MARGARET SANGER

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By Tim Sullivan

Today's fierce female is Margaret Sanger. Born to working-class Irish immigrants in 1879, her mother endured 18 pregnancies before dying at the age of 49.

Margaret moved to New York City, where she became a nurse and got involved in the labor movement. Her nursing work led her to see the great need for working-class women to become informed about contraception, and she became one of the first people to popularize the term "birth control" in her monthly newsletter, aptly named The Woman Rebel. This caused her to be indicted on federal charges for obscenity in 1914. She fled to England rather than stand trial.

After World War I, Margaret returned to New York and founded the American Birth Control League. Her aim was to widen the scope of the birth control movement and better appeal to both middle-class and working-class women. The group's founding principles were:

"We hold that children should be (1) Conceived in love; (2) Born of 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."

In 1936, Margaret led a court challenge that finally overturned contraception bans in the U.S. The following year, the American Medical Association adopted contraception as a routine medical service.

Margaret founded the International Committee on Planned Parenthood in 1948. . She continues to be vilified by anti-abortion groups, though Planned Parenthood was not involved in abortions during her lifetime. It is now the largest non-governmental organization in the world dedicated to women's heath and family planning.

"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."

"At times I have been discouraged and disheartened by the deliberate misrepresentation of the Birth Control movement by the opponents, and by the crude tactics used to combat it. But at such moments invariably comes back into my mind the vision of the enslaved and supplicant mothers of America. I hear the low moans of their cry for deliverance--a vision ever renewed in my imagination by the perusal of these letters. Painful as they are, they release fresh resources of energy and determination. They give me the courage to continue the battle."

"Woman must not accept; she must challenge. She must not be awed by that which has been built up around her; she must reverence that woman in her which struggles for expression."

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