Another year, another eminent person, and I’m actually excited this time! Well, not that I wasn’t excited last time, but as Mr. Jackson so wonderfully explained it- sometimes we mistake excitement for nervousness. I’m not entirely sure why I’ve identified as excited rather than nervous this year- maybe it was the success of last year’s eminent, maybe it’s because I know what to expect, maybe it’s because I’m very interested in my person- Margaret Sanger.
Margaret Sanger was born in 1879 in Corning, New York, one of the eleven children born to a working class Irish Catholic family. Her mother passed away from tuberculosis when she was nineteen, at the age of only 50 years due to the strain caused by eleven childbirths and seven miscarriages. It was this firsthand experience that prompted Margaret Sanger’s support for the legalization of birth control. Her beliefs about contraceptives were furthered after being witness to the dangerous back-alley abortions that poor immigrant women were faced with during unwanted pregnancies while working as a visiting nurse in New York City’s Lower East Side.
Right around this time, a law know as the “Comstock Act” was in place, one that criminalized contraceptives, making Margaret Sanger’s beliefs literally illegal, and she spent most of her life fighting this law. By the time Sanger got into her seventies she had won many legal victories, but birth-control options were still limited. She wished for an easily accessible and usable pill for contraception, and now was not only concerned about women’s health, but also about the possible effects of excess population growth on the world’s limited natural resources, something we still struggle with in the modern day. This wish was granted in 1951 when Sanger met Gregory Pincus, a expert in human reproduction that was willing to attempt the creation of a contraceptive pill, as well as a sponsor, Katherine McCormick, a well known suffragist that Sanger had known since 1917. Their efforts led to the first oral contraceptive in 1960, known as Enovid, and, four years later, the removal of the Comstock Act.
So there you have a
brief biography of this woman who managed to do so much with her time on earth. I guess I chose her because first of all, the whole issue of birth control/population growth is a really interesting topic to me, as a female who will have to make the choice of having kids later in my life and as a human on planet earth that is responsible for the effects of a large human population. And perhaps it’s also somewhat linked to my value of freedom- the idiocy of not allowing the use of harmless technology for the reason that it gives women power. Power simply over their own bodies, which to me seems like common sense, but I realize that I take this for granted. For the longest time, women were not allowed control over their own bodies, and as Margaret Sangar said; “No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body. No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother”. Margaret Sangar was able to give women their rights, empowering women across the globe. Having just come back from a We Day where the theme was empowerment, I realize that it’s one of the most useful gifts you can give.Simply, it’s the gift of opportunity.
On the topic of similarities and differences, Margaret Sangar and I are both white women living in first world countries in a similar class. Margaret’s childhood was quite different though, growing up with ten other siblings and having her mother pass away when she was nineteen. Her family was Catholic, but as she grew older and her views on contraceptives began to grow, she moved away from religion, and especially it’s ideas on reproduction. I myself have never cared much for religion, nor do I support some of the “pro-life” beliefs of certain churches. The biggest difference between the two of us is probably the time period in which we were alive. Nowadays women have reproductive rights and contraceptives aren’t illegal, making the option of having children much more realistic, and although gender discrimination still occurs today, it was much more pronounced when Margaret Sangar was alive, making her road to eminence much more difficult that a woman today would have.
I realize the topic of contraceptives is a bit controversial. I believe in something that others may not, but my goal for this project is to become comfortable with expressing my beliefs and values. I want to be able to talk in front of a room full of people about something I support, without fearing the fact that some might disagree, because I need to learn to tell myself that that’s okay, and having a topic like this is really going to force me to achieve it.
(It sounds like a holiday, should it be a holiday? We should make it a holiday)