Margaret Sanger: Dedication Ahead of Her Time

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  • Topic: Birth control, Margaret Sanger, Anthony Comstock
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  • Published : October 4, 2008
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Running Head: MARGARET SANGER

Margaret Sanger: Dedication
Ahead of Her Time
Patricia Fay
Wagner College

Abstract
This paper researches the ideas and work of Margaret Sanger- a great nursing leader. It includes the struggles against leadership she endured and the overwhelming dedication by this leader to bring contraceptive information to the poor, underprivileged, and ignorant masses of not only the United States, but also the world. Her leadership style is discussed, along with the benefits and hindrances of such a leadership style. The question of how Margaret Sanger became the woman she ultimately did is also explored in a brief synopsis of her childhood and family life.

Informing the Masses
Contraceptives have been taken for granted, I feel, in both mine and my parents’ generations. I have never stopped to think about the difficulties one may have had to overcome in times past in order to grant the future with such a necessity as this. Margaret Sanger is a nursing leader who lived in a time when women needed to fight for their rights to bear the amount of children their income and personal happiness could logically afford. She knew the hardships of women who had too many children. Working as a visiting nurse in New York’s cold water tenements, she attended to many emergency calls for women with too many children who had seriously injured themselves in an attempt to self- induce abortion. (Archer, J., 1991) After watching a Russian immigrant die from a self- induced abortion, Sanger vowed to dedicate her life to breaking “society’s taboo against investigating and distributing effective birth control information to women who needed practical knowledge to prevent unwanted pregnancies.”(Archer, J., 1991) At that time, condoms were very expensive and not readily available, douching was considered to be taboo, and husbands did not want to practice incomplete intercourse. (Archer, J., 1991) Along with these obstacles, the Catholic Church very strongly believed that “Children troop down from Heaven because God wills it. He alone has the right to stay their coming, while He blesses at will some homes with many, others with but few or with none at all….To prevent human life that the Creator is about to bring into being is satanic…an immortal soul is denied existence in time and in eternity.” (Archer, J., 1991) The Catholic Church was not the only opposing authoritative figure Sanger would have to rise against- our own government had enacted a censorship law- the Comstock Law of 1873, signed by President Grant. This law included an amendment allowing the head of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, Anthony Comstock, to open any mail and censor “every obscene, lewd, lascivious or filthy book, pamphlet, picture, paper, letter, writing, print, or other publication of an indecent character.”(Archer, J., 1991) Sanger had written columns titled, What Every Mother Should Know and What Every Girl Should Know. They were to be published in an issue of the Socialist Call, but under the Comstock Amendment, the complete columns were taken from the publication. (Archer, J., 1991) This kind of censorship would follow Sanger wherever she went, even to other parts of the world, as she strove to make contraceptive information available to every woman everywhere. Sanger did manage to convince other health care practitioners, wealthy families, and foreign countries, to support her cause but only after years of struggles and hardships. She was imprisoned many times by the US government and summoned to court hearings more often than that, but each time, her public supporters and those she had helped through her illegal literature, meetings, and the Brownville Clinic she and her sister Ethel Byrne had opened in Brooklyn to distribute contraceptives “for the cure or prevention of disease” (Archer, J., 1991), flocked the streets and courthouses demanding her...
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