A Woman Rebel In Hastings: The Life of Margaret Sanger (1879-1966)
By Riley Wentzler & Felicia Barber
Margaret Sanger was born in Corning, New York, on September 14, 1879 (MICROSOFT ENCARTA, 1993-2003 Microsoft Corporation) After graduating from Claverack College (https://www.britannica.com/biography/Margaret-Sanger), she trained as a nurse at White Plains Hospital (MICROSOFT ENCARTA 1993-2003 Microsoft Corporation). From 1900-1912 she was a practicing nurse (https://www.britannica.com/biography/Margaret-Sanger). She lived in Greenburgh’s Village of Hastings from 1902-1910 (https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/margaret-sanger). From 1910 until her death she lived in New York City. Her work as a nurse in low income communities in New York convinced her of the need for women to have information about, and easy access to, birth control. In 1912 she began her life- long career as a reproductive rights educator and birth control activist. She first began providing written information about birth control in her 1914 magazine, The Woman Rebel. This was a highly risky decision because ever since 1873, a federal law known as The Comstock Act had existed which prohibited distribution of “obscene, lewd or lascivious,” “immoral,” or “indecent” publications through the mail (https://www.mtsu.edu/first-amendment/article/1038/comstock-act-of-1873). Part of what the act defined as obscene material was “any device, medicine, or information designed to prevent conception or induce abortion.” She was charged under this law, but, the charges were dropped two years later (MICROSOFT ENCARTA, 1993-2003 Microsoft Corporation).
Shortly after these charges were dropped, she opened the first birth control clinic in the United States; this first clinic was located in Brooklyn. This time however, she was unable to avoid jail. She was charged with “maintaining a public nuisance” was arrested, and spent thirty days in jail. (https://www.britannica.com/biography/Margaret-Sanger) During her time in jail, she gave reproductive education classes to fellow inmates (MICROSOFT ENCARTA, 1993-2003 Microsoft Corporation). Also while in prison the first issue of her new magazine The Birth Control Review was published(https://www.britannica.com/biography/Margaret-Sanger). Her two magazines, The Woman Rebel and The Birth Control Review along with, her arrest, sentencing and hardships faced in prison caused many people in the United States to view birth control in a favorable light. This shift in public opinion led to a reinterpretation of the Comstock Act in 1936, in which birth control no longer counted as “obscene material.” Therefore, birth control could now be legally distributed (https://www.britannica.com/biography/Margaret-Sanger). In 1921, she founded the American Birth Control League and served as its president for seven years. The organization changed its name to Planned Parenthood Federation of America Inc in 1942. She died on September 6, 1966, in Tucson, Arizona (MICROSOFT ENCARTA, 1993-2003 Microsoft Corporation )
In recent months, Margaret Sanger's life has become more controversial. The controversy is not a dispute over what she did or when she did it, everyone acknowledges that she published The Woman Rebel, and The Birth Control Review and founded Planned Parenthood and when she did each of these things. Rather, the controversy is over her motivations. Margaret Sanger has been criticized for being a racist. Please read the excellent summary in Time Magazine about her support of eugenics. Many in the eugenics movement believed in white supremacy. https://time.com/4081760/margaret-sanger-history-eugenics/).
Previous Slices of History include:
- The Intersection of Banking, Ballet, and School: Greenburgh’s Warburg Estate (Updated) (10/22/19)
- When Greenburgh Went “East Bound and Down”: Greenburgh During Prohibition (10/6/2019)
- From Mopping The Floor of One Institution to Managing Three at Once: The Amazing Story of Former Westchester County Commissioner of Public Welfare Ruth Taylor (12/12/19)
- Greenburgh Gets its “Sun Daze on” Under the Watchful Eyes of the Boys in Blue (1/9/2020)
- Formed By Adversity, Held Together by Faith: The History of the Parkway Homes/Parkway Gardens Community (2/27/2020)
- From an Apple Orchard to The Olympics: The Saint Andrew’s Golf Club (3/8/2020)
- Ashes “Ashes, Ashes!!We all Fall Down”(3/23/2020)
- A Leading Medical Institution at The Border of Greenburgh: The Story of New York Medical College (4 /4 /2020)
- When the Cure was Worse than the Disease: A Look back on When The Medical Profession Wasn’t so Reliable: ( 4/18/2020)
- All Aboard!!! The Story of The Old Putnam Railroad In Greenburgh (5/31/2020)
- Juneteenth: A Day of Liberation (6/6/2020)
- The Jewel of Greenburgh: The Life of Charles Lewis Tiffany (7/25/2020)
- Hastings’ Best and Brightest : Nobel Laureates of Hastings
About the Authors:
We are both Assistant Town Historians at Greenburgh Town Hall and we are engaged to be married and are currently looking for permanent employment.
I was born and raised in a small rural town in central Pennsylvania. In high school, I took every honors course available including four years of Spanish. I received A’s in all of them. I graduated third in my class of 146 students. This brought me to Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. Once there, I continued my trend of academic excellence. I graduated summa cum laude in Political Science with a minor in Spanish and a Master’s in Communication Studies, with a G.P.A of 3.94. It was also there that I met my lovely fiancée, Felicia Barber. My Master’s in Communication has promoted public speaking, teamwork, and customer service. My Political Science degree has developed my research skills using computer-based tools and provided me with experience using the Microsoft Office products. My minor in Spanish has facilitated my bilingual capabilities. During my internship at Greenburgh, I created the petition for the State Roads project using website tools. My diverse education and areas of interest have provided me with a wide range of skills. I look forward to finding a career opportunity in business or government. To suggest a topic for next week’s article, you can contact me at email@example.com, or to help me find employment, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I was born in New York City and raised in Hartsdale, New York. I graduated from Ardsley High School. I recently earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Graphic Design at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. It was here that I met my fiancé, Riley Wentzler. As a result of my academic excellence, I won a scholarship every year. I learned and applied many graphic design skills to projects during my summer internships and at school. I am proficient in using Adobe graphic design applications including Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. For my Identity/branding course at Edinboro, I created logos to appear on the tee-shirts of Physical Education majors. For a veteran’s upcoming event, I used a typeface to focus the reader to the soldier in the poster. For the State Roads Legislative Campaign project, I created the embedded graphic-photo that accompanied the petition I am looking for a job to utilize my skills as a Graphic Designer in an agency, print shop, company or government To suggest a topic for next week’s article, you can contact me at email@example.com. To learn more about my artwork or to help me find employment you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Two Interviews with the authors:
Burnette, B. (2009, (NOT GIVEN) (NOT GIVEN)). Comstock Act of 1873. The First Amendment Encyclopedia , p. Online .
Latson, J. (2016, October 14). What Margaret Sanger Really Said About Eugenics and Race. Time Magazine , p. Online .
Microsoft Corporation. (1993-2003, (Not Given) (Not Given)). Encarta Encyclopedia . Redmond , Washington , United States of America .
Rogers, K. (2020, September 10). Margaret Sanger: American Social Reformer. Encyclopedia Britannica, p. Online.