Terrible Virtue by Ellen Feldman
Margaret Sanger changed the landscape for women. It wasn’t easy, but it’s never easy for women to change the minds of the men who make the rules and impose them on society, mostly at the expense of women. Margaret Sanger gave us birth control and Planned Parenthood and it wasn’t easy.
She was the daughter of a free thinking father and a mother weighted down with thirteen children, not counting the ones who didn’t survive. Margaret became a nurse, not with the intention of championing birth control, though it didn’t hurt. It was when she really saw the lives of immigrant women who were ignorant of how to stop pregnancies from happening and set out to educate them. She set up free clinics to give women the information they needed to prevent pregnancies and was shut down and jailed more than once for her efforts. No one told women to say no! She was forced to flee to England to escape yet another imprisonment where she used her time to learn from the Europeans methods not known in the United States.
Her one fear was getting married, having children of her own and becoming her mother. But she was almost insatiable in her own sexuality, taking numerous lovers. She did marry, birthed three children and kept on with her work, to the sacrifice of her family.
Margaret was a driven woman determined to release women from their domestic bondage. Author Ellen Feldman takes us along through Margaret’s life and we nod in agreement until, interspersed in the narrative the people in her life speak up, then suddenly Margaret’s star doesn’t shine quite so brightly.
Without her, without her sacrifice, her vision and determination to make women’s lives easier, we might not have gone without The Pill, but we might have had to wait a little longer. It certainly took her whole life to bring it to us.