WOMAN OF VALOR by Ellen Chesler


Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control Movement in America
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 A splendid biography of the woman who fought for more than half a century to bring birth control to America. Planned Parenthood clinics are once again in the thick of political turmoil over a woman's right to choose abortion. It would probably all seem dishearteningly familiar to Planned Parenthood's founder, Margaret Higgins Sanger, who devoted her life to securing for women the legal right to prevent pregnancy by choosing contraception. In this lively volume, scholar Chesler (formerly of Barnard and CUNY) gives us a portrait of a complex personality who took on a strait-laced society in which the public mention of sex, even in marriage, was against the law. Sanger, born in 1879, battled not only to save the lives of the millions of women who died from illegal abortions and streams of uncontrolled pregnancies, but to give women the freedom to enjoy their own sexuality. She certainly enjoyed hers. No thin-lipped crusader, Sanger was attractive, witty, and bright, with two husbands and a parade of lovers that included Havelock Ellis and H.G. Wells. Her politics and rhetoric were honed in turn-of-the-century leftist movements--Emma Goldman, John Reed, and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn were early allies--but she quickly narrowed her focus, urging that when women gained control of their bodies and hence their lives, social and economic change would follow. She made mistakes and she made enemies, the Roman Catholic Church not the least of them, but her tenacity saw the obscenity laws fall, the Pill introduced, and family planning become an international movement. A riveting warts-and-all portrait of a courageous and determined woman who, in a time of foment, wrought fundamental changes in the human social condition. (Photos--not seen.)

Pub Date: June 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-671-60088-5
Page count: 608pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1992