WHO | Margaret Sanger
WHAT | The first birth control clinic in the United States.
WHEN | October 16, 1916
WHERE | Brooklyn, NY
WHY YOU SHOULD KNOW WHAT IT IS | The first clinic stayed open for only nine days before it was shut down by an undercover policewoman posing as a patient. It opened again and was shut down again, and Sanger was arrested for maintaining a public nuisance. She opened the clinic a third time, on Nov. 16, but authorities forced the landlord to evict her, and all three women were arrested. When Sanger appeared before the judge, he waved a cervical cap from the bench and argued that no woman should have “the right to copulate with a feeling of security that there will be no resulting conception.” She went to jail for 30 days.
Even though the first clinic stayed open for only nine days, it was the beginning of a birth control movement that would radically revolutionize the way women live their lives, and the way society functions. Five years later, Sanger founded the American Birth Control League in 1921. Twenty-one years after that, that organization was renamed Planned Parenthood.
Planned Parenthood was at the forefront of every birth control milestone of the 20th century. Sanger closely followed and even personally funded some of the research that led to the development of the birth-control pill, and her friend Katherine Dexter McCormick underwrote a large portion of the medical research. The FDA first approved the pill for contraceptive use in 1960, and in 1965—thanks to a Planned Parenthood lawsuit—states were no longer allowed to outlaw it. The organization came out in support of abortion in 1968, and only start performing the procedure after it was legalized in the 1970s.