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

roosevelt-hotel-exterior-view-manhattan-nyc-photo-by-amy-cools-2016

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

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016, continued

I continue north to the Roosevelt Hotel at Madison Ave and E. 45th Street. Margaret Sanger attended the Conference on Contraceptive Research and Clinical Practice that met here on December 29th and 30th, 1936. She delivered a welcoming speech on the 29th and spoke on a panel the next day which discussed technical and medical birth control issues. While The New York Times reported optimistically on the effectiveness of birth control methods available at the time and Sanger spoke proudly of the ‘56,000 women who have voluntarily appealed to us for help’, she and many of the attendees knew that the lack of access to and effectiveness of birth control remained big problems. It was still fairly expensive; anti-obscenity laws were barriers to access and information in those pre-Griswold years; and too many of the methods were only moderately effective since they were not always easy to use correctly, especially in well, you know, the heat of the moment…. 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: Why So Much Hatred for Margaret Sanger?

Margaret Sanger, photo probably taken Jan 30th 1917, photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

Margaret Sanger, photo probably taken Jan 30th 1917, photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

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

There’s been a widespread and concerted effort to vilify Margaret Sanger and remove her name from the public roll of great contributors to human rights history. In my research for the Sanger project I’m working on, I find scores of examples of this effort every single time I do an internet search using her name.

Last year, for example, Ted Cruz and other conservative senators called for her portrait to be removed from the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC, where her portrait bust is included in the Struggle for Justice exhibition. In justification of his campaign, Cruz used part of a quote lifted from its original context and presented it as saying something nearly opposite of what it was originally meant to say. In a letter to a friend, Sanger expressed her worry that her birth control clinic project in the South might be misperceived and misrepresented as racist; Cruz lifted a few words from this letter to ‘prove’ that it was. He may have borrowed this idea from Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican Party, and Ben Carson and Herman Cain, one-time Republican presidential hopefuls. These three influential conservative men, in turn, received this bit of distorted wisdom from Angela Davis and some others in the black power movement who, concerned that the reproductive justice movement might have ill effects in the long run on the empowerment of black people, (mis)represented Sanger’s words, works, and character in the worst possible light…

….So let’s first consider Margaret Sanger’s [actual] beliefs and whether they justify her inclusion among the great freedom leaders. Then, let’s consider her beliefs in the light of her own time and whether they deserve admiration today, on the whole, or are at least understandable given the circumstances of her time…. 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 1 Part 2

The Chrysler Building at Lexington and 42nd in Manhattan, NYC

The Chrysler Building at Lexington and 42nd in Manhattan, NYC

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

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016, continued

Let me preface this second part of the story of today’s journey with full credit and a note of gratitude to Robin Pokorski, who worked with The Margaret Sanger Papers Project for a time. As with the MSPP overall, I found Pokorski’s project Mapping Margaret Sanger to be an absolutely invaluable resource…

…I exit Grand Central Station, where I’ve just returned to Manhattan from the Sanger clinic site in Brownsville, Brooklyn. I follow the signs to the exit which lets me out right underneath the Chrysler Building at 405 Lexington Ave, just north of 42nd St. I’ve long been curious about this building but for one reason or another, had never made it here. It’s fully as handsome on the outside and lovely on the inside as I’ve heard. It shoots up to the sky enthusiastically and towers overhead with almost aggressive confidence and optimism. I love its Art Deco style, and I’m excited to see all the wonderful architecture and art of this period that this trip will take me to…

Pokorsky writes, ‘At 4.30pm on April 20, 1939, Sanger met with Bill Melon at the Chrysler Building.’ I have not been able to discover who Melon was or why she met him here yet; I await her response to my inquiry…. 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 1 Part 1, and a 100 Year Anniversary

Flyer for Sanger Clinic, Brownsville, Brooklyn, image courtesy of the Margaret Sanger Papers Project

Flyer for Sanger Clinic, Brownsville, Brooklyn, image courtesy of the Margaret Sanger Papers Project

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

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016

I start the morning preparing my itinerary for the day as I fortify myself with coffee and the first half of a sandwich.

My first stop is also the furthest east I’ll go this trip, to the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn. I take the C train to the Rockaway station, head south on Saratoga, and wander around getting a feel for the neighborhood. It’s predominantly black, solidly working class, with lots of handsome old buildings, mostly well worn with peeling paint. I see lots of mothers and grandparents with strollers and very small children (it’s around noon during work hours), people taking smoke breaks in backdoors, and some very poor and homeless people. Reaching Pitkin’s busy sidewalk, I see shoppers, people going out for lunch, and shop and cafe proprietors in front doorways under brightly colored signs, and I hear many accents and many languages spoken, English, Spanish and French, and many others I don’t recognize. It reminds me of neighborhoods I frequent at home in Oakland. I turn north on Amboy Street, which runs north and south between Pitkin and E. New York Ave.

At 46 Amboy Street, just north of Pitkin, Margaret Sanger opened the United States’ first birth control clinic two days less than 100 years ago, on Oct 16th, 1916. Though just a  little late for the anniversary, I’m happy to be here at this historic place, humble as it now appears…. 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 1 Part 3

roosevelt-hotel-exterior-view-manhattan-nyc-photo-by-amy-cools-2016Tuesday, October 18th, 2016, continued

I continue north to the Roosevelt Hotel at Madison Ave and E. 45th Street. Margaret Sanger attended the Conference on Contraceptive Research and Clinical Practice that met here on December 29th and 30th, 1936. She delivered a welcoming speech on the 29th and spoke on a panel the next day which discussed technical and medical birth control issues. While The New York Times reported optimistically on the effectiveness of birth control methods available at the time and Sanger spoke proudly of the ‘56,000 women who have voluntarily appealed to us for help’, she and many of the attendees knew that the lack of access to and effectiveness of birth control remained big problems. It was still fairly expensive; anti-obscenity laws were barriers to access and information in those pre-Griswold years; and too many of the methods were only moderately effective since they were not always easy to use correctly, especially in well, you know, the heat of the moment.

Roosevelt Hotel Lobby view

Roosevelt Hotel central lobby

But despite these problems, Sanger had reasons to be optimistic: the birth control movement had seen some successes in the twenty years since the raid of her first clinic in 1916. One of the most important was the recent decision in United States v. One Package of Japanese Pessaries (what a name!) in which the United States Court of Appeals upheld the decision of a lower court from earlier that year regarding a shipment of birth control devices that U.S. Customs had confiscated under the Comstock laws, which prohibited sending ‘obscene’ items through the mail. Sanger had ordered a case of unusually shaped diaphragms from Japan and requested that U.S. Customs forward them to her friend and colleague Dr. Hannah Stone. The circumstances of this shipment, between two physicians and across state lines, was arranged by Sanger and her lawyer Morris Ernst to create a test case to try and defeat the old Comstock laws. As they hoped, the Courts decided that obscenity laws, which had been broadly applied to prevent dissemination of information about contraception and the distribution of contraception devices themselves, could not be applied to the legitimate practice of medicine. But the birth control movement had a long way to go: would take three more decades before the Supreme Court weighed in on the issue of birth control, specifically.

Theodore Roosevelt, American President and yes, a eugenicist too

Bas-relief sculpture of Theodore Roosevelt, ‘The Long Long Trail’, at the Roosevelt Hotel

Speaking of Roosevelt, for whom this hotel was named (I assume, based on a sculpture of him prominently displayed in an upper lobby): Theodore Roosevelt was very much opposed to birth control. He feared that the very people who should be having the most children, the most talented, intelligent, and well educated, the healthiest and the wealthiest, were the very ones who were having fewer than ever. He believed the falling birth rate could lead to what he called ‘race suicide’, and opposed any and all methods that would facilitate this trend. Though Sanger and Roosevelt both believed in eugenics principles, their conclusions were very different when it came to population issues and the right to reproductive self-determination. I explore the differences in their views which led to their different conclusions in an earlier essay I wrote as part of this series. Sanger publicly and vigorously opposed Roosevelt’s public positions on birth control and the population question. In Sanger’s article ‘Birth Control: Margaret Sanger’s Reply to Theodore Roosevelt‘, published in The Metropolitan Magazine in December of 1917, she described why she believed his views were shortsighted and ill-informed.

barclay-hotel-entrance-manhattan-nyc-photo-2016-by-amy-cools

The Barclay Hotel, Manhattan, NYC, where Margaret Sanger stayed several times in 1938 and 1939

I zigzag northeast to the Barclay Hotel at 111 E. 48th Street, between Park and Lexington Aves. According to Robin Pokorski of the Margaret Sanger Papers Project, ‘Sanger stayed at the Barclay Hotel in April and May 1938, and again in January 1939.’

I track down a listing in the Margaret Sanger Papers Microfilm Edition: Smith College Collection Series catalog for a microfilm of a letter Sanger received from the Barclay hotel, but I don’t have access to it at the moment. It’s not available online and I’ve not yet had a chance to visit the library at the University of California at Berkeley, which has a copy. I’ll update this account if I find anything interesting in the letter when I do get over there, and if I come across any other interesting details relating to her stay here in my continued research. In the meantime, I’ll continue with my story so I can publish it in good time.

barclay-hotel-lobby-manhattan-nyc-photo-2016-by-amy-cools

Barclay Hotel lobby, Manhattan NYC

242 E. 49th St, between 3rd and 2nd Ave’s, Turtle Bay Gardens

242 E. 49th St, between 3rd and 2nd Ave’s, Turtle Bay Gardens. Note the turtles in the ironwork at either side of the gate

I continue on a few blocks away, heading east, to 242 E. 49th St, between 3rd and 2nd Aves, to a brownstone at Turtle Bay Gardens. Sanger founded the American Birth Control League here at her friend Juliet Barrett Rublee’s home in 1921. Rublee, the wealthy wife of an influential lawyer, enthusiastically devoted her time and money to supporting feminist, humanitarian, and artistic causes. She’s a fascinating character, an activist, a nurse, a filmmaker, and an adventurer, whose exciting lifestyle was very well funded by her enormous fortune, leaving plenty of money to lavish on such projects as Sanger’s pamphlet Family Limitation and magazine The Birth Control Review, first published in February of 1917. Rublee took an active interest in Sanger’s work since Sanger was arrested for opening her birth control clinic in 1916 and they remained the closest of friends for the rest of their lives, dying only a few months apart. They wrote to each other often in intimate and detailed letters, many of which each kept although they marked them ‘destroy upon reading’. The Margaret Sanger Papers Project describes their correspondence as among the resources that reveal most about Sanger’s inner life. As with any public figure, especially one as controversial and embattled as Sanger, it can be difficult to get past the persona, the defensive walls they feel the need to construct.

Row which includes 242 E. 49th St

Turtle Bay Historic District row houses, including 242 E. 49th St. Behind these handsome brownstones is a lush, private urban garden, which you can see here.

242-e-49th-st-turtle-bay-gardens-view-2-2016-by-amy-cools

242 E. 49th St at Turtle Bay Gardens, Manhattan

Turtle Bay Gardens Historic District stands on what once was a bay of the East River, where ships harbored, country farmhouses stood, and Edgar Allan Poe used to go diving off the rocks. The bay was gradually filled in, and the once-thriving and handsome industrial district with its breweries, mills, and carpentry shops turned into a squalid, overcrowded district packed with cheap tenements, slaughterhouses, and run-down warehouses. One part of this neighborhood was destroyed in the riots that followed the establishment of a Civil War draft conscription office here in 1863.

When Sanger established the American Birth Control League at Rublee’s Turtle Bay home in 1921, it would have very recently been renovated and turned into a place of beauty and luxury. Another wealthy heiress, Charlotte Martin, bought this and an adjoining row of rundown brownstones in 1919 and thoroughly remodeled them, with a lush garden (complete with a copy of a fountain from Rome’s Villa Medici in the center) inspired by the European gardens she had fallen in love with during her travels, to create a haven of elegance and refuge in this what was then out-of-the-way, unfashionably too-far-east neighborhood of Manhattan. And by the way, as I just discovered, one of my favorite musical artists, Bob Dylan, used to live here at #242 as well!

Front entrance of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on Park Ave at E. 50th St, Manhattan, NYC

Front entrance of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on Park Ave at E. 50th St, Manhattan, NYC

I backtrack on 49th and turn right to 301 Park Ave, to the Waldorf Astoria between 49th & 50th Streets. There are three occasions in the life of Sanger which bring me here.

On January 5th, 1917, Sanger participated in one of the many debates on birth control she would take part in over the years. I’ll soon visit another site where she participated in a well-publicized debate four years later; I’ve found the text of it published online where I can share it with you, so I’ll wait to discuss her debate topics and style then.

Over fourteen years later, on October 23, 1931, Sanger addressed the attendees of a dinner honoring H.G. Wells, an important influence, long-time friend, and occasional lover. Wells shared many of her views on economics and eugenics, as well as her abiding concern that too many children were born into families and communities that didn’t have the capabilities to feed and care for them properly, leading to needless suffering and death. Wells’ article ‘The Needless Waste of Human Lives’ was published in the first edition of Sanger’s Birth Control Review, which described the plight of children born into poverty and privation only to be soon forced into labor in the most heart-wrenching terms this literary star could summon. Wells supported Sanger’s work in many other ways, both personal and public, some of which she described and thanked him for in her address that night. One of the ways Wells supported Sanger was by adding his influential name to an appeal to President Woodrow Wilson to get the many indictments which had piled up against her dropped. Most importantly, however, it was the enduring friendship with this famed man of like mind which propped up her confidence and spirits throughout the years until his death in 1946.

The front lobby of the Waldorf-Astoria. I snapped this photo in a brief moment between the stream of guests elegantly attired to attend some special event

The front lobby of the Waldorf-Astoria. I snapped this photo in a brief moment between the stream of guests elegantly attired to attend some special event

The Waldorf-Astoria on Park Ave at E. 50th St, Manhattan, NYC

Looking back on the Waldorf-Astoria in the early evening light

On May 11th, 1961, the Waldorf Astoria also hosted a World Tribute dinner for Margaret Sanger, organized as a fundraiser by the World Population Emergency Campaign and chaired by the renowned evolutionary biologist Julian Huxley. It was Sanger’s last public appearance since by that time she had developed heart disease, and while the alcohol and Demerol she treated her pain with may have helped in that regard, she was often tired, confused, and emotionally volatile. The senility which would incapacitate her within a few short years may have been starting to set in as well. But she was delighted at the invitation, and she rallied what strength she could to get to New York, assisted by her younger son Stuart, and briefly deliver her thanks. Even this was too much, and she nodded off her in her chair shortly afterward. Sanger would live five and a half more years, four of those in a nursing home, dying just before her eighty-eighth birthday. She enjoyed intermittent bouts of lucidity until her last year of life and appeared to understand the significance of the Supreme Court decision in Griswold v. Connecticut in 1965 when she was given the news. ‘It’s about time’, she said. It seemed as obvious to her as it does to most of us today that people had a right to privacy in their sexual relationships, yet the Comstockism she had fought for so long proved tenacious in American law and culture.

The Ambassador Hotel once stood where this plain office building does now, across E. 51st from St. Bart's at Park Ave.

The Ambassador Hotel once stood where this plain office building does now, across E. 51st from St. Bart’s at Park Ave.

1921-gw-bromley-atlas-of-nyc-plate-78-showing-location-of-ambassador-hotel

1921-1923 G.W. Bromley Atlas of the City of New York, Plate 78, showing location of Ambassador Hotel

My next stop is the northwest corner of 51st St. and Park Ave. According to plate 78 of G.W. Bromley’s 1921-1923 Atlas of the City of New York, the Ambassador Hotel used to stand at Park Ave and across 51st St. from St. Bart’s, as the beautiful 1835 St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church is commonly known. There’s a nondescript office highrise here now.

Ambassador Hotel, Park Ave, New York City midcentury advertisement

Ambassador Hotel ad; you can see St Bart’s in the foreground and to the right

The Ambassador Hotel was linked to Sanger in two ways. One, she stayed here on several occasions in late 1936 after she returned from her trip to India. While there, she toured the country and discussed and debated population and poverty issues, law, women’s rights, and birth control with Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi opposed artificial means of birth control. He shared the Catholic Church’s position that sex without the possibility of procreation is a form of animal lust unworthy of a spiritual being. He believed that human respect, understanding, and true spiritual connection were incompatible with carnal desire. However, he did believe in the right of women to control their own bodies insofar as they should never be coerced into having sex and that they had full rights of refusal, for any reason, within marriage as well as without. Sanger strongly disagreed with some of his views: she believed that sexual union could be as spiritually transcendent as it was pleasurable, one of the most beautiful, intimate, and powerful ways in which human beings connect with one another. And she believed that when partners were forced to refuse sex to one another for fear of having children, it undermined harmony and romance between couples, thereby breaking up marriages and destroying families. I recommend reading her debate with Gandhi published in Asia magazine, which not held in public but fortunately preserved because her secretary Florence Rose had the presence of mind to record in shorthand. I’ll further explore Sanger’s ideas about sex, love, and interpersonal spirituality in an essay I plan to publish before long.

Secondly, the Ambassador Hotel was also the site of a special joint meeting of the American Birth Control League and the National Committee on Federal Legislation for Birth Control following the December 7th, 1936 United States Court of Appeals ruling in the One Package case I discuss at the beginning of this piece. In this decision, Appellate Judge Augustus Noble Hand (again, what a name!) upheld Judge Grover M. Moscowitz’s decision from earlier that year, which prohibited the government from interfering with mail from doctors sending medical devices and information. This case seriously undermined the Comstock laws and was an important moment in extracting, isolating, and describing the right to privacy, implied but never specified in the Constitution, in American jurisprudence.

485 Madison Ave, NYC

485 Madison Ave, NYC, former home of CBS and recording studio for WABC (not the same WABC that exists today)

I head next to 485 Madison Avenue, between 52nd and 51st St, to the former Columbia Broadcasting System offices where WABC radio broadcasts were recorded. The founder of CBS, William S. Paley, had taken over as president of the tiny radio network United Independent Broadcasters founded in Chicago in early 1927. The savvy Paley quickly put the newly expanded media operation, which he bought the majority share of and renamed CBS, on firm financial footing, good enough to move to new, sleek 485 Madison Avenue in New York City in 1929. He wanted his new company to be where the action was, well situated for success. CBS stayed here until it moved into its own specially designed building in 1965.

Sanger recorded a radio broadcast here on birth control, on April 11, 1935, which was distributed to many radio stations throughout the country. In it, she outlined her basic arguments in favor of birth control which we’ve already considered (the benefits to women’s and children’s health, the right to reproductive self-determination, and so on) as well as her incredulity that the United States was now the only advanced country to legally prohibit birth control on obscenity grounds, in defiance of what she perceived as a preponderance of medical opinion in its favor. (In reality, the science of reproduction was still at a very early stage and there was far less of a medical consensus that birth control is safe, effective, and on the whole, medically beneficial for women as there is today.) She also announced plans for a petition directly to the second President Roosevelt, who she hoped would be much more progressive in this matter than the first one was. Sanger had a good reason for these hopes: Eleanor Roosevelt was also a long time supporter of the right to free access to medically approved forms of birth control. However, once Roosevelt’s husband Franklin became president, she felt could no longer publicly state her views on this issue. When asked, Roosevelt would neither oppose nor support the issue, stating simply that she refused to discuss it. Sanger understood and didn’t much blame the First Lady for making that choice. Like Sanger, Roosevelt was a strong woman who spent her days working hard on behalf of progressive causes, and like Sanger, she was willing to compromise and choose her battles when she felt it was necessary.

the-rockefeller-center-courtyard-in-the-evening-2016-amy-cools

The Rockefeller Center courtyard in the evening

The Rockefeller Center's glowing lobby

The Rockefeller Center’s glowing lobby

The Rockefeller Center's central escalator

The Rockefeller Center’s central escalator

The last site I visit for the day is the Rockefeller Center at 5th Ave and 50th St, another of New York City’s grand edifices I’ve been wanting to see. According to Pokorski, Sanger met with John D. Rockfeller, Jr’s aide Arthur Packard at Rockefeller Center in October of 1936. The Rockefeller Center is handsome outside, breathtaking inside. It glows even brighter, more golden and coppery and gemlike than the inside of the Chrysler Building. My camera doesn’t do justice to what I’m seeing since it has such difficulties in low light, but it does capture its amber-like quality.

arthur-packard-memorandum-of-conversation-with-margaret-sanger-oct-9th-1936-1st-page

Memorandum of the conversation between Margaret Sanger and Arthur Packard, click to read the whole thing

I track down a memorandum of a conversation between Sanger and Packard dated Oct 9th, 1936, so I assume this memorandum discusses that meeting. One of Packard’s primary duties was to help select projects that the wealthy philanthropist Rockefeller might wish to fund.

A humanitarian and progressive, Rockefeller was interested in Sanger’s work and helped fund many of her projects over the years. In this case, Sanger and Packard were discussing a new form of sponge-and-spermicidal-foam birth control that Sanger had become aware of through Dr. Lydia DeVilbiss (which Packard amusingly misspelled as ‘Devilbus’) of Florida, who had been prescribing it to her patients. In addition to the further research on this method Sanger wanted to help fund, they discussed the One Package case, and Sanger’s increasing doubts about some of the long-term ramifications of the case as it was being argued. As you may recall, Sanger, Ernst, and Dr. Stone had arranged the circumstances that led to this test case purposefully so that it would be argued largely as a case about the right to practice medicine, since it involved devices shipped from doctor to doctor. However, Sanger was growing more concerned that this would focus too much on the rights of medical practitioners to make decisions in these matters and not enough on the rights of the women themselves. Perhaps the fact that it took another thirty years for the Supreme Court to base their decision in a major birth control case on the right to privacy, and hence to self-determination, is enough to demonstrate that Sanger’s fears were well-grounded.

It’s dark now, a beautiful balmy night, so I end my day’s Sanger explorations and just wander freely a bit before I head back for dinner. I still have three more days to go, stay tuned!

New York City rising above the Rockefeller Center's skating rink on a fall evening

New York City rising above the Rockefeller Center’s skating rink on a fall evening

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:

242 East 49th Street‘. Douglas Elliman Real Estate website

About Sanger: Biographical Sketch‘, from The Margaret Sanger Papers Project at New York University.

Arredondo, Isabel. ‘Juliet Barrett Rublee‘. Women Film Pioneers Project at Columbia University

Barbanel, Josh. ‘Turtle Bay Gardens House on Market for Second Time Since 1961‘, Wall Street Journal July 15, 2013

Birth Control Aid Received By 56,000‘, New York Times, Dec. 30, 1936, p. 10, via The Margaret Sanger Papers Project

Bromley, G.W. and Co. Atlas of the City of New York, 1921 – 1923, Plate 78. Retrieved from Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division Digital Collection, The New York Public Library.

CBS‘. From Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, retrieved from Wikiwand

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

Documenting a Friendship‘, The Margaret Sanger Papers Project Newsletter #3 (Fall 1992)

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

Griswold v. Connecticut‘, Oyez. Chicago-Kent College of Law at Illinois Tech, n.d. Nov 3, 2016

History of Turtle Bay‘, Turtle Bay Association website

John D. Rockefeller, Jr.Encyclopædia Britannica Online.

Juliet Barrett Rublee Papers, 1917-1955: Biographical Note‘. Five College Archives & Manuscript Collections: Sophia Smith Collection

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

Packard, Arthur W., 1901-1953: Biographical Information‘, from The Margaret Sanger Papers Project at NYU, Editor’ Notes

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

Regan, Margaret. ‘Margaret Sanger: Tucson’s Irish Rebel.Tucson Weekly, Mar 11, 2004.

Sanger, Margaret. ‘Birth Control: Margaret Sanger’s Reply to Theodore Roosevelt,’ The Metropolitan Magazine, Dec. 1917, pp. 66-67 .

Sanger, Margaret. ‘Conference on Contraceptive Research and Clinical Practice Welcoming Speech Notes‘, Dec 29, 1936. Source: Margaret Sanger Papers, Library of Congress Microfilm, 128:0262

Sanger, Margaret. ‘Family Planning: A Radio Talk By Margaret Sanger Columbia Broadcasting System‘, Station W.A.B.C., New York, April 11, 1935, from The Margaret Sanger Papers Project at NYU

Sanger, Margaret ‘Gandhi and Mrs. Sanger Debate Birth Control,’ Recorded by Florence Rose, published in Asia magazine, Vol. 26, no. 11, Nov. 1936, pp. 698-702

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 & CompanyZorea Ph.D., Birth Control

Tracing One Package — The Case that Legalized Birth Control‘, The Margaret Sanger Papers Project Newsletter #59 (Winter 2011)

Wells, H.G. ‘The Needless Waste of Little Lives‘. The Birth Control Review, February, 1917

Zorea, Aharon W. Birth Control. 2012, Santa Barbara: ABC-Clio, Ltd.

New Podcast Episode: To New York City I Go, in Search of Margaret Sanger

margaret-sanger

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

Hello, friends of Ordinary Philosophy!

From time to time, I take a trip to some corner of the globe, to explore the lives and ideas of great thinkers in the places where they lived and worked. For this series, I follow in the footsteps of thinkers who are no longer alive, since those who are still telling their own stories. But those who are no longer alive in the body live on in the ideas that they pass on, and in the examples they provide for us to follow.

I’m pleased and excited to announce my sixth philosophical-historical themed adventure, a rather impromptu trip to New York City to follow in the footsteps of Margaret Sanger.

Though the timing was spur of the moment, I’ve read and thought about Sanger quite a bit over the years and have some of the research done already for this long-planned trip. So when this little window of time opened up in my schedule, I happily seized the opportunity! As central to the history of women’s rights, free speech rights, and rights to sexual self-determination and privacy as she is, Sanger’s also the most problematic figure in the history of ideas I’ve followed so far for this series, with the possible exception of the brilliant but slave-owning Thomas Jefferson. She’s certainly the first that sparked immediate controversy when I casually mentioned my plans for following her on social media…. 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!

To New York City I Go, in Search of Margaret Sanger

margaret-sangerHello, friends of Ordinary Philosophy!

From time to time, I take a trip to some corner of the globe, to explore the lives and ideas of great thinkers in the places where they lived and worked. For this series, I follow in the footsteps of thinkers who are no longer alive, since those who are still telling their own stories. But those who are no longer alive in the body live on in the ideas that they pass on, and in the examples they provide for us to follow.

I’m pleased and excited to announce my sixth philosophical-historical themed adventure, a rather impromptu trip to New York City to follow in the footsteps of Margaret Sanger.

Though the timing was spur of the moment, I’ve read and thought about Sanger quite a bit over the years and have some of the research done already for this long-planned trip. So when this little window of time opened up in my schedule, I happily seized the opportunity! As central to the history of women’s rights, free speech rights, and rights to sexual self-determination and privacy as she is, Sanger’s also the most problematic figure in the history of ideas I’ve followed so far for this series, with the possible exception of the brilliant but slave-owning Thomas Jefferson. She’s certainly the first that sparked immediate controversy when I casually mentioned my plans for following her on social media. Here’s a brief introduction, a condensed version of a short bio I published about a month ago in honor of her birthday:

Margaret Higgins Sanger was born on September 14, 1879 into a large Catholic family with 11 surviving children. Her mother died at about age 50 from tuberculosis. As young Margaret saw it, her mother 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 and fertility.

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 large numbers of 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 sexual oppression. She opened America’s first birth control clinic and despite numerous arrests and fines, she continued her fight for reproductive rights. In this regard, she’s best known today as one of the founders of Planned Parenthood and a key figure in the development of the first birth control pill.

Sanger remains a controversial figure. 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.  Generally, 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. Regrettably, however, at times Sanger seemed to support some sort of coercive or compulsory forms of birth or population control, for those who she deemed incapable of making this choice for themselves, for example, or too dangerous to be allowed to conceive and raise children.

Aside from her (mostly good) ideas about human rights and personal responsibility, I find Sanger’s beliefs about human sexuality and its important role in spiritual and mental health particularly fascinating

So off to New York City I go, from October 17th thru the 21st. There, I’ll visit landmarks associated with her life, places where she lived, worked, thought, wrote, studied, and rested, to see for myself how the places informed the woman, and vice versa.

Here is the story of Margaret Sanger as I discover her:

Happy Birthday, Margaret Sanger!
Margaret Sanger NYC Sites, Day 1 Part 1, and a 100 Year Anniversary
Why So Much Hatred for Margaret Sanger?
Margaret Sanger NYC Sites, Day 1 Part 2
Margaret Sanger NYC Sites, Day 1 Part 3
Margaret Sanger NYC Sites, Day 2, Part 1
Margaret Sanger NYC Sites, Day 2, Part 2
Margaret Sanger NYC Sites, Day 3 Part 1
Margaret Sanger NYC Sites, Day 3 Part 2
Margaret Sanger NYC Sites, Day 4

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!

Patrons of the Margaret Sanger series: Christopher Wallander, Magaly Gamarra Grant, Devin Cecil-Wishing, Sally Lee ~ With warmest gratitude, thank you!

*This piece was updated on 10/26/16. Originally, the 3rd and 4th sentences of the seventh paragraph read ‘She did not, however, support any kind of compulsory or coercive forms of birth or population control. Instead, 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.’ My subsequent research found that this is not quite accurate, as she surmised that coercive sterilization might be warranted in certain circumstances, for those who are mentally ill, handicapped in certain ways, or criminally violent, for example. Please read Why So Much Hatred for Margaret Sanger? and more from the series for further explorations of Sanger’s ideas on the subject.