocks to 34 Post Ave. Margaret Sanger moved into ‘an inexpensive little flat’ here in January of 1914 leaving her husband William, or Bill as she called him, behind in Paris. The Sangers had lived there for a few months as Sanger researched and wrote and William worked to establish himself as a painter. En route to Paris, they stopped in Glasgow, Scotland, so that Sanger could observe and write about the effects of municipal ownership, a system of public ownership often endorsed by Socialists, for a newspaper assignment. While in Paris, Sanger met with many socialists and activists, all the while researching French methods of contraception. But she was growing bored and restless, eager to get back to work and engage in activism once again. She and the three children returned to New York City around the New Year, leaving William behind to continue his artistic pursuits.

The Woman Rebel, First Edition, March 1914

The Woman Rebel, First Edition, March 1914, directed that inquiries be sent to Sanger’s 34 Post St address

The lady in the photo above, in the black and white checked jacket, is standing in the doorway of today’s number 34, but this building does not date to Sanger’s time here: it was built in 1920. Sanger’s apartment in the former building was small, cheap and according to Sanger, dingy. But big things would happen here. On the return voyage from Paris to New York City, she had conceived of a journal that was, as her biographer Ellen Chesler describes it, ‘dedicated to working women and intended to challenge Comstock’s prohibition of information about sexuality and contraception’. Sanger and a group of like-minded radical thinkers and activists launched The Woman Rebel from the kitchen table of that little apartment, publishing the first edition in March of 2014. One of those radicals, Otto Bobstein, invented the term ‘birth control’ which Sanger seized on and popularized, often claiming to have invented it. Perhaps she lied, or perhaps this is an example of one of those memories that longtime friends or siblings argue over, of a favorite term or phrase used often and long enough that no-one can remember who really came up with it first.

In a speech at Hotel Brevoort given a few years later on January 17th, 1917, Sanger agreed with the magazine’s critics that The Woman Rebel was ‘..badly written; …crude; …emotional, and hysterical; that it mixed issues; that is was defiant, and too radical. Well, to all of these indictments I plead guilty!’ She was proud nevertheless of the passion and sturdy defiance expressed in its pages. And what was printed on those pages led to her first indictment on obscenity charges, which drove her right back to Europe by the end of the same year she had returned and established this journal.

Apartment buildings which include 34 Post Ave near Dyckman St, NYC, 2016 by Amy Cools

Apartment buildings which include 34 Post Ave near Dyckman St, in Inwood, upper Manhattan. The row continues for most of the block, all identical, including the site of Ethyl Byrne’s place at 26 Post Ave.

A few doors west in the same apartment row of identical buildings, heading back towards Dyckman St and the subway station, is number 26 Post Ave. Sanger stayed here with her sister and fellow birth control activist Ethel Byrne for a time in 1915. Sanger’s daughter Peggy had died of pneumonia just a short time before on Nov 6th, 1915.

Margaret Sanger and Ethel Byrne in court, 1916, image public domain

Margaret Sanger, left, and Ethel Byrne, right, in court in 1916

Sanger and her sister Byrne enjoyed a close relationship in their early lives and into the nineteen-teens. Byrne, who left her husband and children to pursue her own nursing career, was very involved with Sanger’s early birth control activism. She had gone on a hunger strike when imprisoned for her own role in Sanger’s Brownsville clinic, to the point of seriously endangering her health. And Byrne had often helped care for Sanger’s children while Sanger was in exile in Europe and out of town as she was very frequently. However, their relationship deteriorated over later years. Byrne was a direct, no-frills woman who thrived on practical work and remained a nurse for the rest of her life; Sanger had given up nursing in favor of theory and activism. Byrne disapproved of Sanger’s solicitation of wealthy society women for the cause; Sanger was willing to accept help, connections, and most crucially, money, wherever they were offered. It seems easy to pick sides in this divide, and I’m tempted to take Sanger’s on the grounds that I think Frederick Douglass would, according to my understanding of his pragmatist views: to eschew practical and political concerns in favor of staying true to the highest ideals of a cause is to show a commitment to the ideals themselves and not necessarily to the cause’s success. This won’t do when it comes to the liberty, health, and very lives of actual human beings. But it also takes people such as Byrne to make a successful cause: the idealistic, uncompromising, hard workers who are driven to perform many of the most laborious, tedious, and thankless tasks. Here’s to you, Byrne, and all your hard work!

163rd St at Amsterdam. 503 163rd St. used to face where the bus is now. NYC, 2016 Amy Cools

163rd St at Amsterdam. 503 163rd St. used to face where the bus is now.

I take the A train back south a few stops to the station at 163rd and walk to 502 W. 163rd St at Amsterdam. According to Bromley’s Atlas of that same year, the building that once stood at 502 was on the north end of a wedge-shaped lot, now vacant, at the intersection of 163rd, Amsterdam, and St Nicholas Ave /Juan Pablo Duarte Blvd. This section of St Nicholas Ave is another busy section of the street, crowded with small shops, fruit and vegetable stands, and sidewalk vendors.

Sanger spoke at the Free Synagogue here on Sunday, April 22nd, 1923. Rabbi Louis A. Mischkind, a socially conscious, progressive, even radical religious leader, had invited Sanger to speak on birth control at the Tremont Temple. When his superiors objected, he moved the talk here to the Free Synagogue but was still demoted for his disobedience. Sanger’s Birth Control Review extolled his decision as an act of free speech heroism.

St. Nicholas Avenue at 149th Street, Broadbelt houses built in the late 1800's, NYC, 2016 by Amy Cools

St. Nicholas Avenue at 149th Street, Broadbelt houses built in the late 1800’s.

St Nicholas Avenue at 149th, more apartments which date to Sanger's time, NYC, 2016 Amy Cools

Apartments on St Nicholas Avenue at 149th, some of which date to Sanger’s time here or shortly after

Next, I walk a little over two-thirds of a mile south to where Sanger, newly wedded to William (she called him Bill), moved into a “practically suburban” “little apartment on St. Nicholas Avenue at 149th Street” shortly after their wedding on August 28th, 1902. As of the time I write this, I’ve found no exact address for their apartment here, just this little description she wrote in her autobiography. Their first son Stuart was born here on November 28th, 1903. The strain of his birth added to her general poor health, already worn out by a tough bout of her recurrent tuberculosis. She was also terribly despondent, with what her description indicates was post-partum depression. After she recuperated for some months in a farmhouse and a sanitarium, the couple moved to Hastings-on-Hudson. As we’ve seen, however, the suburban life did not suit the Sangers in the long run, especially Margaret, and they returned to New York City in 1910.

I continue south on St Nicholas, turn left on on 138th St, and go about two long blocks until I make a brief right on 7th Ave, also called Adam Clayton Powell Blvd. Here at 2352 7th Ave, Sanger opened the Harlem branch of the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau on May 23, 1930. The BBCRB’s locations further south in Manhattan mainly served local women of European descent but Sanger believed that many other women needed the help of her clinics. She decided to open this northern branch to serve them.

On the right, 2352 7th Ave (Adam Clayton Powell) at 138th St, NYC, photo 2016 by Amy Cools

On the right, 2352 7th Ave (Adam Clayton Powell) at 138th St, NYC, the site of the Harlem branch BBCRB clinic

This clinic in Harlem was actually Sanger’s second attempt to open a clinic in New York for black and other underserved women; she had briefly opened one in west Midtown, in a small, predominantly black, impoverished neighborhood called Columbus Hill. I have not yet found an address for its former location. This first clinic was not a success and closed after only a few months; Sanger thought it would be best to conserve resources to open a clinic in a place where she might reach more people. She had the support of many black leaders throughout these efforts, including the influential Reverend Adam Clayton Powell of the Abyssinian Baptist Church (for whom this street has been renamed), Mary Bethune, and W. E. B. DuBois. DuBois spoke here on one occasion that fall, on November 21st, 1930.

Interestingly, a rumor that persists to this day, that Sanger’s efforts to provide reproductive services for black women were racist, may have originated with an intellectual and tactical foe of DuBois’. A Harlem preacher named Marcus Garvey believed that the black and white races could never get along and must be separated. He founded a shipping company called ‘The Black Star Line’ with the ultimate goal of taking all African descendants back to their home continent to found a racially pure black nation. To this end, he opposed all forms of contraception or childbirth limitation for black people: the nation of his dreams would need as many citizens as black women could bear to make it a vibrant and strong one. Garvey attacked Sanger’s clinics and all efforts to help black women control their fertility as genocidal projects. DuBois took the opposite view, believing that black people could and should live as equal citizens in the United States and wherever else they wanted to live, and that black families could better gain their rights as their financial and physical health improved through judiciously constrained childbearing. Of course, Sanger and DuBois were in agreement on this, as they were on matters of racial equality.

The Harlem clinic was more successful than the Columbus Hill one, but still only stayed open for about seven years. Though Sanger hired a black doctor and social worker to run the clinic, there was likely enough Garvey-inspired rumor and suspicion of their motives that the clinic not as widely welcomed as they hoped. No wonder, then, that she wrote that infamous line in a 1939 letter regarding her efforts to serve black women in the South: ‘We don’t want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population…’ The ‘word’, untrue and unjustified as it was, had already ‘gone out’ for her Harlem clinic several years before.

Interior of 2352 7th Ave at 138th St, now CHA Upscale Salon, NYC, photo 2016 by Amy Cools

Interior of 2352 7th Ave at 138th St, now CHA Upscale Salon

There’s now a hair salon at the on the lower level of the Harlem clinic site called Cha, and I go in. I find myself in a shining, sparkling lobby filled with mirror-lined and white furniture, a rhinestone chandelier, and white lilies in rhinestone vases. It promises pampering, which sounds glorious to this footsore woman. I see no one for a moment, then a voice calls, ‘Can I help you?’ A few steps in takes me to another stylist’s both, where a woman with a flowing, waved, luxuriant ‘do’ was doing another woman’s hair. I very briefly explain that I’m doing a history project and ask if I can take a quick photo of her lobby. She says yes, kindly, but distracted, focused on her client. I don’t catch her name as I don’t want to interrupt her task any further, but if you happen to read this, hospitable lady, thank you! Your salon is so lovely and welcoming.

135 W. 135th St, between Malcolm X and Adam Powell Blvds, where Sanger and family lived in 1911, 2016 Amy Cools

135 W. 135th St, between Malcolm X and Adam Powell Blvds, where Sanger and family lived in 1911

I continue to make my way south and a little east to 135 W. 135th St, between Malcolm X and Adam Powell Blvds, where Sanger and her family lived in 1911. The year before, the Sangers returned to New York City. The house Bill had designed and built for them suffered a fire which damaged the house and destroyed many of the furnishings. The expenses of repairing the house and replacing their lost things severely damaged their already precarious finances. While the situation was stressful and Sanger was frustrated with her husband’s inability to make a steady, reliable income, she was also bored and frustrated with her quiet, domestic suburban life. Upon returning to urban life, Sanger resumed nursing and Bill got into politics; both became very active in the bohemian Socialist scene. As we’ve discovered, it was Sanger’s experiences in these years that most inspired her birth control cause, from her Socialist activism on behalf of New York City’s beleaguered working class to the struggles of the poor mothers and families in the largely immigrant slums of the Lower East Side.

Earl Hall at Columbia University, New York City, photo 2016 by Amy Cools

Earl Hall at Columbia University, New York City

As I head west on 135th St to the St Nicholas Ave station, I pass by a site I visited last time I was here: Ida Wells’ New York Age newspaper offices which published Wells’ groundbreaking Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases, and where Frederick Douglass likely met with her on at least onceI smile at the memory.

I enter the subway station where 135th St meets St. Nicholas Park and exit 116th, walking west across Morningside Park and up the hill to the Columbia University campus. It’s a beautiful walk; the park is lush and green, and the campus is an inspiring and lovely place, with broad lawns and elegant buildings in so many styles: Beaux-Arts, neo-classical, and Gothic Revival, to name a few.

Interior of Earl Hall, Columbia University New York, Amy Cools 2016

Interior of Earl Hall, Columbia University, NYC

Sanger at Earl Hall, Barnard Bulletin, New York, Fri Dec 11, 1925

Newspaper account of Sanger’s talk at Earl Hall, from The Barnard Bulletin, New York, Fri Dec 11, 1925. Click to read a larger version.

I head to Earl Hall at 2980 Broadway, a little north of 116th St. On December 3rd, 1925, Sanger addressed the Social Problems Club here. She delivered her lecture ‘The Necessity of Birth Control’ at 4 pm to a packed house. According to the Columbia Daily Spectator, at this event, birth controlwas discussed for the first time on the Columbia Campus’. That is, at least officially. The necessity of birth control was outlined in terms of major social problems that club would likely have discussed frequently: infant and maternal mortality rates, disease, crowding, poverty, crime, and women’s rights. The Barnard Bulletin published a detailed outline of the talk and its main topics (see the image and link to the right).

I take an indirect route to my next destination a mile away via Amsterdam Ave so I can see the spectacular Cathedral of Saint John the Divine on my way; it’s south of Columbia University on the west wide of Morningside Park. The cathedral is as wonderful as it’s been described to me by so many. I add my recommendation to theirs to visit if you haven’t yet.

I continue east from the cathedral heading for 141 W. 111th St. The doorway and its stoop of the building I find here is flanked on either side by classical columns with ‘Kenosha’ spelled out overhead; the others in an identical row of four apartment buildings (though this is the only one whose ground floor is painted white) have porches which read ‘Manitou’, ‘Pacific’, and ‘Mariposa’. I’m unable to discover any particular reason why they’re named this way. According to the Municipal Archives division of the NYC Department of Records, in answer to my inquiry, building names ‘were typically applied by the building architect or owner based on what you might today call “marketing-strategy”‘.

Porch of the Kenosha building at 141 W. 111th St, Harlem, NYC

Porch of the Kenosha building at 141 W. 111th St, Harlem, NYC

Here in the Kenosha building, Sanger attended meetings of the Women’s Committee of the Local New York Socialist Party in 1911 through 1912. According to Mari Jo Buhle, writing for the journal Radical America in 1970, Sanger ‘regularly attended local meetings with her husband, but only inadvertently did she become one of the most important activists in the movement. She was asked to replace an ailing speaker at one of the local women’s meetings [of the Women’s Committee of the LNYSP]. Although she had never given a public speech before, she accepted on the condition that her topic be of her own choice. She had little confidence about her understanding of Marxian theory and decided to speak about her own speciality, sex education and hygiene.’ As discussed earlier, Sanger and her husband William threw themselves eagerly into the Socialist scene upon their return to New York City from Hastings-on-Hudson. This place is just a little under a mile-and-a-half, thirty-minute walk from the 135 W. 135th St apartment I visited just before Earl Hall, where the Sanger family lived at the time.

141 W. 111th St, Harlem, NYC, at center with white Kenosha porch, photo by Amy Cools 2016

141 W. 111th St, Harlem, NYC, at center, with white porch which reads ‘Kenosha’

Lincoln Correctional Facility at the northeast end of Central Park, NYC, photo 2016 Amy Cools

Lincoln Correctional Facility at the northeast end of Central Park, NYC

A long block east, short block south, and half a long block east again takes me back to Central Park, this time to the northeast end. I’m looking for 31 W. 110th St, between Malcolm X and Park Ave, near NE corner of Central Park. I’m surprised to find myself looking at a placard across the front lintel which reads ‘Lincoln Correctional Facility’. It’s a minimum security prison, not an institution one would expect to find facing onto Central Park. It was once the headquarters of New York City’s Young Women’s Hebrew Association, from 1914 until the late 1930’s, when the Y.W.H.A. leased the building to the U.S. Army in World War II. That explains why it doesn’t look like a prison. It was a community center, with classrooms, meeting rooms, and gym facilities including an indoor pool.

On April 1, 1924, Sanger addressed the Guardian Mothers of Young Women’s Hebrew Association here; as of this time, I find no record of what she said here that day.

Left, Young Women's Hebrew Association Flag Ceremony at 31 West 110th Street, 1918. Right, LCF doorway at this address today

Left, Young Women’s Hebrew Association Flag Ceremony at 31 West 110th Street, 1918. Right, Lincoln Correctional Facility doorway at this address today. You can see the details and shape of the corbels supporting the overhang, the decorations around the door, and the placement and shape of the windows that it’s the same doorway

Duke Ellington Circle at 5th Ave and 110th St. Notice his statue on the tall pedestal to the right

Duke Ellington Circle at 5th Ave and 110th St. Notice his statue on the tall pedestal to the right

Just a half block east on 110th St to where it meets 5th Ave, I arrive at Duke Ellington Circle. There’s a statue of the great jazz pianist and his instrument on a very tall pedestal in a stepped, paved, and grassy park surrounded by a traffic circle and split down the center by 5th Ave, north to south. The circle surrounded by a couple of plain brick highrises, an artistically modern building which houses The Africa Center, a few plain old mixed use buildings, and small vacant lot.

I’m seeking the site of Parkview Palace, which, according to Pokorski’s Mapping Margaret Sanger, was at 110th and 5th. There is no building now of that name and indeed, none at all that appear to be of the right vintage. I consult G.W. Bromley’s 1916 Atlas and find it named ‘Parkway Palace’ there. I spend a long time searching for photos or some other information about the Parkview Palace. I find lots of brief references to it, mostly in Socialist and anarchist history books since it was a popular meeting place for non-mainstream political thinkers and activists, and in old newspaper announcements for other events happening there. However, I find no photos of the Parkview at all. I do find a photo of the apparently more well-known Harlem 5th Avenue Theatre next door, but none that show the adjoining Parkview.

110th at 5th Ave, NW corner of intersection at Duke Ellington Circle. The Parview Palace likely stood where the Hermosa is. 2016 Amy Cools

110th at 5th Ave, NW corner of intersection at Duke Ellington Circle. The Parview Palace likely stood where the Iglesia Christiana La Hermosa stands now, the red and cream building to the right

Debate on Birth Control, Margaret Sanger versus Winter Russell

Debate on Birth Control, Margaret Sanger versus Winter Russell. Click to read the whole debate online

I’m seeking this place because Sanger debated with John Winter Russell on birth control here on December 12th, 1920. Russell was a lawyer and recent convert to Catholicism, and as we’ve considered in this series, Sanger was no particular fan of the Catholic church, to say the least. She was not a frequent debater, but she agreed to this one for two likely reasons. One, her participation fee. Since the Depression hit, she had to work harder to raise funds for herself and her cause. Second, this was another good opportunity to publicly refute arguments based on Catholic teaching. Sanger had many run-ins with Catholicism in the form of its influence on public policy as well as in the press and in local governments and police forces, as we saw in the Town Hall raid debacle. She likely relished the opportunity to demonstrate debating skills as a seasoned, well-informed birth control activist against this new convert to the Catholic religion. The entire debate was published by the Fine Arts Guild of New York City and is available online.

Russell gave Sanger many opportunities to defeat his arguments. For example: he equated the use of birth control with lack of sexual control, when the use of birth control actually requires a good deal of control in the form of foresight, planning, and proper use; he characterized sex without allowing for reproduction as animalistic and therefore unworthy of human beings, though it’s only all other  animals besides humans which don’t use birth control; he conflated abortion with other forms of birth control though that characterization is not scientifically feasible and as Sanger pointed out, birth control prevents the need for abortion; he argued that pleasure can’t and shouldn’t be enjoyed without its counterpart of pain even though it’s generally only the woman who suffers it; and so forth. In the end, Russell more or less delivered the sort of arguments Sanger expected, which were, as she perceived them, rooted in a narrow and rigid brand of religiosity, sexual prudery, misogyny, and lack of scientific understanding. She and many other believed that she won this debate handily.

I’ve come to the end of my third day in New York City following Sanger, and it’s been an especially long and interesting one. I’ve decided to return to Greenwich Village and enjoy the offerings of a couple of its long-established eateries and watering holes, to read and rest my weary feet as I fill my empty belly and warm my chilly self. Until tomorrow, then!

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Sources and inspiration: 

Adams, Michael Henry. ‘The Best Address: St. Nicholas Avenue and Place, Part I‘, Jul 17, 2012.

Another Look at Margaret Sanger and Race‘, Feb 23, 2012. From The Margaret Sanger Papers Project at NYU

Bromley, G.W. and Co. Atlas of the Borough of Manhattan, City of New York. Desk and Library edition, 1916, Plate 129 and Plate 167. Retrieved from Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division Digital Collection, The New York Public Library.

Buhle, Mari Jo. ‘Women & the Socialist PartyRadical America, Feb 1970, Vol, IV, 4F2, via National Progressive Review

Chesler, Ellen. Woman of Valor: Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control Movement in America. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992

Debate on Birth Control / Margaret Sanger versus Winter Russell, by Margaret Sanger, Winter Russell, and Emma Sargent Russell. New York, NY: Fine Arts Guild, 1921.

East 110th Street [31 West 110th Street]. Y.W.H.A., detail of steps, interior. Photo by Wurts Bros. (New York, N.Y.), from Museum of the City of New York’s digitized archives

Eig, Jonathan. The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution. W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 2014.

Goldberg, Michelle. ‘Awakenings: On Margaret Sanger‘ Feb 7, 2012, The Nation

Gray, Christopher. ‘Built With the Ladies In Mind‘, Oct. 25, 2012, New York Times: Streetscapes

Grimaldi, Jill. ‘The First American Birth Control Conference‘, Nov 12, 2010. The Margaret Sanger Papers Project at NYU

House Tour Preview: Margaret Sanger’s Window.’ Apr 22, 2010, Hastings Historical Society blog

Katz, Esther. ‘Margaret Sanger and The Woman Rebel, 1914-1916: Historical Essay‘, 1999. From The Margaret Sanger Papers Electronic Edition, eds. Esther Katz, Cathy Moran Hajo and Peter Engelman (Columbia, S.C.: Model Editions Partnership, 1999)

Latest News‘ The Birth Control Review, May 1923, Vol VII, No. 5

Mrs. Sanger Addresses Social Problems Club‘, Barnard Bulletin (New York, New York) · Fri, Dec 11, 1925

Mrs. Sanger Glad She Was Indicted‘, New York Tribune, Feb. 21, 1916, p. 2, via The Margaret Sanger Papers Project, NYU

Mrs. Sanger to Talk on Birth Control‘, Columbia Daily Spectator, Volume XLIX, Number 58, 3 December 1925

Muigai, Wangui. ‘Looking Uptown: Margaret Sanger and the Harlem Branch Birth Control Clinic‘. Newsletter #54 (Spring 2010)  of The Margaret Sanger Papers Project at NYU

On the Road with Birth Control‘, Newsletter #21 (Spring 1999) of The Margaret Sanger Papers Project at NYU

Pokorski, Robin. ‘Mapping Margaret Sanger‘ from The Margaret Sanger Papers Project at NYU

Revolutionary and Subversive Movements Abroad and at Home, (vol. I-II). By New York (State). Legislature. Joint Committee (address of Parkview Palace on p. 2020). J.B. Lyons: Albany, 1920

Risen, Clay. ‘Prison on the Park.’ Jul 9, 2002, The Morning News, New York, New York.

Sanger, Margaret. ‘Birth Control: Then and Now,’ 1944, Typed Article. Source: Margaret Sanger Papers, Sophia Smith Collection

Sanger, Margaret. ‘Hotel Brevoort Speech,” Jan 17, 1916. From The Margaret Sanger Papers Project at NYU

Sanger, Margaret. Margaret Sanger, an Autobiography. Cooper Square Press: New York 1999, originally published by W.W. Norton & Co: New York, 1938

Sanger, Margaret. The Pivot of Civilization, 1922. Free online version courtesy of Project Gutenberg, 2008, 2013

Sanger, Margaret. Woman and the New Race, 1920. Free online version courtesy of W. W. Norton & Company

Sanger v. Famous Father of 18!‘ Newsletter #29 (Winter 2001/2002) of The Margaret Sanger Papers Project at NYU

Sciancalepore, Victoria. ‘Rebels of Post Avenue‘, Jan 15, 2014, Margaret Sanger Papers Project

Silver, Rabbi Samuel. ‘Why I Became a Rabbi‘. Jewish Post, Indianapolis, Jan 28, 2004

Soclof, Adam. ‘Planned Parenthood Controversy‘, February 2, 2012

W. E. B. Du Bois, “The Black Star Line,” Crisis, September 1922, 210–214, via History Matters website (with introduction)

New Podcast Episode: Margaret Sanger NYC Sites, Day 2, Part 2

79 and 71 W. 12th Street, New York City. 77 woy

79 and 71 W. 12th Street, New York City.

Listen to this podcast episode here or on Google Play, or subscribe on iTunes

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016, continued

The next site I seek is right across the street from the New School on W. 12th St near 6th Ave. The address was number 77, but as you can see, there’s no building with that number here anymore. According to Robin Pokorski of the Margaret Sanger Papers Project, Sanger made her first public appearance here on January 6th, 1916 after returning from her self-imposed exile in Europe to escape obscenity charges. She eventually decided to return and face them, however: her husband had already done so on behalf of her cause the month before, and her chances in court were better now since birth control had become a much more regular topic in the press. I find no record of her talk nor a history of a public venue here. I do find a listing for 77 W 12th St in the Catalogue of the First Exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists, Volume 1, published in 1917. It’s the address of Caroline Speare, who has two pieces of art pictured in the catalogue. Looking through it for more about Speare, which I don’t find, I stumble across an early charcoal work by Georgia O’Keeffe, which is a delightful find. Perhaps talks were held at Speare’s place as well as displays of her art, but I can find no evidence of this at this time.

I do find a form letter which Sanger had written the previous day, on Jan. 5th, 1916, to send out to friends. In it, she writes about the indictments against her over her distribution the year before of her magazine The Woman Rebel and its so-called obscene subject matters: the sexual liberty of women and birth control…. Read the written version here:

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