Margaret Sanger, the rebellious woman

‘The rebellious woman. The story of Margaret Sanger ‘is the title of comic Peter Bagge has published in Spanish and recovering the Dome with great respect and dose of humor to one of the pioneers of reproductive freedom. It is a highly recommended book because, in addition to the graphics and narrative, vindicates the great personality of the founder of the American League for Birth Control without forgetting the controversies surrounding it, as his opposition to abortion (not ideological but because of the risk posed to women at a time when there was not even the antibiotic), his controversial talk to women Ku Kus Klan or its proximity to some theory of eugenics, very fashionable at the end of the century XIX.

Beyond these episodes, Sanger, nurse and activist, faced the most conservative sectors of the US and was in prison and in exile to defend publicly in the press and all kinds of forums the rights of poor women to decide how many children they wanted and could have.

Margaret Sanger was born on September 14, 1879 in Corning, a town in upstate New York. His parents were Irish and emigrated to the US to escape the potato famine. His mother, Anne, a devout Catholic, had 18 pregnancies in 25 years, which would mark the future vocation of the eighth of 11 children. He died of tuberculosis, a disease that Margaret also suffered throughout his life.

His father Michael was an atheist and socialist, always involved in debates and demonstrations in defense of workers’ rights and women’s suffrage.

After his bad experience in a Catholic school, Margaret attended a prestigious private boarding school with the help of his two older sisters, working to pay your stay. Later, he studied nursing and, in 1902, already practicing in New York, he met William Sanger, her first husband, a prestigious architect with whom he had two sons, Stuart and Grant, and a daughter, Peggy, who died after becoming ill when Margaret lived in UK flight of American justice. His loss would mark him forever.

William shared the idea of ​​an open relationship defending Margaret, whose most famous lovers was the writer h.g Wells, but eventually divorced. Free love was the highest in life, also during his second marriage with millionaire James Noah Slee.

Two women were key to the popularity of Margaret Sanger at the beginning of his career: Emma Goldman and Anita Block, editor of the socialist newspaper “New York Call ‘, where he began publishing his articles and to be the target of censors. Goldman, he says Bagge, there was some rivalry. They began working together in the Ferrer Modern School, founded by anarchist and Sasha Berkman and Goldman was who encouraged her to take her first courses on contraceptive use. But years later Sanger claim that had appropriated in his speeches of his work and research on the subject. Indeed, when Margaret started talking about contraception there was no knowledge or relevant publications and was visiting clinics in the Netherlands, London and other countries as he could go to expand its dominance in the field.

In parallel to the study, Margaret came to assist women in the poorest neighborhoods, sharing with them their “secrets” and one of the key dates of his biography was February 1912, when involved in the textile strike in Lawrence v child labor. A woman had an abortion by the aggression of the police to demonstrators and Sanger could tell in court the situation of children and women in factories, making support for the cause among the powerful classes. Since then he was a fervent striker and in 1913 was jailed for allegedly assaulting a policeman with a banner. It would not be the last time I pass by prison, but was forced to take refuge in London to avoid a long sentence for violating the Criminal Code American in an article in ‘The Woman Rebel’ in 1914.

The constant harassment activist was orchestrated by Anthony Comstock, an activist of the extreme right, archenemy of Margaret, who got Congress passed in 1873 laws against the publication and dissemination of information on sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s) and birth control .

Despite their efforts (or rather because of them, since the greater censorship and controversy more popularity enjoyed Sanger), Margaret got his manuscript ‘Family Limitation’ be distributed en masse, their influence came to Japan and India, where met with Gandhi (who did not support his defense of family planning as a solution to poverty in their country), that the foundations of the first clinic of birth control in the United States in 1916 (in Brooklyn, New York), which might give talks on family planning among prisoners during their stay in prison … and many more achievements that became a pioneer of feminism.

Although some sources accused of racist, opened a clinic in Harlem in which all workers were black and living lamented his speech to the Ku Kus Klan. He did it because he thought that any woman should know the existing methods to prevent unwanted pregnancy. Sanger supported any developments in this regard and encouraged self-funded research first contraceptive pill.

Margaret Sanger, free, controversial and contradictory to his death, died on September 6, 1966 in Tucson, Arizona. He was 86. H. G Wells told him in private that it was “the most fabulous woman in the world”.

( ‘The rebellious woman. The story of Margaret Sanger’ is the work of Peter Bagge and is published in Spanish by the Cupola).