Item #2701 Family Limitation. MARGARET SANGER.
Family Limitation
Family Limitation
Family Limitation
Family Limitation
Family Limitation
Family Limitation

Family Limitation

"It takes quinine from four to six days to bring about the desired natural effects."
– Sanger's authorial revisions


The present work is the first edition of Sanger’s ground-breaking, law-breaking text, Family Limitation, published in defiance of the Comstock Law which effectively prohibited the spread of birth control information. She had made it her mission to educate, invent, and legislate her way to establishing women’s control of their own fertility and shortly before her death she saw success: in 1965 the Supreme Court ruled in favor of birth control as a constitutional right.

This is the copy of Family Limitation which Sanger kept and revised by hand, in ink, in preparing the second edition of 1916. By preserving these edits – only some of which have been noted through collation by scholars over time – this copy provides the missing link in the evolution of how Sanger’s presented her case, and importantly makes clear that it was two years before this next edition was published – longer than previously believed.

On Sanger's Annotations:

After noting “Revised 2nd Edition 1916” on the cover, Sanger showed dedication to her cause by underlining the final line of her introduction: her call to “Spread this important knowledge!” (p.3).

Under the heading of “A Nurse’s Advice to Women”, Sanger used more exacting language to discuss conception, and highlights the active participation of the man in the process:

– “If there is the slightest possibility that conception may have taken place any semen may have escaped into the womb” (p. 4);

– “By taking the above precautions you will prevent the semen from uniting with the ovum from [and] making its nest in the lining of the womb” (p. 4);

– She also reminds her readers that a period comes "(Every 28 days)" (p. 4).

In this section she also adds that “Castor oil is also effective” as a laxative; changes “desired results” to "natural results"; and changes “ten to fourteen” days before the next period to “seven”.

While some corrections are relatively minor (such as adding a missing "if" to p. 6), we also see a bit of Sanger’s thought process that we would miss through a simple collation of printed copies. On p. 5, she rethinks changing “knowledge” to “fallacy” in the discussion of the relationship between breast feeding and fertility, but decides “knowledge” is “O.K.”.

Sanger addresses the sexual satisfaction of women, adjusting the final sentence of this section: “Withdrawal on the part of the man should be substituted by some other means that does not injure the woman gives to the woman a mutual satisfaction” (p. 7).

In the section titled “Douches and Their Importance” Sanger deletes “hydrochlorate of quinine” in her list of astringents that “can be” used in a solution, and also underlines the fact that some women use a douche preventatively (p. 9).

Sanger indicates an insert (not present) to follow the section on pessaries (p. 14), cuts one suppository recipe (p. 15), and corrects “bichloride” to “Bisulfate” (p. 16).

Though 100,000 copies were reportedly printed for distribution by friends and colleagues of Sanger, who fled criminal charges just after publication, this is a rare survival of a fragile production prone to disintegration as it was surreptitiously passed from hand to hand. It proved foundational:

At least 18 subsequent editions of Family Limitation were published after Sanger’s initial publication of 100,000 copies. The pamphlet was also translated into other languages and used as a resource for other contraceptive guides. According to historian Engelman, Family Limitation covered more types of contraceptive methods than any other publication until the 1920s. Individuals distributed the pamphlet widely, even copying sections by hand before passing it on to friends. – Lakshmeeramya Malladi


Jensen, Joan M. The Evolution of Margaret Sanger's Family Limitation Pamphlet, 1914–1921. Signs, vol. 6, no. 3 (Spring, 1981), pp. 548-567; The University of Chicago Press.

Katz, Esther. Emails. The Margaret Sanger Papers Project.

Malladi, Lakshmeeramya, “Family Limitation (1914), by Margaret Higgins Sanger". Embryo Project Encyclopedia.

Gazit, Chana. "Margaret Sanger (1879–1966)", The Pill. PBS.

Burnette, Brandon R. "Comstock Act of 1873 (1873)", First Amendment Encyclopaedia.

SANGER, MARGARET. Family Limitation. [New York]: n.p., [1914]. Small octavo (5 x 6 ¾ in), 16 pp. (four printed sheets staple-bound). Original wrappers, housed in a custom presentation box. Autograph manuscript annotations from Sanger in ink throughout the pamphlet, adding corrections and notes in preparation for the second edition. Centre-fold, chipping to edges, toning creasing to wrappers, some local discolouration from rusted staples. An astonishing survival, showcasing Sanger's thought through substantial authorial revisions.

Price: $65,000 .

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