I was just listening to the Writer’s Almanac, where they mentioned that today is the birthday of the mother of birth control:
And it’s the birthday of the woman who caused science fiction writer H.G. Wells to say: “The movement she started will grow to be, a hundred years from now, the most influential of all time.” That woman is Margaret Sanger, (books by this author) born in Corning, New York (1879). She coined the term “birth control,” she was its most famous advocate in the United States, and she founded Planned Parenthood.
Margaret Sanger was born into a working-class Irish family. Her mother died when she was 50, after 18 pregnancies. Margaret went to New York City, became a nurse, got married, and gave birth to three kids. As a nurse, she worked in the maternity ward on the Lower East Side, and many of her patients were poor, some of them living on the streets. They seemed old to her by the time they were 35, and many of them ended up in the hospital from self-induced abortions, which often killed them. Margaret nursed one mother back to health after she gave herself an abortion, and heard the woman beg the doctor for some protection against another pregnancy; the doctor told the woman to make her husband sleep outside. That woman died six months later, after a botched abortion, and Margaret Sanger gave up nursing, convinced that she needed to work for a more systematic change. […]
It’s worth while to read the rest of her story, the story of a woman very much ahead of her time working to make sex much safer.