We are pleased to announce that the Margaret Sanger Papers Project’s website has been primped and updated just in time for Women’s History Month! Thanks to the hard work of our former editorial assistant Angela Wu (NYU 2013), and a University of Michigan intern, Sabarish Raghupathy, the site has a new look that we hope will take us through to the project’s completion. We invite you to explore the site and let us know how you like it.
This March is a very special Women’s History Month, as it also marks the 100th anniversary of the birth control movement. Margaret Sanger’s Woman Rebel, a fiery socialist and feminist journal covered many topics, but is best known for coining the phrase “birth control” and advocating for legalizing contraception. In the first issue Sanger laid out the Woman Rebel’s aims, including:
It will also be the aim of the WOMAN REBEL to advocate the prevention of conception and to impart such knowledge in the columns of this paper. (“The Aim,” Mar. 1914, p. 1)
Margaret Sanger also asked a question still pertinent today in “The Prevention of Conception,” also included in the first issue:
Is there any reason why women should not receive clean, harmless, scientific knowledge on how to prevent conception?
Sanger went on to explain why she was fighting for the working-class woman to get this information, claiming:
The women of the upper middle-class have all available knowledge and implements to prevent conception. The woman of the lower-middle class is struggling for this knowledge. She tries various methods of prevention, and after a few years of experience plus medical advice succeeds in discovering some method, suitable to her individual self. The woman of the people is the only one left in ignorance of this information.
The Woman Rebel was just the beginning of Sanger’s life-long campaign to make birth control available to every woman. One hundred years after the Woman Rebel screeched its way into the public consciousness, the victories that Margaret Sanger fought so hard for are being challenged once again.
We see it most in a war over how Margaret Sanger should be portrayed, with ahistorical treatments commonly found on blogs and other websites. The Sanger Project’s goal is to make her own words accessible to the broadest possible audience. Margaret Sanger was a complex historical figure, and whether you like or loathe her, her efforts shaped the 20th century by empowering women to take control of their reproductive lives and to devise a plan to fit childbearing in along with other life goals.
What better way is there than to spend Women’s History Month learning about a true Woman Rebel, Margaret Sanger? Our first three volumes are out and available.
And if you have the means, please consider supporting the work of the Margaret Sanger Papers. We are working to finish up Volume 4, and are mounting and proofreading over 1,000 texts to the Speeches and Articles of Margaret Sanger. This digital archive is free to the public and contains one copy of all extant Sanger speeches and short-form publications.
Have a Happy Women’s History Month– and don’t feel the need to stop celebrating when April rolls around!