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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Am 2094

Margaret Sanger papers


Correspondence, compositions, and photographs of nurse and birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger, collected by her biographer, Lawrence Lader.


  • 1917-1959.


Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.


.33 linear feet (1 box)

This collection formed by biographer Lawrence Lader is chiefly composed of personal correspondence, of which the largest groups are letters from Margaret Sanger to Lader and letters from Sanger to intimate friend and financial backer Juliet Barrett Rublee. There is a smaller amount of third party correspondence. Letters sometimes include notes on content made by Lader. Sanger's letters touch on her travels, plans, and writing for the promotion of birth control, her periods of ill health, her relationships with friends and lovers, and her close work with Lader on the biography. The compositions series contains short essays or fragments on the loss of family members and other personal matters. The photographs series includes images from Sanger's youth, her college days, the birth control clinic opening, and travels to India and Japan.

Biographical / Historical

Margaret Sanger was born in 1879 in Corning, New York and attended Claverack College and Hudson River Institute, though she did not graduate. Sanger married twice: William Sanger in 1902, whom she divorced; and James Noah H. Slee in 1922. She had three children with Sanger: two sons, Stuart and Grant, and a daughter, Peggy, who died at the age of four. She trained and practiced as a nurse until 1912, when she left the field to devote herself to the issue of birth control in the U.S. and internationally. Margaret Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in the U.S. in 1916 in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, New York, and founded the American Birth Control League in 1921. Sanger wrote books on contraception, overpopulation, marriage, and sex instruction, organized international conferences, published two monthly papers, and worked on birth control legislation. Lawrence Lader's biography, The Margaret Sanger story, based on these and other collections of Sanger's papers, appeared in 1955.


Arranged into three series:

  1. I. Correspondence
  2. II. Compositions
  3. III. Photographs and ephemera

Physical Location


Immediate Source of Acquisition

95M-33 and 97M-24. Gift of Lawrence Lader, 51 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10003; received: 1995 December and 1997 November.

Related Materials

Closely related collections are available at Harvard University and elsewhere: the American Birth Control League records, 1917-1934, are held by the Houghton Library, a substantial portion of which is available in microform; Lawrence Lader's papers, 1950-1990, are held by the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections of the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine; major collections of Margaret Sanger's papers are held by the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College and the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress, both of which are available in microform editions. The Margaret Sanger Papers Project is sponsored by the Department of History at New York University.

Processing Information

Processed by: Melanie M. Wisner

Sanger, Margaret, 1879-1966. Margaret Sanger papers, 1917-1959: Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, archives, and more. Houghton Library's collections represent the scope of human experience from ancient Egypt to twenty-first century Cambridge. With strengths primarily in North American and European history, literature, and culture, collections range in media from printed books and handwritten manuscripts to maps, drawings and paintings, prints, posters, photographs, film and audio recordings, and digital media, as well as costumes, theater props, and a wide range of other objects. Houghton Library has historically focused on collecting the written record of European and Eurocentric North American culture, yet it holds a large and diverse number of primary sources valuable for research on the languages, culture and history of indigenous peoples of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Houghton Library’s Reading Room is free and open to all who wish to use the library’s collections.

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