The Pivot of Civilization by Sanger, Margaret, 1883-1966by Margaret Sanger
Margaret Higgins was born in Corning, New York. Her mother, Anne Purcell Higgins, was a devout Catholic who went through 18 pregnancies (with 11 live births) before dying of tuberculosis and
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Sanger Slee (September 14, 1879 – September 6, 1966) was an American sex educator, birth control activist and the founder of the American Birth Control League.
Margaret Higgins was born in Corning, New York. Her mother, Anne Purcell Higgins, was a devout Catholic who went through 18 pregnancies (with 11 live births) before dying of tuberculosis and cervical cancer. Margaret's father, Michael Hennessy Higgins, was an atheist who earned his living "chiseling angels and saints out of huge blocks of white marble or gray granite for tombstones," and was also an activist for women's suffrage and free public education. Margaret was the sixth of eleven children and spent much of her youth assisting in household chores and care of her younger siblings.
Margaret attended Claverack College, a boarding school in Claverack, New York for two years, and her sisters paid her tuition. She returned home in 1896 following her father's request to come home to nurse her mother, who died 31 March 1896. Toward the end of the century the mother of one of her Claverack friends arranged for her to enroll at a nursing program at a hospital in White Plains, an affluent New York City suburb. In 1902 Margaret Higgins married architect William Sanger and the couple settled in New York City. Margaret Sanger had developed tuberculosis as a result of the care of her ill mother and her own overwork, and the Sangers moved to Saranac, New York, in the Adirondacks, for health reasons. In 1903, she gave birth to her first child, Stuart.
In 1912, after a fire destroyed the home that William designed, the Sanger family moved back to New York City, where Margaret went to work in the East Side slums of Manhattan. That same year, she also started writing a column for the New York Call entitled "What Every Girl Should Know." Distributing a pamphlet, Family Limitation, to women, Sanger repeatedly caused scandal and risked imprisonment by acting in defiance of the Comstock Law of 1873, which outlawed as obscene the dissemination of contraceptive information and devices.
Sanger felt that in order for women to have a more "equal footing" in society and to have physically and mentally healthy lives, they needed to be able to decide when a pregnancy would be most convenient for themselves. In addition, access to birth control would also fulfill a critical psychological need by allowing women to be able to fully enjoy sexual relations without being burdened by the fear of pregnancy.
The Sangers moved to New York City in 1910, where they became immersed in the radical bohemian culture that was then flourishing in Greenwich Village  and became involved with local intellectuals, artists and activists. Some of the better-known acquaintances they were affiliated with were John Reed, Upton Sinclair, Mabel Dodge, and Emma Goldman.
As Margaret worked in New York's Lower East Side with poor women who were repeatedly suffering due to frequent childbirth and self-induced abortions, she began to speak out for the need of women to become knowledgeable about birth control. While she was working on duty as a nurse, Margaret met Sadie Sachs when she was called to her apartment to assist her after she had become extremely ill due to a self-induced abortion. Afterward, Sadie begged the attending doctor to tell her how she could prevent this from happening again, to which the doctor simply gave the advice to remain abstinent. A few months later, Margaret was once again called back to the Sachs' apartment, only this time, Sadie was found dead after yet another self-induced abortion.
This was a turning point in Margaret's life. Sadie Sachs' predicament was not at all uncommon during that time period. Margaret came to believe then, more than ever, that she needed to do something to help desperate women before they were driven to pursue dangerous and illegal abortions.
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