Birth Control in America: The Career of Margaret Sanger

By David M. Kennedy | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
The Woman Rebel

"No Gods, No Masters," proclaimed the little newspaper from the masthead of its first edition. That slogan expressed the guiding principle of the Woman Rebel. Its editor, Margaret Sanger, urged women "to look the whole world in the face with a go-to-hell look in the eyes; to have an ideal; to speak and act in defiance of convention." She had launched her publication, Mrs. Sanger explained, "to stimulate working women to think for themselves and to build up a conscious fighting character." Woman was enslaved "by the machine, by wage slavery, by bourgeois morality, by customs, laws and superstitions." Mrs. Sanger announced a singular proposal to break those bonds: "It will also be the aim of the Woman Rebel to advocate the prevention of conception and to impart such knowledge in the columns of this paper." 1.

With that manifesto in March 1914, Margaret Sanger began her long career in behalf of the cause which became synonymous with her name: birth control. The now familiar phrase had not yet been coined, and Margaret Sanger was still just another of the restless young who had streamed to New York City in quest of experience and fulfillment.

Margaret Sanger, like so many others, came to New York from what F. Scott Fitzgerald called "that vast obscurity beyond the city." Her familiar Main Street lay along the banks of the Chemung River in Corning, New York, the factory town where she was born in 1883. There she grew up in a family of eleven children, of which she was the

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1.
Woman Rebel, March 1914, copy in MSP-LC.

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