Who is she?
Marie Stopes was a famous campaigner for women’s reproductive rights. Born in Edinburgh in 1880 to a paleonotologist father and actress/women’s rights campaigning mother, she became a paleobotanist and had a successful scientific and research career.
In 1918, Marie published a book called Married Love, which offered advice on contraception (it’s mentioned in a couple of Downton Abbey episodes). It was a huge success and she followed up with Wise Parenthood: A Book for Married People. She embarked on educating the poor about birth control and in 1921 opened a Mothers Clinic in North London, staffed by midwives offering advice on birth control. Marie opened a number of clinics throughout Britain.
Why should we thank her?
Today, Marie Stopes International offers contraception and safe abortion services in 38 countries around the world. The organisation estimated that the services they provided in 2013 prevented approximately 6.1 million unintended pregnancies, 14,300 maternal deaths and 3.1 million unsafe abortions.
Marie recognised the dangers to women’s health that unsafe contraception and birth practices posed, and her legacy has helped millions of women worldwide. Her book, Married Love, was really the first to stake a claim for female sexual needs and sexual rights.
And even though she married, she KEPT HER OWN NAME. In 1911. So cool.
BUT, she had some controversial views too – she was a eugenicist, and even sent a copy of her book to Hitler.
“When a woman marries, it is commonly the custom for her to take her husband’s name…in the eyes of the law she makes this change voluntarily…I have taken the necessary steps to retain my own name as my legal one…and it is also the name I use in all my scientific work. It is, in short, my real name.”