The Conception of Contraception: The Influence of Public Health on the Clinical Birth Control Movement Open Access

Patton, Anne Beirne (2011)

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The Conception of Contraception: The Influence of Public Health on the Clinical Birth Control
By Anne Patton
In 1914, Margaret Sanger coined the term birth control. Two years later, she opened the first birth control clinic in America. The concept of American womanhood would never be the same. Margaret Sanger is remembered as a radical and a political activist, but historians have often overlooked her role as a public health activist. Sanger was a nurse. In 1912, she worked for Lillian Wald's Henry Street settlement house in New York City's Lower East Side. During this time, Sanger became acquainted with the inadequacies of healthcare in New York and the progressive reformers who strove to improve the health of the city. Also during this time, Sanger witnessed large families crowded into small tenements and mothers who were literally killing themselves in order to prevent another pregnancy. Sanger decided that access to contraception could improve the lives of New York families. She began publishing a monthly magazine and printed a manual on contraception. In 1915, Sanger traveled to Holland and visited Dutch birth control clinics. She returned to America resolved to open the first contraception clinic outside of the Netherlands. On October 16, 1916, Margaret Sanger opened a birth control clinic in Brownsville, Brooklyn. The clinic remained open for ten days. In that time, Sanger and her coworkers advised nearly 500 women. When examining the operations of Sanger's clinic, one can see the influence of other public health institutions. Margaret Sanger championed birth control to improve the health of individual women. Although Margaret Sanger's fight for contraception was both political and social, the roots of her movement were scientific. The first years of her career in New York illustrate that, fundamentally, Margaret Sanger was a public health reformer.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Introduction 1

Chapter 1: Public Health in New York 4

Chapter 2: A Rebel's Education 18

Chapter 3: The Brownsville Clinic 34

Chapter 4: Venereal Disease and Birth Control 44

Conclusion 53

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