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Title: Margaret Sanger's Eugenic Legacy: The Control of Female Fertility
Author: Angela Franks
Publisher: McFarland & Company
Date Published: January 2005
Price: 39.95 softcover
Margaret Sanger, the American birth-control and population-control advocate
who founded Planned Parenthood, stands like a giant among her contemporaries.
With her dominating yet winning personality, she helped generate shifts of
opinion on issues that were not even publicly discussed prior to her activism,
while her leadership was arguably the single most important factor in achieving
social and legislative victories that set the parameters for today’s political
discussion of family-planning funding, population-control aid, and even sex
This work addresses Sanger’s ideas concerning birth control, eugenics,
population control, and sterilization against the backdrop of the larger eugenic
Exposing the Agenda of Planned Parenthood's Founder, April 18, 2005
Reviewer:R. K. OBANNON (Washington, D.C.)
TIME magazine called Margaret Sanger one of the 100 most important people of
the 20th century, saying that "her crusade to legalize birth control spurred
the movement for women's liberation." While many remember her advocacy for
birth control, few remember or give due consideration to the eugenic philosophy
that drove Sanger and her allies in the birth control, and later population
control or "family planning" movements. This book corrects that significant
In this book, Franks shows that any concern Sanger had for women's rights was
secondary to her larger agenda -- helping to create a better race by
controlling the fertility of those she saw as society's least "fit" members -- the
poor, the disabled, the "feebleminded," the sickly, the epileptic, the alcoholic,
etc. Where persuasion worked, that was fine, but as Franks points out, Sanger
and her allies were prepared to use coercion when they felt it was necessary
to achieve their eugenic aims.
Franks traces what she identifies as the "control movement" from its earliest
days in the 1920s when sterilization programs began to spring up in Virginia,
Alabama, North Carolina, and later California to the 1990s when U.N. "family
planning" money helped support forced sterilizations and abortions in China.
Along the way, she identifies the key players, policies, and programs that
helped to mainstream many of the ideas that the world once found so abhorrent in
Germany in the 1930s and 1940s.
There are those in our modern PC culture that might be tempted to dismiss
such charges, but this book is thorough and well documented, with over 1,200
footnotes and a bibliography featuring about a thousand books, articles, and
interviews on Sanger, her associates, and the organizations they founded and led.
The tone is academic, but the language is generally accessible, so that both
scholars and activists alike will benefit from the reading of it.
Despite Sanger's celebration as a liberator of women and the feminist
hagiographies that have been written of Planed Parenthood's founder, Franks argues
that Sanger's eugenic ideas are antithetical to freedom and to true feminism,
aiming to suppress precisely what it is that makes women women.
Sanger certainly had enormous influence, but before deciding whether that
influence was good or bad, one would be well advised to read this book.
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