Margaret Sanger: A Life of Passion
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Margaret Sanger: A Life of Passion

3.45 of 5 stars 3.45  ·  rating details  ·  122 ratings  ·  35 reviews
Undoubtedly the most influential advocate for birth control even before the term existed, Margaret Sanger ignited a movement that has shaped our society to this day. Her views on reproductive rights have made her a frequent target of conservatives and so-called family values activists. Yet lately even progressives have shied away from her, citing socialist leanings and a p...more
Hardcover, 349 pages
Published November 8th 2011 by Hill & Wang
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Jenny
This would make the perfect Christmas gift for Rick Santorum.
Maggie
More 3.5. Overall it's well-written, though the early chapters that outline Sanger's origins and the early days of the movement are tighter in construction and more compelling than the chapters focusing on Sanger's later years and decline (though this could just as well be due to the natural narrative arc in Sanger's life than any real flaw in the research or writing). Baker does try to present a balanced view of Sanger's life - a life that hasn't ever really been clearly presented, least of all...more
Mikey B.
A most readable biography of the birth control crusader, Margaret Sanger. It describes very well her life, her family and her single-mindedness in espousing the cause to allow women to control their pregnancies. She brought this to the forefront of America’s consciousness and later expanded it to the entire globe, when she traveled to Japan, India, England and many other locations.

I used the term “crusade” above deliberately because “birth control”, as the author vividly depicts, was at the fore...more
Villate
Even though this biography is poorly written and gave the impression of leaving out a great deal, I'm glad I read it. I have heard very little about Margaret Sanger that's not severely biased on one side or the other and wanted to get at least a somewhat objective view of her life and actions. The author of this biography clearly admires Sanger and tries her best to make her as heroic as possible, but does not completely ignore some of the less heroic aspects of her personality, such as her freq...more
Karelle
As a subject matter, the book deserves 5 stars. As a good read, closer to 2 stars. The author obviously did a lot of research on Margaret Sanger and apparently felt compelled to record every last detail in this biography. The book felt long and drawn out. To her credit, I believe Jean Baker accomplished what she set out to do, and that was to dispel the misconceptions about Margaret Sanger. I enjoyed discovering Margaret Sanger and learning about her courage, drive, persistence and fortitude. Wo...more
Luann
I realized about halfway through that I didn't like Margaret very much. Selfish, wrong kind of ambition, self-involved. Yet driven and my God what a difference she made. Good lesson in people don't have to be likeable to accomplish remarkable things -- nor do they have to have pure motives. Still, I found myself growing bored and while the writing is solid enough, it wasn't all that engaging. Skimmed the second half.
Marie
Margaret Sanger was a social pioneer during a time of great change in this country. The events of the time combined with a psychological profile of the determined, yet flawed, Sanger should have made for interesting reading. Unfortunately, the writing was dull and plodding. There must be better books on the subject out there.
Tracy
Dec 31, 2011 Tracy marked it as did-not-finish
Decided that although Margaret Sanger was an interesting person, I really didn't care about her enough to finish this book.
Dana Brittan
I had a very hard time getting in to this book and ended up not finishing it.
Gayle Konet
This book could have been much shorter! It was very repetitive!
Chantay
It's amazing how to this day still the issues with getting, having and needing birth control and our reproductive rights are still debated in courtrooms and Senate hearings in 2013. Planned Parenthood is under attack for providing abortions; which ironically what people assumed birth control was. Margaret Sanger sorted history as an advocate and crusader for birth control; starts with her own childhood of immigrants parents with too many children and too little money. Her father an enlightened,...more
Asae
The book is at its' best when it is placing Sanger's stories and experiences within a broader context of other social movements or when tracing the arc of court decisions and legislation. Informative and clear.

The book is at its' worst when it tries to address without really delving into the issue - questions of whether Sanger was a "good" mother, whether her motives were driven by ambition etc. My guess is the author has a lot of messy, complicated, ambivalent feelings about Sanger and knows t...more
Emily
Accessibly written, well researched book about the extraordinary life of the founder of the birth control movement. This book answered a lot of questions for me about Sanger: whether she was a racist (no), a eugenicist (yes), a feminist (resoundingly yes). Was she supportive of abortion as an option for women to terminate pregnancy? That one still remains unclear, as Sanger mainly wrote and spoke about the importance of contraception as birth control, and its crucial role in preventing pregnancy...more
Diane Killion
Margaret Sanger: A Life of Passion is about a woman who was born around 1879, became a nurse, and devoted her life to giving women the right to birth control in order to space their children farther apart. She saw too many poor women die in childbirth because their bodies could no longer handle bearing children and the poverty level kept families from being able to provide for so many children. The topic of the book was very interesting; unfortunately the book it self was not interesting.

The aut...more
Justine
Feb 11, 2012 Justine rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: 20th century history lovers and those interested in women's rights
Having come to this book knowing relatively little about the history of birth control, my biggest criticism is the organization of the book. Jean Baker used a roughly chronological format within which the information was subdivided into themes. The problem with this is that the themes were occasionally imposed on and frequently altered the chronology of Sanger's life. Historic events were described in early chapters whereupon the next chapter backtracked to before the occurrence of these events....more
Carl Rollyson
Margaret Sanger (1879-1966), founder of the American Birth Control League, which became Planned Parenthood, has always been a controversial figure. She attacked the Catholic Church for its position on contraception, but she also alienated many progressives because of her unrelenting radicalism and flamboyance, which seemed more in the service of her own ambition than the causes she promoted.

As Jean Baker notes in her new biography, "Margaret Sanger: A Life of Passion" (Hill and Wang, 349 pages,...more
Bruce
Margaret Sanger was born in 1879, the sixth child in an Irish Catholic family that became 11 children, six years after passage of the Comstock Act. The Act prohibited mailing of and distribution of obscene materials and at that time anything dealing with reproduction was considered obscene. Within the crowded family living conditions Sanger’s father taught her to think for herself.
Anti-choice advocates use a caricature of Sanger as propaganda against Planned Parenthood. Though portrayed as advo...more
Liz DeCoster
Good, but didn't necessarily knock my socks off. It was interesting to read about how difficult a subject Sanger must have been to biographize, given her persistent misinformation campaign about her age and obfuscating of other personal details. There were also a few points where the chronology felt a bit muddled (Baker would be discussing the 1930s, and then mention a conference from 1925, for example) so I advise readers to pay close attention to dates. Given Baker's discussions of Sanger's re...more
Erin
I'd give this a 3.5 stars. Margaret Sanger's life was truly inspired for a woman of her time or anytime for that matter. She was a woman with a vision and she would not be deterred. So many have wanted to label her with abortion advocate yet she truly was far more about contraception and education about the female anatomy and the freedom for women to really know and appreciate their bodies. She was about motherhood as a choice. And not about terminating pregnancy but choosing to prevent pregnanc...more
Lisa
I really wanted to rate this book higher than I did just because I admire Sanger so much. I admire Sanger and am sad and angry that the same battles she fought continue even into the 21st C. She said as many as 100 years ago that government has no business governing women's bodies. And here we are. I cannot judge the accuracy of the biography but I am suspicious as a blatant error was repeated twice when the author referred to "Darwinism's notion of survival of the fittest". She made this error...more
Alicia
An excellent balance of her personal life and professional career. Baker doesn't shy away from the number of lovers Sanger had but neither does she sensationalize it. She also addresses Sanger's ties to the eugenics movement. An excellent, well-rounded biography.
Alex Templeton
Margaret Sanger was definitely a fascinating woman to whom all of us committed to feminist issues and woman’s rights owe a great debt. I only wish this biography of her had been as riveting as her actual life story. I read a review of this biography by an author whom I respect, and she commented that she felt the lack of analysis of the impact of Sanger’s life and the context in which she lived (for example, Sanger’s support of the eugenics movement). This biography was definitely in the this-ha...more
Kim
Just couldn't finish it - could barely start it. There is so much history of all the elements around her that it didn't feel like I'd ever get to her story. Too much like a dissertation.
Beverly
There was plenty good about this book - and I did read most of it, but finally I decided I'd had enough. The author is not the best writer and I began to get bored, both with the minutiae of the story and with the author needing to remind me every few pages that Sanger was likely making up at least some part of the current story. We get it, Sanger had a habit of incorporating other people's deeds into her own stories, but really, enough already. I almost got the feeling that the author was tryin...more
Kayla
The author spends quite a bit of time outlining the details of Ms. Sanger's various arrests and trials and I got to the point where I was skipping over some of that. In addition, this revolutionary thinker is presented as a sex addict and a careless mom, at best. As is often the case when I read one version of someone's life, I feel the need to balance it out with another perpsective. Perhaps her own. I didn't know much about this fearless advocate for birth control and the book taught me some...more
Emily Holcomb
Fascinating portrait of a revolutionary figure.
Kristie
Strangely enough I was reading this biography in the middle of the latest bru ha ha on birth control. It occurred to me that Margaret Sanger would be so proud of the strides made and yet recognize that so much is left to be done. Sanger is a controversial figure in history, but nonetheless a tireless crusader for women's rights over their bodies. I would highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to know more about herstory in general.
Cwelshhans
The first part of the book has a better narrative, whereas the second half feels like it's running out of steam. The author flagged areas of controversy, but I did not feel like the book provided clarity on all of them. Nevertheless, a very interesting subject matter and worth a read for the history behind the birth control movement.
Rose Harmon
We hardly ever hear of Sanger anymore and when we do her words & motivations are either misquoted or taken out of context . This is why I am happy to have read Baker's biography of Margaret Sanger, it gave me context and insight not only into Sanger but also the times in which she lived.
ACRL
Jul 17, 2012 ACRL added it
Shelves: motw
Read by ACRL Member of the Week Amy Barlow. Learn more about Amy on the ACRL Insider blog.
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