National History Day > Topic Guide 2002
The National History Day Topic for 2002 is Revolution, Reaction, Reform in History. For a detailed description of the National History Day Program and this year's topic, see the History Net.
Below are suggested topics that relate to Margaret Sanger and the birth control movement:
Margaret Sanger's Crusade for Birth Control
Family limitation, in one form or another, has been practiced from the earliest time, but it took the efforts of one woman, Margaret Sanger (1879-1966), to forge a worldwide movement for birth control that refocused its message towards the needs of women and the public health. Focusing on Sanger as a leader who revolutionized women's reproductive rights and role in society through her efforts at legislative and social reform. Projects can also focus on various efforts to reform the laws prohibiting birth control laws, using the resources of the Sanger Papers.
One could argue that one result of Sanger's quest for safe, legal and effective birth control was a revolution in women's roles in society. Examine the lives of women before and after Sanger's crusade to determine how they were changed and what the impact of those changes were.
Sanger's agitation for birth control began as a radical call for a new society (revolution). It drew and continues to draw opposition from the medical profession, religious leaders and lawmakers (reaction), but within just a few years, birth control was widely accepted and its adherents were in the mainstream of reform. Examine the specific situations and events that spurred Sanger to take up her revolutionary challenge, how she brought it to the mainstream, and the reactionary forces that opposed her.
Examine the social forces and individuals who combined to develop the birth control pill, which revolutionized women's contraceptive choices. Include reactions to the pill.
2002 marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (Margaret Sanger was its founding president), which sought to reform existing approaches to population and population control. Examine its changing roles and responsibilities over its first half-century.
Related material on this site
See our biography of Margaret Sanger for an outline of her life and career, as well as primary and secondary sources about her work and the birth control movement. Our newsletter articles are a good place to look for highlighted events of her life and evaluation of their impact.
You may also want to consult the Sanger Documents on the World Wide Web section of this site for access to primary source material mounted by libraries and other scholarly institutions.
Primary Source Material on the Margaret Sanger Papers Microfilm Edition
There are over 120,000 Sanger documents on microfilm. You will need to narrow your search to include only those that cover your topic most directly. The two-series microfilm published by the Sanger Project is organized in chronological order and its reel guide provides access to documents by personal and organizational name. If your topic focuses on a specific person or event you will be able to locate relevant documents quickly.
Another good place to look for general information are Sanger's speeches and articles. Many of these provide autobiographical information and statements of Sanger's principles concerning birth control. Check our microfilm descriptions for the nearest library that holds the microfilms; they can also be ordered on interlibrary loan. Speeches and articles are located on Library of Congress reels 128-131, Smith College Collection Series reels S70-S73, and Collected Documents Series reel C16.
Selected Seconday Sources
In addition to the general birth control histories listed on our bibliography on Margaret Sanger, some of these works will be helpful.
Bernard Asbell, The Pill: A Biography of the Drug that Changed the World, 1995.
Janet Farrell Brodie, Contraception and Abortion in 19th Century America, 1994.
Donald Critchlow, Intended Consequences: Birth Control, Abortion, and the Federal Government in Modern America, 1999.
Perdita Huston, The Right to Choose: Pioneers in Women's Health and Family Planning, 1992.
Lara Marks, Sexual Chemistry: A History of the Birth Control Pill, 2001.
Loretta McLaughlin, The Pill, John Rock and the Church: The Biography of a Revolution
Beryl Suitters, Be Brave and Angry: Chronicles of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, 1973
Elizabeth Siegel Watkins, On the Pill: A Social History of Oral Contraceptives, 1950-1970, 1998.
Revised: May 3, 2010