Segments in this Video

Margaret Sanger Fights for Birth Control (03:27)


In 1916, Margaret Sanger opens the first birth control clinic in America. Women come from several states to learn about pregnancy prevention. Those who call her immoral and a fanatic revile Sanger, but she stands her ground.

Margaret Sanger's Childhood and Upbringing (03:31)

Margaret Sanger, raised in a strict Irish family, but learned from her father to think for herself. Margaret was one of 11 children that survived her mother's 18 pregnancies. Sanger's two older sisters helped her attend a private college.

Margaret Sanger's Marriage (03:24)

After the death of her mother, Margaret Sanger enters nursing school and meets Wm. Sanger, whom she marries though it excludes her from further nursing school. As a young mother, Margaret suffers from tuberculosis.

Margaret Sanger: Illness and Maternity (02:38)

Margaret Sanger travels to the Adirondacks for a cure for tuberculosis but is not cured. Over the next five years she regains her strength and has two more children. Restless, Margaret qualifies as a visiting nurse working maternity cases.

Margaret Sanger: Revolution is Necessary (02:27)

Margaret Sanger, a visiting nurse, works with immigrant women who are under the constant threat of yet another pregnancy. Sanger believes that "only a revolution" can change the things that so overwhelm the poor women of New York.

Transformation of Margaret Sanger (02:37)

Margaret Sanger joins the socialist party and absorbed the philosophies and plunged into the work of liberating women. She becomes close friends with anarchist Emma Goldman. Not long after, she meets a man and begins her first affair.

Margaret Sanger: Radical Feminist (04:06)

As an organizer for the radical labor union, the Industrial Workers of the World, Sanger helped lead strikes. Sanger understands that women must communicate their special interests and needs, and publishes a newspaper called "Woman Rebel."

Margaret Sanger: Birth Control and Birth Control Products (02:28)

Sanger continues to write and publish information about birth control. Most of the products she recommended are available in local apothecaries under euphemistic names. Under pressure to return to court, Sanger leaves for England.

Margaret Sanger and Havelock Ellis (03:34)

In England, Sanger and Havelock Ellis, British doctor, sexual psychologist, and social reformer, meet and become lovers. When her estranged husband is arrested, Sanger returns to America where her young daughter soon dies of pneumonia.

Margaret Sanger: Cross-Country Speaking Tour (04:47)

The government's case against Margaret Sanger sinks into the background as they are reluctant to give her and her theories any publicity. Her case and all the charges against her are dropped. She set off on a cross-country speaking tour.

America's First Birth Control Clinic (03:22)

On October 16, 1916, Margaret Sanger opens the first birth control clinic in America. Sanger teaches contraception rather than abortion. After ten days, the vice squad shut down the clinic.

Margaret Sanger Arrested and Jailed (02:23)

Grandson Alexander Sanger discusses his grandmother's courage in opening her birth control clinic. Sanger's sister is arrested, jailed, and when she refuses to eat, her teeth are broken and a tube forced down her throat. Sanger is jailed for 30 days.

Margaret Sanger's Neglected Sons (02:36)

Upon her release from jail, Sanger works out of a small office and continues to teach women about birth control. Sanger's sons suffered from her absence, and years later still regretted that they had so little time with her.

Margaret Sanger Overcomes Health Crisis (03:13)

Sanger returns to London where she has a tubercular infection surgically removed. From this point onward, Sanger felt perfectly healthy and no longer feared death. She takes a number of lovers including H.G. Wells.

Margaret Sanger's War with the Catholic Church (05:31)

In 1920, Sanger publishes her newest book, "Woman and the New Race," in which she elevates the notion of women's sexuality into something respectable. The Catholic Church launches a coordinated attack against birth control.

Margaret Sanger: New Marriage and Trip to Japan (03:30)

In 1922, she marries oil magnate James Noah Slee, but does so on her own terms, insuring her financial and sexual independence. In Japan, Sanger is welcomed by desperate Japanese women who want to know about birth control.

Margaret Sanger: American Birth Control League (02:51)

Sanger's message about birth control was welcomed by women wherever she went, and soon her cause spread worldwide. With her new husband's backing, Sanger launched the American Birth Control League.

Margaret Sanger's Birth Control Clinic (02:44)

Sanger's efforts make it possible for doctors to legally prescribe contraceptives, but only for the cure or prevention of diseases. Tens of thousands of women flock to Sanger's clinic. If they could not pay, Sanger's husband made up the difference.

Margaret Sanger: Birth Control and Eugenics (04:10)

Sanger linked birth control to a popular new science called eugenics. Unfit human traits included epilepsy and insanity--considered transmissible to the next generation. By the early 1920s, the popularity of eugenics swept the nation.

Supreme Court Decision: Contraceptives Are Legal (05:00)

During the Great Depression, Sanger turns her attention to women who struggle to feed and clothe their children. Sanger presses Congress to legalize contraceptives, and finally wins her case in the Supreme Court--contraception is legalized.

Early Days of Planned Parenthood (02:56)

In 1942, Sanger's husband, Noah Slee, dies after twenty years of marriage. Sanger's former organizations merge to become Planned Parenthood, an organization she had no hand in running.

Financial Support for a Contraceptive Pill (02:42)

In 1949, at age 70, Sanger suffers the first of a series of heart attacks. In 1951, she meets with biologist Gregory Pinkus, and asks him to make a contraceptive drug. Catherine McCormick donated the funds for birth control research.

Margaret Sanger Television Interview (01:42)

In 1957, Sanger agrees to a television interview with Mike Wallace. Wallace badgers her with questions about her personal life instead of her lifelong cause.

Margaret Sanger: On the World Stage (02:53)

Sanger establishes a new organization to coordinate birth control efforts around the world--International Planned Parenthood. This provided her with the opportunity to "get back on the world stage" to promote her cause.

Margaret Sanger: Last Years and Triumph (04:37)

In February 1959, Sanger attended the 6th International Conference on Planned Parenthood in India. Prime Minister Nehru pledges $10 million to Planned Parenthood. Dr. Pinkus presents the world with the first contraceptive pill.

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Margaret Sanger

DVD Price: $169.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $254.93
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Birth control advocate, self-styled libertarian, and ardent proponent of women’s rights—Margaret Sanger was all of these, as this balanced, probing documentary attests. Using rare archival footage, diary excerpts, and commentary from historians, critics, and relatives, the program traces Sanger’s extraordinary life and exhaustive work in the promotion and legalization of contraception. The documentary examines Sanger’s legal battles, her work to distribute scientific birth control information, and her best-known achievement: the establishment of Planned Parenthood. Grandson Alexander Sanger—himself a birth control activist—offers insight into her bohemian life as well as the fierce opposition she faced from conservative religious and social groups. Margaret Sanger is seen in both triumph and failure. At the start of her career, she opened the first birth control clinic in the United States. She finished her work a half-century later after launching the research that led to the birth control pill. But her darker side—her use of the racist and elitist arguments of eugenics—haunts her memory to this day. (87 minutes)

Length: 87 minutes

Item#: BVL7917

ISBN: 978-1-4213-3026-6

Copyright date: ©1997

Closed Captioned

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Not available to Home Video customers.

Only available in USA, Asia and Canada.