A Feminist a Day: Margaret Sanger

Who is she?


If you’re a woman, Margaret Sanger has probably had the most influence on your freedom than any other person. She is a birth control activist who founded Planned Parenthood and is pretty much the “mother” of the contraceptive pill.

She opened the first birth control clinic in the US in 1916 (and went to jail for it), after working with immigrant women and seeing first hand the terrible risks to women’s health from having too many children, such as unsafe abortions. Sanger’s Mum had 18 pregnancies in 22 years and died aged 49.

She pushed for the development of a safe, effective and discreet method of birth control for many years, and in 1950 recruited a scientist called Gregory Goodwin Pincus, with the hope of developing a contraceptive pill. His research was funded by Katharine McCormick, the wife of a wealthy businessman. This was a time when birth control was banned in many states in the US.

Human trials started in 1953 and the contraceptive pill was approved by the US FDA in 1960, and was made available in Australia in 1961.

Why we should thank her?

Along with the washing machine, the Pill is considered the greatest liberator of women in the world. We have her (and Katharine McCormick, who funded the research with her personal fortune) to thank for our sexual freedom and ability to live our lives as we choose. She’s no doubt saved millions of women’s lives.

Best quote

“No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body. No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother.”

*There’s a great interview with the writer of the The Birth of the Pill, Jonathan Eig, on NPR.

A Feminist a Day: Margaret Sanger

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