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Topics in Chronicling America - Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control Movement

“Woman Rebel” Margaret Sanger spearheaded the birth control movement in the United States, coining the term “birth control” and opening the first birth control clinic in the country. Her activism directly targeted the Comstock Laws, which made it illegal to disseminate birth control information. A prolific writer and lecturer, Sanger overcame many obstacles to pave the way for women’s rights in the United States. Read more about her!

The information and sample article links below provide access to a sampling of articles from historic newspapers that can be found in the Chronicling America: American Historic Newspapers digital collection ( Use the Suggested Search Terms and Dates to explore this topic further in Chronicling America.

Picture of Margaret Sanger

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Important Dates:

  • March 13, 1915: William Sanger is arrested for distributing wife’s pamphlets on contraception. Margaret Sanger returns from London to stand trial beside him in New York.
  • May 12, 1915: Spurred by the arrest of William Sanger, New Yorkers form the Birth Control League.
  • September 10, 1915: William Sanger’s conviction and jail sentence causes a riot in the Court of Special Sessions.
  • November 29, 1915: The widely publicized Bollinger baby case may carry the birth control fight to Congress.
  • January 18, 1916: Margaret Sanger stands trial undefended in federal court for circulating information on birth control, considered obscene matter.
  • April 1, 1916: Margaret Sanger is freed of charge that she circulated obscene matter. She begins to visit and organize birth control societies throughout the US.
  • October 21, 1916: Margaret Sanger establishes semi-secretly in New York the first out-and-out birth control clinic in the United States, and plans on opening many more across the US.
  • December 27, 1916: New York physicians do not suggest a change in the state law favoring birth control, and disapprove of doctors aiding in family limitation.
  • December 29, 1916: Judge John Stelk speaks at the Chicago Woman’s Club, voicing his support of the birth control movement.
  • January 27, 1917: Mrs. Ethel Byrne, following a five day-long hunger strike at Blackwell’s Island prison, is forcibly fed.
  • January 29, 1917: Margaret Sanger and Fania Mondeil are charged with circulating birth control information. Both expect to be convicted, and both have promised to hunger strike.
  • November 14, 1921: Margaret Sanger and Mary Winsor are charged with disorderly conduct for Town Hall meeting on birth control, but they are exonerated.
  • December 2, 1921: Juliet Rublee is arrested for violating a law prohibiting the promulgation of recipes for birth control.
  • February 20, 1922: Margaret Sanger receives permission to land in Japan to speak at “Kaizo” magazine, but only upon the condition that she does not attempt birth control propaganda.
  • May 14, 1922: In Japan, rumors spread that Margaret Sanger and birth control is an American plot to decrease the population of Nippon so the United States can seize the island empire.

Suggested Search Strategies:

  • [Try the following terms in combination, proximity, or as phrases using Search Pages in Chronicling America.] Margaret Sanger, Woman Rebel, Sanger, eugenics, birth control, contraception, family limitation, reproductive rights, Comstock laws.

Sample Articles from Chronicling America:



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  June 16, 2015
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