Collection News / Penn Libraries

Margaret Sanger and Womens’ Rights Movements

The Library has acquired the Margaret Sanger Papers online as part of the History Vault collection of primary source material.

Margaret Sanger (1879-1966) worked to ensure that women had the knowledge and the right to practice birth control. From the publication of the Woman Rebel in 1914 through her leadership of the International Planned Parenthood Federation in the 1950s, Sanger dedicated herself to making birth control safe, available, legal, and respectable. In the process, she produced a massive body of papers–letters, journals, articles, speeches–documenting one of the most important women and most significant social movements of this century.

Sanger’s papers reveal the broad range of birth control advocates and opponents, ideological and organizational changes, and conflicts and compromises that mark the history of the modem birth control movement. Her correspondence includes exchanges with sexual reform advocates, eugenicists, physicians, philanthropists, and politicians, as well as scores of women seeking contraceptive information. Sanger’s organizational records document the changing methods and goals of the birth control movement as reflected in such bodies as the American Birth Control League, the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau, and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Government documents offer accounts of Sanger’s battles to overturn Comstock Laws and the legislative history of the birth control movement. Her writings reflect her commitment to advancing the cause of birth control and promoting her often-controversial ideas about such issues as sexual liberation for women, population, and war.

Within History Vault, the Margaret Sanger Papers can be searched simultaneously with organizational records of women’s rights organizations–including Alice Paul’s National Women’s Party, the League of Women Voters, and the Women’s Action Alliance–as well as manuscript collections from the Schlessinger Library pertaining to voting rights, politics, and reproductive rights. The voting rights papers include documentation of national, regional, and local leaders such as Carrie Chapman Catt and Julia Ward Howe. On the topic of politics, major collections are those of Molly Dewson, Emma Guffey Miller, and Sue Shelton White. Collections on reproductive rights are the Schlesinger Library Family Planning Oral History Project, and the papers of Mary Ware Dennett and the Voluntary Parenthood League.

In addition, the Library provide access to the records of the Planned Parenthood Foundation of America through the Women’s Studies Archive database, which supplements the material available in History Vault.

 

 

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