, ,

Flyer for Sanger's Carnegie Hall RallyThe Committee of 100 was organized in January of 1917 by Gertrude Minturn Pinchot and other prominent women members of the National Birth Control League to protest the Brownsville Clinic arrests. It raised a significant sum of money to aid with Sanger’s legal costs, and helped to arrange the meeting between Sanger and Governor Whitman that led to the early release of Ethel Byrne from prison.

The Committee, which included Mary Ware Dennett, Rose Pastor Stokes, Crystal Eastman and Juliet Rublee, held a successful protest rally which Sanger addressed at Carnegie Hall on January 28, 1917, the night before her trial began. The Committee also published a booklet titled The Birth Control Movement, offering a succinct history of the movement, highlights of Sanger’s pioneering work, and a discussion of the positive effects of family limitation.

In Sanger’s autobiographical My Fight For Birth Control, she recalled rethinking her tactics for the birth control movement while serving a month-long prison sentence.  Her initial impetus was to work directly with working class women. “These were the people to whom my work was directed and for whom I was fighting. I felt I was the protagonist of the mothers of the child laborers and of the wives of the wage slaves. I knew their lives; I knew their burdens, their sorrows, their problems.” (p. 190)  Sanger concluded that though these women needed her help, they were not in position to help her promote the birth control movement.

“The answer was to make the club women, the women of wealth and intelligence, use their power and money and influence to obtain freedom and knowledge for the women of the poor. The women of leisure must listen. The women of wealth must give. The women of influence must protest.” (p.191)

The work of the Committee of 100 surely influenced Sanger’s thinking in the immediate aftermath of the Brownsville trial and for the rest of her life.  Though the Committee disbanded shortly after the trials were over, Committee members continued to support Sanger and the birth control movement. They funded the  Birth Control Review, a monthly journal founded in 1917, and by lent their support to the First American Birth Control Conference, in held in 1921.  When, at the end of this meeting, Sanger formed the American Birth Control League, many members of the Committee of 100 served as its officers and on its national council.

For more information on the Committee of 100, see the Margaret Sanger Microfilm Edition: Collected Documents Series.