Tag Archives: 1920s

Margaret Sanger & the 1920s Birth Control Movement

Photo: Margaret Sanger

In 1921, Margaret Sanger founded the American Birth Control League, now known as Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She is also known as the founder of modern day birth control and lead several roles in the 1920’s Birth Control and Reproductive Rights Movements.

The American Birth Control League held the following main principles:

We hold that children should be:

  1. Conceived in love;
  2. Born the mother’s conscious desire;
  3. And only begotten under conditions which render possible the heritage of health

Therefore we hold that every woman must possess the power and freedom to prevent conception except when these conditions can be satisfied.

This notable woman sacrificed a lot to stand up for women and what she believed in. In 1913 she wrote a column on sexual education in the local newspaper titled What Every Mother Should Know and What Every Girl Should Know, considered both an advice and informative column. Because of the Comstock laws established in 1873, she was jailed for her writings and beliefs and the story went viral, as did her popularity.

Considering the 1920s as a time of economic growth and success, there also laid the fact that the country had just recently came out of World War I. While the nation was still in the process of healing from war, there was a great amount of disapproval for many women’s rights movements in these years. Although Sanger and many other reproductive and women’s rights activists faced that amount of scorn, it was their famous courage and ambition that kept them and their supporters moving forward.

Sanger had her own beliefs and views about abortion in America that can be a bit complex. While she acknowledged it justifiable in certain cases, she also believed it should be a last resort and should be avoided as much as possible. Her main views and legacy at the time were directed towards contraception, not so much abortion. In one of her books Women and the New Race, she wrote, “while there are cases where even the law recognizes an abortion as justifiable if recommended by a physician, I assert that the hundreds of thousands of abortions performed in America each year are a disgrace to civilization.” (Sanger)

And so although her view on abortion varied by situation, her push for the importance of contraception and sexual health gave birth to future reproductive justice ideas. Although the nation had just come out of the first Great War, she continued to advocate for women, contraception, and the rights of knowledge regarding the subject.

Sources:

  • “Birth control: What it is, How it works, What it will do”, The Proceedings of the First American Birth Control Conference, November 11, 12, 1921, pp. 207–8.
  • Margaret Sanger (1920). “Contraceptives or Abortion?”. Woman and the New Race.
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