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Margaret Sanger traveled the world on her quest for birth control and she stayed at a number of interesting places. This series highlights some of them.

The Astor Hotel in Shanghai

April 25-May 5, 1922: Margaret Sanger traveled to China in April-May 1922, stopping in Shanghai for a week. She stayed at the historic Astor House Hotel, the first Western hotel property in the country. Originally named after its owner– “Richard’s Hotel and Restaurant”– when established in 1846, the hotel was renamed in 1857 with its move across town. Many Chinese “firsts” have occurred at the Astor House Hotel, including the first use of electric lamps (1882), the first phone call made (1901), China’s first prom (1897), and the first stock exchange after 1949 (1990). No wonder Sanger chose to stay at such a historic place!

Moreover, Sanger was far from the first famous guest to sleep at the Astor House. World-renowned figures like Ulysses S. Grant, Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell, and Charlie Chaplin also opted to stay the modern yet historic hotel in Shanghai. Sanger had a number of meetings with journalists while at Shanghai, noting:

“The commercial Press of Shanghai was most generous in its propaganda. For one whole week they brought out scientific articles. The translated practically everything they could put their hands on. For one whole week while I was in Shanghai, the Chinese Press was aflame with the subject of Birth Control.” (Sanger, “Public Meeting,” Proceedings of the Fifth International Neo-Malthusian and Birth Control Conference [London, 1922], 206)

The highlight of Sanger’s trip to Shanghai was her April 30 speech on birth control at the Labor Museum. Sanger addressed the third anniversary meeting of the Family Reform Association, a group of about 800 people. Things went well until Sanger got to some of the more practical parts of her talk, when her interpreter, a young woman, became overcome with embarrassment by the frankness of Sanger’s topic.  She faltered and then suggested that a male doctor there complete the interpreting. MS suggested that she hand out pamphlets and give an extra supply to the Family Reformation Association to give to their members; and she was thanked elaborately by the Chairman. (New York Times, June 10, 1922.)

Click here for our map of Sanger’s travels.

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