Margaret Sanger: Marvel of Nursing History

We have heard of Florence Nightingale a Nurse who changed the view of healthcare and nursing but apart from the glory of Florence Nightingale the field of nursing has generated many marvels who infused their thoughts to change the life of many on global level. One such hidden gem is Margaret Sanger who started the Birth Control Movement for women.

Margaret was born as Margaret Louise Higgins on September 14, 1979, in Corning, New York. Her mother was a devout Catholic who had 18 pregnancies in 22 years; Margaret was the sixth of 11 live births.  At the age of 50, Margaret’s mother died from tuberculosis and cervical cancer that Margaret attributed to her many pregnancies. This experience gave her an interest in nursing and helped set the stage for her later passion for birth control education.

Shortly following her mother’s death, Margaret enrolled in the nursing program at White Plains Hospital in New York. She graduated in 1900 and married an architect, William Sanger, who was much like her father. They had three children, and Margaret quit working as a nurse until after their third child was born. Margaret resumed her nursing career by working as a visiting nurse in some of the poorest areas of New York. Sanger’s experience as a nurse was galvanizing. It fortified what would become her lifelong commitment to help women escape the poverty, illnesses, and deaths that were caused by having too many pregnancies. Profoundly stirred by this Sanger resolved to make the world safe for women.

Her plan for action had three parts. First was education of the public. She started her own magazine, Woman Rebel, that contained articles on birth control and related subjects. This created many enemies, including the Catholic Church, politicians and women’s suffrage groups who thought she should be working for the right to vote rather than family planning.

The next part of her plan was to change laws. The Comstock Law prohibited using the U.S. Postal Service to mail anything considered obscene, and birth control information was considered obscene. Sanger was charged with breaking obscenity laws and fled to England for two years to avoid being jailed. When the charges were finally dropped, she returned to the United States to continue her efforts.

She formed the National Birth Control League that is continued now under the name Planned Parenthood Federation of America. She challenged the law by opening her first birth control clinic in New York City. The clinic opened in 1916 but was raided and shut down in a few weeks. A judge told Sanger he would dismiss charges if she agreed to not reopen the clinic, but she refused and was sentenced to 30 days in the workhouse. After her release from jail, Sanger reopened the clinic at her home and hired a female doctor. Even though she was helping women on a local level, she felt the need to go national. This prompted her to publish The Birth Control Review and to lecture nationally once again.

In 1936, her efforts were successful. The Supreme Court reversed the Comstock Law that made the mailing of birth control information illegal, and the AMA ruled that doctors could give birth control information and devices to their patients. Knowing that birth control was finally legal was a great victory for Sanger. Margaret Sanger changed the world for millions of women by ensuring them reproductive freedom. While the Planned Parenthood Federation still is a controversial issue today, Sanger dedicated her life to what she believed was right. She never deviated from her purpose until she effected change. She is one of the most well-known and famous nurses in history.


By – NURSING TUTOR – : Mrs. Deepika
Department – Dept. of Nursing
UCBMSH Magazine – (YouthRainBow)
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