In the Family Way
September 14 marks the 135th birthday of the legendary and often controversial birth control activist Margaret Sanger. In addition to doing jail time for dispensing contraceptives illegally and later founding the nation’s first reproductive health clinics, which grew into Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), she was also largely responsible for connecting Katharine McCormick and her fortune to the researcher who created the birth control pill. She died in 1966, one year after birth control was declared legal for married couples by the Supreme Court. She was educated at Claverack College just south of us in Columbia County.
But rather than tapping into the controversial issues surrounding Sanger, I wanted to glimpse instead into how — or if — family planning topics came up in our archives. Of contraception, contraceptives or even condoms, our archives are silent. Even the term “abortion” usually refers to something you inoculate cows against, until the new laws in the 1970s provoked heated debate about the procedure for women. Even pregnancy is overwhelming reported in reference to livestock, not humans.