Margaret Sanger Biography

Margaret Sanger is an America born social activist, sex and birth control educator, and a nurse. Go through this biography to learn more about her profile, childhood, life and timeline.

Margaret Sanger
Quick Facts

Birthday: September 14, 1879

Nationality: American

Famous: Atheists Feminists

Died At Age: 86

Sun Sign: Virgo

Also Known As: Margaret Higgins Sanger

Born in: Corning, New York, United States

Famous as: Birth Control Activist


Spouse/Ex-: James Noah H. Slee (m.1922–1943), William Sanger (m.1902–1921)

father: Michael Hennessy Higgins

mother: Anne Purcell Higgins

children: Grant Sanger, Stuart Sanger

Died on: September 6, 1966

place of death: Tucson, Arizona, United States

U.S. State: New Yorkers

More Facts

education: Claverack College

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Margaret Sanger is a well-known American social activist, sex and birth control educator, and a nurse who made the term “birth control” popular among the natives of USA. One cannot deny her unparalleled contributions to legalize contraception in the USA, in spite of being a common target for criticism from opposition. She also worked a lot in support of the eugenics. She believed that a woman should have equal rights in the society like a man and should be able to choose when to give birth to a child. She argued that women should protest against unsafe or back alley abortions. She founded the ‘American Birth Control League’ which is known as the ‘Planned Parenthood Federation of America’ today and remained president of its international chapter for many years. The first clinic on birth control was established with an all female staff under her supervision in New York. She also patronized the all American-African clinic at Harlem which was also a first of its kind. She was the founder of the ‘National Committee on Federal Legislation for Birth Control’ that paved the way for contraception to be legalized in the USA. Even after so many years of her death, she is still considered to be the founder, patron and an iconic figure in the world of modern birth control.

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Margaret Sanger
Childhood & Early Life
  • Margaret Higgins Sanger was born to Michael Higgins, who was an Irish Stonemason, and Anne Higgins.
  • She was the sixth of the 11 children born to her parents and did not have a prosperous childhood, spending most of the time doing household chores and rearing her younger siblings.
  • At the age of 17 in 1896, she went to the Claverack College and later attended the Hudson River Institute, as she was inclined towards academics and wanted a better life.
  • When she turned 21 in 1900, she chose to take up nursing as her subject of specialization and joined the White Plains Hospital to help thousands of people suffering from ailments.
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  • In 1910, Sanger went to the Greenwich Village of New York City and settled in a bohemian enclave. She joined the ‘Women’s Committee of the New York Socialist party’.
  • At 33, in 1912, while working as a nurse on Lower East side, she started writing educational columns for women including ‘What Every Mother Should Know’ and helped many women who wished to terminate their pregnancies or underwent back alley abortions.
  • In 1914, she published a monthly magazine, ‘The Woman Rebel’ that promoted the rights of women to opt for birth control which caused legal troubles for her, as per the Comstock Act of 1873.
  • In 1916, she managed to set up her first clinic in USA for birth control, which was followed by sheer unrest in the society. Many raised their voices against her, which eventually led to her arrest and prosecution thereafter.
  • However, she remained undeterred and went on to establish the well-known ‘American Birth Control League’ in 1921, later renamed as ‘The Planned Parenthood Federation of America’. She became the president of the organization for the next seven years.
  • In 1923, she established her first legal clinic on birth control in USA, called the ‘Clinical Research Bureau’ which was later renamed to ‘Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau’, which helped many women realize their self-worth and urged them to exercise their rights as human beings.
  • Her motto of legalizing contraception in the country led to the founding of the ‘National Committee on Federal Legislation for Birth Control’ in 1929.
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  • In 1936, she ordered a diaphragm from Japan to provoke a decisive battle in the courts of the US. She won the legal battle, which was the beginning of the culmination of her birth control efforts in the country.
  • She became the chairperson of the newly formed, ‘Birth Control Council of America’ in 1937. Two years later, she managed to create the ‘Birth Control Federation of America’, by merging ABCL and BCCRB.
  • Although she was still the president of the organization, she no longer had the same influence that she did in her earlier years. In 1942, she changed the name of the organization to ‘Planned Parenthood Federation of America’.
  • In 1946, she helped found the ‘International Committee on Planned Parenthood’, which evolved into the ‘International Planned Parenthood Federation’ in 1952. She was the president of the organization since the beginning and remained in that position till the age of 80.
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Major Works
  • Sanger came into limelight in 1914 when she started the monthly magazine on birth control, ‘The Woman Rebel’, through which she imparted relevant information related to birth control to her clients. At the time of its publication, the content presented in the magazine was either considered to be illegal, immoral or obscene. However, Sanger braved all odds and went on to educate large hordes of women about the importance of birth control and self-respect.
Awards & Achievements
  • In 1957, she was awarded the ‘Humanist of the Year’ award by the American Humanist Association; a very prestigious award to be won by a socialist.
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Personal Life & Legacy
  • Margaret married the architect, William Sanger in 1902 at the young age of 23 and had three children with him. The marriage lasted a little less than two decades.
  • She had brief affairs with psychologist, Havelock Ellis as well as writer, H.G.Wells during her stay in England in 1914.
  • In 1923, she married J. Noah H. Slee, a businessman who used to provide most of the financial help she needed for her social reform projects.
  • She passed away due to congestive heart failure in Tucson, Arizona at the age of 86. She is interred in Fishkill, New York.
  • Long after she passed away, she was recognized with any important honors. There are a number of institutions and landmarks in her name including the Margaret Sanger Square in Greenwich Village, the Margaret Sanger Clinic and a residential building on the Stony Brook Campus.
  • In 1966, the ‘Planned Parenthood Federation’ began issuing awards in her name; the ‘Margaret Sanger Awards’ to individuals who achieved high recognition or excellence in the fields of reproductive health or reproductive rights.
  • National Park Service designated this famous birth control educator and social activist’s clinic as a ‘National Historic Landmark of the New York City’ in 1993.

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- Margaret Sanger Biography
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Last Updated
- September 22, 2017

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