In the spirit of The Paris Wife and Loving Frank, the provocative and compelling story of one of the most fascinating and influential figures of the twentieth century: Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood—an indomitable woman who, more than any other, and at great personal cost, shaped the sexual landscape we inhabit today.
The daughter of a hard-drinking, smooth-tongued free thinker and a mother worn down by thirteen children, Margaret Sanger vowed her life would be different. Trained as a nurse, she fought for social justice beside labor organizers, anarchists, socialists, and other progressives, eventually channeling her energy to one singular cause: legalizing contraception. It was a battle that would pit her against puritanical, patriarchal lawmakers, send her to prison again and again, force her to flee to England, and ultimately change the lives of women across the country and around the world.
This complex enigmatic revolutionary was at once vain and charismatic, generous and ruthless, sexually impulsive and coolly calculating—a competitive, self-centered woman who championed all women, a conflicted mother who suffered the worst tragedy a parent can experience. From opening the first illegal birth control clinic in America in 1916 through the founding of Planned Parenthood to the arrival of the Pill in the 1960s, Margaret Sanger sacrificed two husbands, three children, and scores of lovers in her fight for sexual equality and freedom.
With cameos by such legendary figures as Emma Goldman, John Reed, Big Bill Haywood, H. G. Wells, and the love of Margaret’s life, Havelock Ellis, this richly imagined portrait of a larger-than-life woman is at once sympathetic to her suffering and unsparing of her faults. Deeply insightful, Terrible Virtue is Margaret Sanger’s story as she herself might have told it.
|Product dimensions:||5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)|
About the Author
Ellen Feldman is the author of five previous novels, including Scottsboro, which was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction, and Next to Love. A 2009 Guggenheim Fellow, she lives in New York City.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Excellent Historical Fiction Margaret Sanger saw firsthand how difficult the typical woman’s life at the turn of the century could be. Saddled with hard work and few choices, most women had babies and cared for them until their death. She saw her mother raise thirteen children that she could not afford, then dying prematurely. She also saw women who died in childbirth or from trying to abort an unwanted fetus. Margaret wanted choices for women. She wanted to inform them about birth control methods, a very controversial topic in the early nineteen hundreds. After decades of struggle and even jail time, she started Planned Parenthood, an organization giving women choices about their own bodies. Today, Planned Parenthood is the single largest organization providing reproductive health care for women. This book is amazing! Written in the first person, Margaret Sanger seems to talk, intimately, to the reader from the pages of this book. This allows the reader to feel personally connected to Margaret. Spaced throughout Margaret’s narration are separate sections in which characters from her life address her, telling her how they felt about her, her lifestyle, and her accomplishments. There are also letters to Margaret in the book. All of these, combined, lend a note of realism and impact to this story. Our author Ellen Feldman write very well, and the words flow freely. The reader forgets that she is reading, as the action unfurls before her. This is a very interesting story. Not only does it introduce us to the reality of women’s lives in the early nineteen hundreds, but it also shows how far the lives of women have come, thanks, in part, to Margaret Sanger and her fight.
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings A fictional tale of the life of the founder of Planned Parenthood and how she became an activist for women's rights in particular with their health. Margaret Sanger's childhood played a big role on who she became and what she was passionate about, as a child she watched her mother barely keep it together with 11 children and even more miscarriages that wrecked havoc on her body. She watched as her mother wilted away under the burden of family and Margaret thought there has to be a better way to both satisfy the "husband's needs" and have the amount of children that one would desire. The other big thing she noticed was the lack of knowledge that both men and women had about women's healthcare especially in terms of pregnancy. I love historical fiction books that are deeply rooted in truth. I love to read a story instead of a textbook and learn something without feeling as though I am truly learning something! I also love reading historical fiction to honestly see a difference in the roles of women from then to now. To get a little personal - I am happily married, but we have chosen to not go down the child path and instead enjoy 3 dogs in our home to make our family complete. Reading books like these gives me true appreciation for the ability to make the decisions I do and avoid complete social pariah for choosing the life that I do. Thank goodness my husband is happy that I find joy in my full time job, this blog and our dogs!
Loat my intrest half way through. No real climax and the ending totally loat me.
Thanks to HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours for providing an ARC of Terrible Virtue for my review. In the wake of our current political climate–storm clouds gathering with a huge abortion case before the U.S. Supreme Court, one of the presidential candidates calling for women who have abortions to be punished, and people still talking about last year’s “sting” videos that shone an unfavorable light on Planned Parenthood–Ellen Feldman’s new novel, Terrible Virtue, could not have hit the bookstores at a more opportune time. Terrible Virtue is a biographical novel in which Feldman reveals the life of Margaret Sanger, foundress of Planned Parenthood. Sanger’s life was never easy, was always controversial to some, and complicated by Sanger’s own flaws and drive to improve the world of women. It is amazing that Feldman was able to condense Sanger’s life into such a short book, i.e. 272 pages. Sanger was born Margaret Higgins, the child of an atheist father and a Catholic mother. Her mother lived a life of drudgery, surviving multiple pregnancies producing 11 children, not to mention the miscarriages along the way. Margaret’s mother had no choice in the matter; the man ruled his household no matter how drunk he became, how much money he wasted, or how many times he impregnated his wife. Margaret and two of her sisters declared they would never marry. Margaret did marry and give birth to three children, two sons and a daughter. Her husband professed to love her dearly, but her complicated psyche would not allow her to avoid dalliances with other men. There are too many to name here, so you’ll have to read Terrible Virtue. Margaret did feel compassion for the women across the country, and she travelled often to speak, seek out supporters for her cause–freeing women to make choices about the care and treatment of their bodies, and frequency of sex with their husbands–and eventually setting up clinics. This doesn’t include the time she spent behind bars for breaking the law. Speaking publicly or handing out information about birth control was against the law. Margaret intended to see that changed. This reader patiently waited for some sense that Feldman had researched and investigated the subject of eugenics in the United States during this time period. It is left to a few words on two or so pages. However, direct quotes from Margaret Sanger–not in this book but as cited here–indicates knowledge of eugenics and her beliefs about same as she advocated: a stern and rigid policy of sterilization and segregation to that grade of population whose progeny is already tainted, or whose inheritance is such that objectionable traits may be transmitted to offspring.” —“A Plan for Peace,” Birth Control Review, April 1932, pages 107-108 [A portion of review deleted to meet word count. You may find the deletions at http://puddletownreviews.com] Overall, Ellen Feldman has done a good job researching and bringing to the page what she did with these exceptions noted here. However, she could have written so much more giving the reader a real chance to get to know Margaret Sanger in detail. Any interest in women’s rights, birth control and contraceptives and how they were treated in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and the struggles women faced in that time period will be served fairly well in Terrible Virtue.
There has been a recent trend of historical novels featuring women many of us don't know much about. Paula McLain's The Paris Wife about Hadley Hemingway, Ernest's first wife, began the trend a few years ago, and some more recent ones include McLain's Circling the Sun (about aviatrix Beryl Markham) and a book I recently loved and reviewed The First Daughter, about Thomas' Jefferson's daughter Patsy. (My review here) Ellen Feldman's Terrible Virtue tells the story of Margaret Sanger, widely regarded as the woman who helped bring about birth control education for women and the founder of Planned Parenthood. I didn't know much about Sanger, so I was curious to read more about her. Sanger's mother had thirteen children and her father was an alcoholic who fancied himself a socialist atheist philosopher. Sanger watched her mother give birth year after year and become a shell of a woman, worn out by caring for so many children without any help from her husband. Margaret was intelligent and thanks to her older sisters who raised enough money, she was able to attend nursing school. She also became passionate about social justice, as well as men. She had relationships with many men and believed in free love. Yet she married Bill Sanger and they had three children- two sons and daughter named Peggy. Peggy was diagnosed with polio, a diagnosis Margaret disagreed with, and she refused to let her daughter wear a leg brace. One day Margaret was asked to speak to some women about health issues, and she began to talk about contraception, which was a forbidden topic at the time. Women were hungry for more information and soon Margaret's talks drew more and more women. She also drew attention from authorities and Margaret was arrested. Margaret fled the country for Europe, leaving behind her family. When she eventually returned, she devoted so much of her time and energy to the issue of contraception and women's health that her relationship with her husband and children suffered. The story is told from Margaret's point of view, with some characters- her husband, her son, her sister, her lawyer and others in her life- telling their story in small doses. I think the novel may have been stronger if we heard more of their voices. It was difficult for me to completely empathize with Margaret. She is, to say the least, a very complicated character. She was a pioneer in women's health, and her determination to help women understand and have access to contraception changed the world for women. So many poor women were trapped, forced year after year to have babies because contraception was not available to them. But she wasn't a good mother or wife. It's one thing to say that her husband knew what he was getting into with Margaret and her extramarital affairs, but her children didn't deserve to have an absentee mother. They were sent a boarding school that was horrible, and at the end of her life, I wonder how much she regretted not having a better relationship with them. I recommend Terrible Virtue as it brings to light how difficult life was for women because they didn't have any control over basic health care regarding contraception. The world changed dramatically for women once this happened, and Margaret Sanger was the one who changed it.