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Margaret Sanger Papers, Library of Congress (Microfilm)

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Margaret Sanger Papers, Library of Congress (Microfilm)


Sanger, Margaret
American Birth Control League
Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau
National Committee on Federal Legislation for Birth Control
Birth Control Federation of America
Planned Parenthood Federation of America
International Planned Parenthood Federation


The papers of Margaret Higgins Sanger (1879-1966) cover the period 1900-1966, although the major part of the collection is concentrated in the years 1928-1940. Consisting of diaries, correspondence, articles, speeches,lectures,clippings,scrapbooks, and printed matter, the collection is chiefly concerned with Sanger's professional life and activities in the birth control organizations which she founded.

Material in the Diaries and Personal Correspondence, nevertheless, provides insight into the private life of Margaret Sanger. Fragmentary diary entries, which are mainly confined to the period 1914-1917, are important for their reflections on her European visit of 1914-1915, when she met Havelock Ellis and J. Rutgers, who were to make lasting impressions on her career. Also of interest is a short description of prison life, written during her incarceration at Queens County, New York, penitentiary in 1917. Of particular interest is the correspondence with Havelock Ellis, which throws light on their relationship as well as on Ellis' enigmatic personality. In addition, correspondence with Ellis' disciple, Hugh De Sélincourt, and with Françoise Roussel Delisle (Françoise Lafitte-Cyon) reveals the activities and philosophy of the Wantley and Sand-Pit aesthetes and Margaret Sanger's involvement with them.

Although in the early years of their marriage the Sangers led a rather conventional existence, they eventually became involved with socialist politics and liberal reform groups. This is reflected in exchanges with Eugene V. Debs,Emma Goldman,John Reed, and Upton Sinclair, in the General Correspondence series. Other correspondents represented are John Dewey,Theodore Dreiser,James Waldo Fawcett,John Galsworthy,Clarence James Gamble,Lillian Hellman,Helen Keller,S. Adolphus Knopf,Mabel Dodge Luhan,Kitty Marion,H. L. Mencken,Westbrook Pegler,J. Rutgers,Marie Charlotte Carmichael Stopes, and H. G. Wells. Letters addressed to Margaret Sanger on a personal basis from various birth control groups are also included in this series. Anonymous letters of support written to Sanger by fellow prison inmates in 1917 can be found in a folder of unidentified correspondence.

Most of the material in the collection centers on the professional career of Margaret Sanger as reflected in the Professional File, which includes the records of various birth control organizations in which she was active. This series is divided into seven subseries, the first of which, the Foreign File, was originally a separate file maintained by the American Birth Control League and pertains primarily to the decade 1929-1939. Included is material relating to the early history of the neo-Malthusian movement as well as to conferences held abroad, such as the World Population Conference of 1927. Correspondence with individuals significant in the international birth control movement, including C. V. Drysdale,Edith How-Martyn,Julian Huxley, Shizue Kato (also known as Shidzué Ishimoto,)George Bernard Shaw,Marie Charlotte Carmichael Stopes,Rabindranath Tagore, and H. G. Wells, can be found in the files for their respective countries.

The remaining six subseries contain records of organizations with which Margaret Sanger was associated and are arranged by the founding date of the organization. Since she was involved simultaneously with various organizations, some subjects overlap from one file to another. In such cases, the material is in the files of the organization which had final possession. Because of the corporate nature of these records, an effort was made to retain their original arrangement.

The files of the American Birth Control League, 1921-1939, the primary organization supporting and advancing birth control in the 1920's, reflect a fragmentary view of the league's transactions. The largest part of the file consists of general correspondence and covers mainly the years 1932-1936. The league's files also contain routine correspondence with the public, instructions to various organizations in methods of promulgating birth control information, and material relating to the Birth Control Review, the official publication of the league, including an index to articles appearing in the Review between 1917 and 1933.

The records of the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau, 1923-1943, reflect, to a limited extent, the difficulties encountered in its establishment as the first birth control clinic legally sanctioned in America. More than 150 clinics throughout the country were affiliated with the bureau, which operated in the dual role of research center and disseminator of birth control information.

The largest group of records in the series is the archives of the National Committee on Federal Legislation for Birth Control, 1928-1937. The committee sought repeal of the Comstock laws of 1873, which classed contraceptive information with obscenity. Of particular interest in the series are state and legal files. The legal file includes material concerning cases initiated to test federal laws in addition to documents bearing on the legality of birth control. The state file has two sections. The first details the committee's efforts to enlist the support of Congress, whereas the second is concerned with attempts to persuade physicians, civic leaders, and the general public to support legislative reform.

In 1939 the American Birth Control League and the Educational Department of the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau merged, forming the Birth Control Federation of America, 1939-1943. In 1943 the Birth Control Federation was renamed the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau became the Margaret Sanger Research Bureau. The files of the Birth Control Federation, the Planned Parenthood Federation, and the Margaret Sanger Research Bureau are very limited in scope, although the subject arrangement of their records reflects their respective operational and methodological philosophies.

The Conference File contains correspondence, transcripts of proceedings, printed matter, and miscellaneous documents relating to conferences significant to the birth control movement. References to these and other conferences can also be found in the Professional File.

Included in the Speeches and Writings File are major addresses and publications of Margaret Sanger, along with correspondence relating to them. Of interest are copies of early pamphlets important to the progress of the birth control movement, including various editions of the pamphlet Family Limitation, which Sanger saw as her “last will and testament.” 1 It was released on her departure from the United States to avoid trial for the publication of The Woman Rebel in 1914. Since few documents for the early years of Margaret Sanger's life are contained in these papers, the brief notes and unpublished writings focusing on the beginning of her career are significant. Besides comments on birth control and censorship, Sanger also reveals her thoughts on political issues of the time.

Passports used by Margaret Sanger and her second husband, J. Noah H. Slee, as well as the passport issued under the alias Bertha Watson and used by Sanger during her brief period of expatriation in 1915, are in the Miscellany. This series also includes fragmentary files of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, correspondence devoted to such political and civic groups as Tom Mooney Molders' Defense Committee and Freethinkers of America, a description of the raid on the Brownsville, New York, clinic, for which Sanger served thirty days' imprisonment, and the minutes and correspondence of legal proceedings against Margaret Sanger and Kitty Marion.

Printed matter originally contained throughout the collection has been placed in a separate series. Folder headings in this series correspond to those used in the rest of the collection.

The Card File (Oversize) series contains 3 x 5 endorsement cards largely maintained by the National Committee on Federal Legislation for Birth Control.The cards were used by the committee in its campaign to elicit public support for the liberalization of government regulations affecting the dissemination of birth control information. Although the cards are arranged mostly by state, and therein by city or town, one group of cards is arranged by personal name and another by occupation, personal name, and city. The file also contains cancelled membership and resignation cards belonging to the Committee on Public Progress.

In addition to these papers, a collection of Margaret Sanger papers exists in the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College,Northampton, Massachusetts. Smaller collections can be found at Planned Parenthood-World Population and the Margaret Sanger Research Bureau, both in New York City.

1 Emily Taft Douglas, Margaret Sanger (New York, Holt, Rinehart and Winston [1969, c1970]), p. 53.


Sanger, Margaret
National Committee on Federal Legislation for Birth Control
American Birth Control League


Library of Congress Manuscript Division


1928-1940 (bulk)


Hajo, Cathy Moran (metadata)


Copyright in the unpublished writings of Margaret Sanger in these papers and in other collections of papers in the custody of the Library of Congress has been dedicated to the public.


Margaret Sanger Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College








New York, NY
Washington, DC
Fishkill, NY

Collection Item Type Metadata


Available on microfilm.

Historical Value