Evolution discussed publicly: women’s inability to control

Evolution of Birth ControlWomen have long struggled to achieve equality with men. Denied economic equity, the right to an equal education and to vote and hold political office, and especially the right to control their sexuality and reproductive function, women have during the course of much of America’s past been forced to occupy a decidedly subordinate position in American society.  While the major focus of the paper is on Margaret Sanger and the birth control movement, it is necessary to explore the historical antecedents to that movement to appreciate the steady evolution in women’s thinking.  In the beginning of the nineteenth-century gender roles contrasted sharply with those of today. Women were forced to occupy a decidedly subordinate place in all areas of American life.  Women lacked the right to vote, hold political or public office, were denied access to higher education, and seldom were able to secure gainful employment commensurate with men outside the home. Beneath the surface was another serious issue that was rarely discussed publicly:  women’s inability to control their sexuality and reproductive functions.  Birth control was non-existent. Couples usually relied on abstinence or coitus interruptus. It would not be, however, until the early part of the next century when this would produce a social and political firestorm in America.Complicating the growing chasm that existed between men and women were subtle permutations in how upper-class Americans altered their view of marriage.  The federal era witnessed a new concept of marriage that differed significantly from that which had existed earlier. Only a few years after the founding of the nation companionate marriage Equity within the private sphere of marriage failed to translate to equality elsewhere. Historian Karen Lystra in Searching the Heart painstakingly describes women’s frustration in reconciling the quasi-equality within their marriages to the contradictory attitudes toward women’s equality in the public life. This forced upper-class women often to retreat deeper into their own spheres, distinct from the roles played by their husbands outside the home. One such woman was Catherine Beecher. The oldest child of minister Lyman Beecher and one of thirteen children, she agreed that women were forced to occupy a subordinate place in society.  At the age of 16, Beecher’s mother passed away.  As a result, Catherine took on the task of managing the household.  She was able to take this role, because as a young girl, she like other young females, was instructed to conform to roles defined as feminine. Moreover, Beecher grew up in a social environment that limited educational opportunities to women. She received her education from independent tutoring.  In time Catherine became a teacher and a writer who advocated for domestic reform and education for women.  She did not, however, advocate for women’s rights. She fought for society to place more recognition given to the role women played in different areas of American society.  Catherine argued that women’s primary role was in the domestic sphere.  In her Treatise on Domestic Economy (1843), she stated that one area conformed to women’s nurturing and moral skills resided in education.  Women could work outside of the home, but as educators.The “Gilded Age” was the period after Reconstruction.  Dramatic changes occurred during the late 19th century.   The idea was to construct a maternal commonwealth.  In other words to lift restrictions that the cult of domesticity placed upon women.  Historian  Barbara Welter supports the Victorian era.  “Cult of Domesticity a true women’s essay”, explains the following:  Welter divides into four tenets.  They are known as piety, purity, submission, and domesticity.   In her essay, she expresses that anyone who tried to tamper with the social norm will automatically become the enemy of God  (Welter 152). She examines the antebellum period.  Welters states that males are simply different in nature.  Men are described as logical, able to assert stronger actions, and independent. Historian Barbara Welters refers to women as temperamental.  Welters recognizes men as the “busy builder” ( Welters, Cult of domesticity ).   She supports the belief that a woman is the angel of the household, only true if she obeys by this social law.  A woman, in Her Social and Domestic Character, “Religion is just what woman needs. Without it, she is ever restless or unhappy.” Moreover, religion was valued; because it did not take away from their domestic duties in the home.  Upper-middle-class women of the late 19th century became dissatisfied with their position in society. A college education was accessible for women.  They wanted to apply their newfound knowledge, and skills to real-world experiences.  As women attempted to ameliorate a plethora of social problems, collectively they found a way preserver above adversity.With the advent of the intensive phase of the Industrial Revolution in the post-Civil War period, gender roles received the scrutiny of the Supreme Court. In Bradwell v. Illinois, 1873, the court refused to apply the recently enacted Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause to protect Myra Bradwell’s demand that she be permitted admittance to the Illinois state bar. In his decision Chief Justice Bradley argued that women’s place was in the home; moreover, it was not only secular law that mandated this he claimed, but “the law of the Creator.” The steadily evolving cult of domesticity now had the force of law located directly at its center. As the progressive era intensified, it gave rise to social movements.  Progressivism is the desire to modify the harsher aspects of industrialization and to make government more responsive to the people.  Political, social, moral, and economic reforms emerged with the progressive era.  Society was forced to face issues known as controversial.   The following will discuss the women who helped pave the way for women.   There has been a collective group of women, that revolutionized freedom for women.  Although they belonged to different organizations, they all share the same belief.  Looking at women activists in the Progressive Era provides us with a deeper understanding.  Bringing to light both conflicting issues and the emerging role of women in society.   A persistent women’s rights activist, Susan B. Anthony used her fearless mindset to transform women’s rights.  Joining forces with Elizabeth Cady Stanton they formed the National Woman Suffrage Association, in hope of gaining the constitutional right to vote. Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a social activist and a leading figure in the women’s rights movement. With their strong actions, they fought for women to gain voting rights.    Neither took no for an answer.  Their goal was to organize, agitate, and educate those against equality for women.  With much persistence, they pushed for it to be at a federal level leaving an everlasting legacy.  “The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life.”   Jane Addams Jane Addams was known as the mother of social work.  She professionalized social work, taking care of those in need of living assistant.  Addams was inspired during her trip to England.  She visited T.B’s Hull House ( 89), the first established settlement house. The settlement house movement started in England in 1884.  Cannon Samuel A Barnett founded Toynbee Hall in East London.  Addams returned to the states, and founded the first settlement house in the United States, partnering up with her friend Ellen Gates Starr.  The Hull house was located in the center of Chicago highly populated with immigrants.   Wealthy, and educated people purposely lived in the areas. It was set up this way so that they could better understand their living conditions, in order to alleviate poverty.    Many did not want to associate with immigrants, in fear that they brought diseases and crime.  However, Hull House was a place of opportunities, and acceptance no matter their racial background or economic status.  “The Settlement, then, is an experimental effort to aid in the solution of the social and industrial problems which are engendered by the modern conditions of life in a great city.” (TWENTY YEARS AT HULL-HOUSE, 118)”It is true that there is nothing after disease, indigence and a sense of guilt, so fatal to health and to life itself as the want of a proper outlet for active faculties.” I have seen young girls suffer and grow sensibly lowered in vitality in the first years after they leave school. In our attempt then to give a girl pleasure and freedom from care we succeed, for the most part, in making her pitifully miserable. She finds “life” so different from what she expected it to be. She is besotted with innocent little ambitions, and does not understand this apparent waste of herself, this elaborate preparation, if no work is provided for her.” (TWENTY YEARS AT HULL-HOUSE, 101)   Addams wanted to give women the opportunity of self-reliant life.  The settlement houses gave women the opportunity to experience freedom without a husband.  Jane Addams states, that women are taught to be ” self-forgetting, and self-sacrificing” The Subjective Necessity for social settlement.  Sanger put an emphasis on the importance for women to make their health a priority.  If a woman neglects her health, it would be counterproductive in the pursuit of raising a healthy child. “When a motherhood becomes the fruit of a deep yearning, not the result of ignorance or accident, its children will become the foundation of a new race.” (Margaret Sanger, 1)   Born in Corning New York,  Margaret was one of eleven children.  The daughter of Anne Higgins and Michael, both not of high economic status.  Both parents were of Irish descent.  Her father was an atheist and a socialist.  On the contrary, her mother was a devout Catholic.  Sanger’s mother died at the age of 49.  It is believed that her death was a result of childbearing. Furthermore, after the death of her mother, her father expected Margaret to fulfill her domestic duties.  However, Sanger had different plans for herself.  The Victorian idea did not fancy Sanger.  From an early age, Margaret Sanger knew she had a purpose in life.   Sanger witnessed women who neglected their health and sabotaged the opportunity to care for their children.  Sanger worked with women who endured “botched abortions” also known as “back-alley abortions” Margaret worked with women who caused their own death, by self-induced abortions.  Her nursing experience motivated her to help lift barriers placed on contraceptives. In 1912 Margaret began her birth control advocacy.  She landed a position as a nurse at White Plains Hospital. In her time working with the hospital, she helped nurse a woman named Sadie Sachs.  Sadie was a 28-year-old Jewish immigrant, a wife, and mother of 3 children.  Sadie nearly died from a self-induced abortion.  She knew that another pregnancy would result in her death.  Sadie looked for help from both her physician and Sanger.  Her doctor looked for answers in Margaret.  Both were unable to disclose any information regarding contraceptives. Desperate for answers, Sadie went to Sanger pleading for help.  However, Sanger was of no help.  Her physician very limited on what he could say told her husband jake to “sleep on the roof”.  ” if only immigrant men could control their sexuality, there wouldn’t be so many problems.” (p26).  This is all the advice that her doctor offered Sadie.  A while later,  Sanger went to visit her fellow friend, to only learn that she was dying due to child labor. Sadie died of septicemia.  Sanger felt a sense of guilt.  Sanger states, “I folded her still hands across her breast, remembering how they had pleaded with me, begging so humbly for the knowledge which was her right.”(2 ).  This is when Sanger realized she could do more to help the lives of women.   Sanger vowed to devote her life to the cause.   Margaret Sanger is recognized as the founder of birth control.  Sanger was a feminist, and birth control pioneer.   The birth control movement, and the population control movement are conversely viewed as parallel movements.  The connection between these two movements will be analyzed.   Like Jane Addams, Sanger believed that women should have the right to their reproductive functions.  Facing possible jail time, Sanger sailed to Paris, to educate herself on contraceptives.  In Paris, she discovered that “family planning” was legal.  She learned that the use of contraceptives was fully accepted in Europe.  Utilizing her connections with the socialist party, she published “What every girl should know” a short-lived magazine.  It provided information to adolescent girls on the topics of puberty, menstruation, venereal disease, pregnancy, and menopause.   Sanger states ” Every girl should first understand herself; she should know her anatomy” (p7).  “Ignorance of the sex functions is one of the strongest forces that send young girls to clean living” (P9).   Sanger knew that in order to prevent unwanted children, women needed to be properly educated.   Bills being passed became an antagonistic force for women.  In 1873, Anthony Comstock  appeared before Congress selling pro life stricter regulations.  Asserting his concern about the movement, he persuaded legislatures.  Accordingly, a bill was introduced that placed restrictions on the distribution of contraceptives.  The Comstock Law of 1873 was a federal law that made it a crime to sell or distribute materials that could be used for contraception or legal abortion.  As stated in  “Forty-second Congress P 599” the bill banned “any article or medicine for the prevention of conception or for causing abortion”   The Comstock Law was ruled unconstitutional in 1965.  With the  landmark decision of Griswold v. Connecticut.  The supreme court ruled in favor of  Griswold, stating that it was in violation of a person’s privacy.  Comstock was Sangers number one opponent in this matter.In her advocacy Sanger encountered trouble.  She faced indictment charges for the violation of the comstock law.   Sanger has been criticized for the tactic she used to gain support for the birth control movement. Some argue that she was an advocate for the birth control movement, and the eugenics movement.  During the  early twentieth century eugenics was gaining momentum.   This is where Margaret motives are questioned. Influenced by the philosophical perspective of darwinism, Sanger honed in on reducing the population of the unfit. Sanger wrote extensively, leaving factual documentation of her life. Sanger founded Birth Control Review, published from 1917 -1940s.  Sanger was actively involved majority of its existence.  Sanger was transparent in her expression of eugenics. Ellen Chesler argues that Sanger deserves to be properly placed in history, although she does not fully support the tactics Sanger used.   Chesler writes, “Sanger’s eagerness to mainstream her movement explains her engagement with eugenics.  Chesler makes an excuse for sanger, implying that this was a vehicle used by sanger in order to reach her goal.  “There is no denying that she allowed herself to become caught up in the eugenic zeal of the day and occasionally used language open to far less laudable interpretations,” including at one point saying birth control would lead to the creation of a “race of thoroughbreds,” Ellen Chesler,  “Woman of Valor.” “Before eugenists and others who are laboring for racial betterment can succeed, they must first clear the way for Birth Control. Like the advocates of Birth Control, the eugenists, for instance, are seeking to assist the race toward the elimination of the unfit. Both are seeking a single end but they lay emphasis upon different methods.” ( Birth Control and Racial Betterment, Margaret Sanger) In her opening paragraph Sanger expresses a clear relationship with both the birth control movement, and the eugenics movement.  She argues that without birth control, a competent race cannot exist. Throughout her youth she was miserable, because of her socio economic status.   “contraception is a necessary measure among the masses of the workers, where wages do not keep pace with the growth of the family and its necessities in the way of food, clothing, housing, medical attention, education and the like.” ( Birth control and Racial Betterment)   Her mother a strong willed religious women, respected her domestic role.  During her youth she endured first hand the struggle of a large family with lack of income. Eugenicists placed the working class under the unfit classification.  Sanger argues that if the working class is granted access to birth control, it will stop them from populating.  She refers to the working class as ” their kind”.  We must also take into consideration who she is referring to, immigrants, and African Americans.  She argues that the brains of Australian, Aborigines are only one step more evolved than chimpanzees and just under blacks, Jews and Italians.  During the progressive era, this group was perceived as a threat to society, and “unfit”. Sanger’s ultimate argument in this article is that birth control is the vehicle that will drive the eugenic movement to succeed.  She states that birth control is the foundation to eugenics.  Only with the strong foundation of birth control will eugenics stand a chance. “The magnitude of Sanger’s achievement is difficult to comprehend today. She worked to secure new human rights: the right of every woman to control her fertility, the right of parents to be free of the crises of unwanted pregnancy, and the right of every child to be wanted. Additionally, she provided the birth control methods and clinics necessary for the practical realization of these rights. “Birth Control,” Sanger said, “concerns itself with the spirit no less than the body. It looks for the liberation of the spirit of the woman and through woman of the child.” (736) In her book Margaret Sanger: Rebel with a Cause, Virginia Coigney defends Sangers position in the way she fought for women.  Coigney, argues that it is difficult for society to understand Sanger’s position.  She believes that Sanger was in fact a brilliant woman to use different political groups as a platform.  Sanger was able to convince different political groups of men that her movement was detrimental to their success.  Although she used such tactics, she liberated women today.  As a result of her success, today women have rights to their own body.Eleanor Roosevelt is a pertinent agent of the social reform movement discussed in this paper.  She used her leadership skills that is well recognized today to impact the rights of individuals.  Eleanor was born to a rich, dysfunctional, and influential family in New York City.  She was left without parents by the age of ten.   Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was the wife of America’s former president during the 30s.  She  gave a new meaning to the role of ” The First lady”. After her husband won his presidency, she feared she would lose her autonomy that she fought hard for.   In “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History” quotes Eleanor  “The turmoil in my heart was rather great that night and the next few months were not to make any clearer what the road ahead would be.” She also figuratively states that she had seen Theodore Roosevelt’s wife, Edith Carow Roosevelt,”fade into the wallpaper” of his presidency, becoming complacent was not something Eleanor wanted. (Burns, Ward pg. 286) Roosevelt was a key component to the creation of the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights.  The ” Universal Declaration Of Human Rights” is  strategically constructed so  that each article protected  human natural rights.  As stated in article II “everyone is entitles to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language. Through her dedication to human rights, she became an inspiration.  The Universal Declaration Of Human Rights, has played an influential role in the legal documents today.  For example,  the Progress of Nations 1998, publicated by UNICEF, and the International Decade for the

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