Birth Control in America: The Career of Margaret Sanger

By David M. Kennedy | Go to book overview

Bibliographical Essay

Chapter I

The Margaret Sanger Papers in the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., contain the most complete record of Mrs. Sanger's career and were the principal source of information for this study. The library solicited Mrs. Sanger's papers in the early 1940s. Before she placed them there she had her secretary, Florence Rose, organize the papers and compile a comprehensive, though not too detailed, index. There are now over 250 boxes of material relating to all aspects of Mrs. Sanger's life and career. The Sophia Smith Collection in the Smith College Library, Northampton, Massachusetts, has an unindexed and less valuable assortment of Mrs. Sanger's papers. The Library of Congress collection contains a wealth of material on Mrs. Sanger's activities for birth control between 1914 and 1940. The papers at Smith College refer mainly to Mrs. Sanger's personal life and to her activities in the 1940s and 1950s.

All accounts of Mrs. Sanger's early life must begin, but should not end, with her two autobiographical works, My Fight for Birth Control ( New York: Farrar and Rinehart, 1931), and Margaret Sanger: An Autobiography ( New York: Norton, 1938). Both were ghost-written and have the flavor (and reliability) of campaign biographies. Most biographical writing about Mrs. Sanger has suffered from close reliance on these two books. Especially hagiographical and repetitious of Mrs. Sanger's own writings is Lawrence Lader, The Margaret Sanger Story ( Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1955). A less comprehensive but more critical account of Mrs. Sanger's life is Chapter 19 in Peter Fryer, The Birth Controllers ( New York: Stein and Day, 1966).

Henry May, The End of American Innocence ( Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1964) provides the best general introduction to the milieu Margaret Sanger found in New York in 1912. Oscar Cargill, Intellectual America ( New York: Macmillan, 1941)

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