Ter­ri­ble Virtue

  • From the Publisher
May 3, 2016

Work­ing as a nurse on the Low­er East Side of New York at the turn of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry, Mar­garet Sanger saw count­less women die in child­birth and botched abor­tions, and chil­dren go hun­gry and suc­cumb to dis­ease. Many of them were Jew­ish. Sanger, a lapsed Catholic, did­n’t care about reli­gious affil­i­a­tion. She cared about suf­fer­ing.

In 1916, she opened the first birth con­trol clin­ic in Amer­i­ca. She chose an area inhab­it­ed by impov­er­ished Jews and Ital­ians, pub­li­ciz­ing the clin­ic and the then-ille­gal ser­vices it offered with posters print­ed in Eng­lish, Yid­dish, and Ital­ian. Women push­ing car­riages and with chil­dren in tow wait­ed in line for hours to gain entry.

Though ene­mies would lat­er accuse her of try­ing to wipe out the Jew­ish pop­u­la­tion, Sanger brought many Jew­ish refugees to Amer­i­ca before and dur­ing World War II, and earned the grat­i­tude of legions of women.

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