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To celebrate the publication of a Spanish-language translation Margaret Sanger’s  Family Limitation’s in Merida, Mexico, her grandson Alexander Sanger wrote the following new introduction:La brújula del hogar img92-3

Introduction to Family Limitation – La Brujula del Hogar
By Alexander Sanger

La brújula del hogar

“In the summer and fall of 1914, my grandmother, Margaret Sanger, nascent birth control advocate and a public health nurse in New York, wrote a pamphlet entitled, Family Limitation, in which she described various methods of contraception which she recommended to enable couples to plan, space and limit their children. It was this pamphlet that was translated into Spanish as La Brujula del Hogar and published in Merida in 1922.
My grandmother, a mother of three, knew what she was talking about, not just because she had only three children, but because she had been working in the poorest slums of New York City, taking care of mothers who had children they did not want and could not afford. She often talked of one patient, Sadie Sachs, who in 1912 went to a back alley abortionist and almost died in the attempt. My grandmother nursed her back to health. When the doctor made his final visit, Sadie Sachs asked what she could do to not have any more children. The doctor responded,”“So you want to have your cake and eat it too. The answer is, tell Jake (her husband) to sleep on the roof.’”

“Three months later, Sadie Sachs was pregnant again, went to a back alley abortionist and died in my grandmother’s arms.”

“My grandmother said, ‘Enough.’”

“She went to Europe to research contraceptive methods and put all her knowledge of methods available in the United States and in Europe into Family Limitation.”

“In the United States at that time, both the Federal Government and the states had Comstock Laws, which prohibited the dissemination of birth control information and supplies. The laws also criminalized advocating the legality of birth control.”

“In March of 1914, my grandmother announced in the first issue of her monthly newspaper, The Woman Rebel, her intention to ‘advocate the prevention of conception’ and ‘impart such knowledge in the columns of this paper.’ She never actually imparted any contraceptive information in The Woman Rebel, but nonetheless the authorities confiscated the newspaper. In it she first used the phrase ‘birth control.’  My grandmother kept printing the paper and the government kept confiscating it, and finally indicted her on obscenity charges, since birth control under the Comstock laws was considered ‘obscene.’”

“The indictment made headlines, spreading birth control far beyond the limited readership of her paper and agitating women and men to support her cause.”

“She decided to ‘give them (the government) something to really indict me on,’ she wrote to her muckraker friend, Upton Sinclair. She printed 100,000 copies of Family Limitation. It was immediately translated into multiple languages, including in 1919 and again in 1922 into Spanish. Her willingness to put women’s rights and health above the law launched the United States birth control movement, and soon the worldwide movement.”

“What my grandmother saw in the slums of New York and on her visits to Mexico (she made at least a half dozen), was enormous inequality between the classes. In New York and in poorer areas of the United States, the rich and poor often lived near each other but had vastly different incomes, access to health care and numbers of children, both born and surviving. There were scandalously high infant and maternal mortality rates. If women used contraception, it was a traditional method, often ineffective if not dangerous, and when it failed, the women often resorted to unsafe abortion. There were Sadie Saches in Mexico as well as New York, and my grandmother vowed to put an end to it. In her campaign she was repeatedly imprisoned but she never wavered.”

“Imprisonment also seemed likely for the translators, printers and publishers of La Brujula del Hogar in 1922. The pamphlet fell into the hands of birth control opponents in Merida, the Knights of Columbus, who drew up a petition seeking the prosecution of the publishers. Newspapers took both sides, cartoonists got busy, public became aroused and Birth Control became the most discussed topic of the hour. The first edition of the pamphlet, all 5,000 copies, was exhausted in one day, and a second edition of 10,000 copies was immediately re-printed.”

“The Knights of Columbus petition was forwarded on from the District Attorney, Arturo Cisneros Canto, to the Governor of Yucatan, Felipe Carrillo Puerto, who at once remitted instructions to refuse it. Incidentally, Carrillo, a Socialist, was one of 14 children. In compliance, District Attorney Canto issued a statement published in the March 14 Diario Official, which was reprinted in Meridá newspapers, which said, in part:”

“The Attorney General’s Office cannot shape its manner of proceedings to the narrow-minded and antiquated criteria of morality, the result of deep-rooted religious prejudices, which crops out in your petition. The Executive of the State wishes to have it made clear that forever have gone the prosecutions, which have no other cause than moral fanaticism, which filled with horror the vast period of clerical domination of the Middle Ages. As long as the present socialist government directs public destiny, the Attorney General’s office will not undertake any prosecutions for futile ideas of morality, since prosecutions in the name of morality have at all times been the most odious pretext of which religion made use so as to destroy its enemies.”

“My grandmother touted the Yucatan government’s support of birth control, noting that Arturo Cisneros Canto’s statement’“is a remarkable document and one that might be recommended to the attention of police departments in some American cities–especially in New York, where a meeting for the discussion of the morality of birth control was broken up not six months ago.’”

“The Yucatan’s socialist experiment was short-lived. In 1924 Governor Carrillo Puerto was assassinated, and support for feminist and socialist reforms there evaporated. But, as historian Dan La Botz noted, ‘revolutionary Yucatan set the long-term agenda of the Mexican women’s movement, and many of its demands are still being fought for.’”

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