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MS Am 2063

American Birth Control League. American Birth Control League records, 1917-1934: Guide.

Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University


Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138 USA

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Location: Harvard Depository
Call No.: MS Am 2063
Repository: Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University
Creator: American Birth Control League
Title: American Birth Control League records,
Date(s): 1917-1934.
Quantity: 10.2 linear feet (31 boxes)
Language of materials: Collection materials are in English.
Abstract: Early records of the American Birth Control League, an organization founded by Margaret Sanger.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

93M-58. Received in the Harvard College Library from the American Birth Control League through Norman Edwin Himes; received: 1932. Previously classed as Soc 5362.110* - Soc 5362.110.15*.

Processing Information:

Processed by: Bonnie B. Salt

Conditions Governing Access:

Use of originals restricted because of condition; Permission of curator required.

Existence and Location of Copies:

Readers must use microfilm copy of collection (bMS Am 2063.1). Positive microfilm available in Houghton Reading Room. The papers were microfilmed before the final processing and cataloguing was completed. Unfortunately some of the dates and names listed on the labels in the microfilm are no longer correct. Appropriate cross-references have been made in this finding aid to assist the reader to find the correct dates, names and sequences.
The originals of this collection are not housed at the Houghton Library but are shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. If use is approved, retrieval requires advance notice. Readers should check with Houghton Public Services staff to determine retrieval policies and times.
A portion of these records are published in: University Publications of America. The Margaret Sanger Papers: Collected Documents Series.

Preferred Citation for Publication:

American Birth Control League Records, 1917-1934 (MS Am 2063). Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Related Materials

Additional ABCL records also located at the Library of Congress, Manuscript Division in the Papers of Margaret Sanger.

Biographical / Historical

American Birth Control League (ABCL) was an organization founded in New York City in 1921 by birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger (1879-1966). It was a national voluntary organization to promote birth control via public education, legislative reform, medical contraceptive research, and provision of services. Affiliated units were: Birth Control Review, Clinical Research Bureau, American Birth Control League Congressional Committee, American Birth Control League Speaker's Bureau, American Birth Control League Washington Office, Margaret Sanger Lecture Bureau, and local branches of the ABCL.


Arranged into the following series: All series are arranged chronologically, then alphabetically.

Scope and Contents

The bulk of this collection contains the files of the New York Office of the ABCL from its founding in 1921 to Margaret Sanger's withdrawal from the organization in 1928. The collection embraces the time period 1917-1934, however, and includes birth-control-related materials created before the founding of the League, as well as materials generated and collected after Sanger resigned. The bulk of the collection is correspondence and office files of the workers, both paid and volunteer, who staffed the New York Office.
The papers were received as a permanent deposit in the Harvard College Library in 1932 from the American Birth Control League through Norman Edwin Himes (a historian of birth control). Some of the papers are stamped on the verso with this information. They were originally classified in the Harvard College Library as Soc 5362.110* - 5362.110.15*. In 1994-95 they were recataloged and arranged into a chronological sequence. The papers relating to the two major conferences have been left in their original groupings, as have the clippings from newspapers.
Topics generally relate to the business of the ABCL office, including the following: doctors and the general public in search of information on birth control; letters documenting the plight of women with no access to birth control; establishment of lecture engagements and travel reservations for ABCL workers (particularly Dr. James Fryer Cooper); organizing of branch offices of the ABCL; organizing American and international conferences relating to birth control and population; financial matters; statistics; efforts to change the birth control laws in various states and on the federal level; numerous lists of supporters and doctors; requests for financial support; press releases; and form letters. There are also records concerning the Clinical Research Bureau of the ABCL [but no medical records], the Washington, D.C. Office of the ABCL [administered by Anne Kennedy, Executive and Legislative Secretary], and some materials relating to the Birth Control Review and the Speaker's Bureau of the ABCL. There are no photographs in the collection, although the clippings contain newsprint photographs. There is no systematic file of reports or minutes of the ABCL. Many of the materials are annotated by James S. Cooper, Anne Kennedy (Executive Secretary of the ABCL), by Margaret Sanger, or others. See notes under series headings for further summary description.


The originals of this collection are shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. See use restrictions below for additional information.

Container List

Index of names: A

Index of names: B

Index to names: C

Index to names: D

Index to names: E

Index to names: F

Index to names: G

Index to names: H

Index to names: I

Index to names: J

Index to names: K

Index to names: L

Index to names: M

Index to names: N

Index to names: O

Index to names: P

Index to names: Q

Index to names: R

Index to names: S

Index to names: T

Index to names: U

Index to names: V

Index to names: W

Index to names: Y

Index to names: Z