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Margaret Sanger: Birth Control Of A Nation

She founded Planned Parenthood and was an early power behind the pill

Margaret Sanger
From the 1920s to the 1950s, thousands of despairing young mothers wrote letters to America's first birth-control champion, Margaret Sanger. They were women like Sadie Sachs, who had three kids and a trucker husband named Jake. When Sadie pleaded with her doctor to give her something, anything to prevent another baby, the physician quipped: "Tell Jake to sleep on the roof." After Sachs got pregnant again, she induced an abortion, only to die from the resulting septicemia.

This was an America where buying a single condom made you a criminal in 30 states; where priests told women who used black-market diaphragms that they would be haunted by the faces of their unborn children; and where some women like Sanger's devoutly Catholic mother, who got pregnant 18 times and had 11 children and 7 miscarriages, died an early death from the ravages of so many births. Born in Corning, N.Y., in 1879, Sanger was determined to forge a different fate for herself, scrounging the money to go to nursing school.