Hester Fassel (in orange) with Planned Parenthood volunteers
Planned Parenthood Arizona recently dedicated the lobby of their administrative headquarters in Tucson in honor of two of their longtime supporters, Dr. Hester and Raymond Fassel. I was lucky enough to meet up with Hester to ask her about her relationship with Planned Parenthood. And I have to say, Hester Fassel is one inspiring lady!
Mrs. Fassel was born in a suburb of Chicago, but she grew up in Northern Indiana. Hester became a Professor of Zoology at Iowa State University, and her husband Ray was a publisher at ISU Press. The two of them relocated to Tucson in 1987, after abandoning their initial plan to retire in Spain. They picked Tucson because it had a similar geography and climate to Spain, and the transition from Iowa to Arizona was fairly seamless.
The Fassels’ relationship with Planned Parenthood started when they lived in Iowa. Hester served on the Board of Directors for Planned Parenthood, but the Fassels were also donors. Hester explains that she got involved with Planned Parenthood because “I feel very strongly about their work. I believe that every child should be wanted.” Continue reading
“When the marvel of the spring came to the desert, you saw the cactus and the flowering, saw the brown floor change to delicate pale yellow, stood in awe of nature daring to live without water. You were reminded of the futility of wearing out your life merely providing food and raiment. Like the challenge of death, which so many of the people there were gallantly facing, the desert itself was a challenge.” – Margaret Sanger on Tucson, in her autobiography
Margaret Sanger in 1959, with friend Grace Sternberg, returning to the United States after a trip to New Delhi, Sanger's final overseas trip.
Margaret Sanger moved to Tucson in the 1930s and soon thereafter decided to live here full time, believing that the warm climate was conducive to good health. During Sanger’s years in Tucson, she latched onto any health fad or other technique she thought might improve her health. She exercised and experimented with various diets, including fasting on juice; eating a combination of yogurt, wheat germ, and honey; taking vitamin E supplements; and eating papayas (which she had shipped from Hawaii) for their alleged “restorative substances.”
In 1949, however, Sanger suffered a heart attack, and her son Stuart, a doctor, injected her with Demerol, a recently introduced painkiller not considered addictive at the time. The next year she had a second heart attack, resulting in another long convalescence at the hospital. Her addiction to Demerol intensified; she got Stuart to write prescriptions for her, and would sometimes falsely claim that bottles of the drug had fallen and shattered, which would require further prescriptions to be written. If a nurse refused her demand for Demerol, Sanger would inject it herself. Her son tried to wean her from the drug by collecting empty bottles and filling them with a diluted concentration of the drug, slowly increasing the proportion of water to Demerol until the solution was pure water. This was effective for a while, but eventually Sanger realized she had been duped and endeavored to get her hands back on the drug. She went through other doctors, firing them when they would decrease her dosage, and eventually took to self-administering injections of pure water every 30 minutes. Her addiction, it seemed, was both to the drug itself and the psychological comforts of the injection. Continue reading
Posted in History
Tagged addiction, Alan Guttmacher, arteriosclerosis, Demerol, heart attack, John Rock, Margaret Sanger, nursing home, Pima County, senility, St. George's Church, Stuart Sanger, Tucson
How could we discuss Women’s History Month on a Planned Parenthood blog and not bring up the history of The Pill?
Oral contraception was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1960. The FDA approval of the birth control pill enabled a radical shift in the United States – the proof being that over 12 million women currently use The Pill as their preferred method of birth control. The New York Times has advocated that birth control should be available for over-the-counter distribution. Loretta Lynn even wrote a song about how awesome The Pill is. All of this is for the pure and simple reason that birth control gives women control over their reproductive destiny. It enables them to determine when, and if, they become pregnant. And it has increased women’s access to both higher education and the paid labor force. Continue reading
Editors’ note: Happy Women’s History Month! We’re excited to celebrate with you by continuing our series on the life of Margaret Sanger.
Margaret Sanger, and a few guests, at her home in the Tucson Foothills, circa 1941.
If you’ve lived in Tucson, it’s likely that you’ve passed by one of Margaret Sanger’s erstwhile residences. In the 1930s she lived in Tucson’s Foothills and by the next decade she lived on Elm Street, close to the Arizona Inn and the university. About 10 years later, she helped to design a new house in the Catalina Vista neighborhood.
In one of Sanger’s autobiographies, she tells of the pull Tucson exerted on her:
“[I]n the winter, remembering Arizona from the time I had been there with Stuart, [I] went out again in response to the summons of the desert. My husband and I found a house near Tucson of adobe, trimmed in blue.”
This adobe house was in the Foothills of Tucson, purchased in April 1933. Sanger and her husband, J. Noah, had a famously contentious relationship and maintained separate apartments within their home; Sanger’s was on the ground floor in the front area of the house.
Though enchanted by the desert’s beauty, Sanger and her family also pinned their hopes on the climate’s supposed restorative powers. Sanger’s son Stuart had already moved to Tucson, and was hopeful that the climate would help to heal an enduring ear infection. Sanger’s husband hoped it would alleviate his arthritis (and was also drawn by Arizona’s lack of income tax at the time). For her part, Sanger sought relief from her bronchitis, and also believed the climate would put her at a decreased risk for tuberculosis. Continue reading
Posted in History
Tagged architecture, Arizona Inn, Arthur Brown, Catalina Mountains, Catalina Vista neighborhood, Elm Street, Frank Lloyd Wright, Grant Sanger, J. Noah Slee, Margaret Sanger, Pima County Republican Women's Club, Santa Catalina Mountains, Stuart Sanger, Tucson, Tucson Arts Festival, Tucson Medical Center, Woman's Republican Club of Pima County
David Yetman and Annette Everlove, 1977
For Kino Community Hospital, it was the end of abortion services. But for Annette Everlove it was the beginning of a career in law that continues to this day, and for David Yetman it was the beginning of his 12-year stint as a Pima County Supervisor. And for Americans, it was the beginning of a nationwide debate.
It was 1977, just four years after the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision. In the early days of abortion’s legality, access to the procedure was still extremely limited. There were only one or two private practitioners who provided abortion access in the entire city of Tucson.
And then there was Kino Community Hospital.
As a county-owned public hospital, Kino’s services were provided to its patients free of charge. Consequently, it was the sole source of medical care for many of Tucson’s poor. Shortly after Kino opened its doors in 1977, a Pima County Supervisor learned that the hospital was performing abortions. The question of whether or not Kino would be permitted to continue abortion services was put on the agenda. Continue reading
Posted in History
Tagged abortion, abortion access, Annette Everlove, Arizona Daily Star, Daily Star, David Yetman, Kino Community Hospital, Law Women's Association, Pima County, Pima County Board of Supervisors, Planned Parenthood, Planned Parenthood of Southern Arizona, Rev. Mike Smith, Reverend Mike Smith, Roe v. Wade, Tucson, University Physicians HealthCare, University Physicians HealthCare Hospital at Kino Campus
Throughout her quasi-retirement in Tucson, Margaret Sanger was still committed to the cause that propelled her into the national spotlight in the first place. In Tucson, she arranged to debate the Bishop of Arizona to address “the morality of birth control” – they spoke on different nights, however, since neither wanted to be on stage with the other.
William Mathews, editor of the Arizona Star, wrote: “Who do these women think they are to take on the Bishop of Arizona?” Apparently it was still the prevailing sentiment that a woman’s place was in the home, and despite all the socializing and entertaining Sanger did in her own life, she wasn’t shy about returning to the public sphere.
She wasn’t shy about defying authority either. One example of this facet of her personality was related by one of her biographers. Attempting to cross into the United States from Nogales, Mexico, the border inspector informed Sanger that she could not enter the country without having the required vaccination. Thinking this requirement unnecessary, she tried to refuse, but the inspector was insistent. She relented, and he administered the injection, but immediately after crossing the border, in full sight of the inspector, she sucked the vaccine from the injection site, grinning at him mischievously. Continue reading
Posted in History
Tagged Alexander Fleming, Arizona Star, birth control, Birth Control Federation of America, Bishop of Arizona, customs, Grant Sanger, heart attack, India, Jawaharlal Nehru, Margaret Sanger, Mexico, New Delhi, Nogales, Pandit Nehru, Planned Parenthood, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Prime Minister Nehru, Sir Alexander Fleming, Tucson, Tucson Medical Center, vaccination, vaccine
Photo credit: Arizona Historical Society
“The first thing when you opened your eyes, before actual dawn, you beheld the gold and purple and then the entire sky break into color. In the evening the sunsets were reflected on the mountains in pink-lavender shades; sometimes the glow sprayed from the bottom upward, like the footlights of a theater, until the tips were aflame. Sunset vanished as quickly as the sunrise, never lingering long.”
– Margaret Sanger on Tucson, in her autobiography
Margaret Sanger’s more laid-back years in Tucson saw her with the free time to try out new things, such as cooking and painting. Another role in which Sanger indulged was as the hostess of some of Tucson’s most lavish parties. This was partly an attempt to reclaim some of her former celebrity – she missed the attention and sought once again to be in the spotlight, if only locally. Continue reading
Posted in History
Tagged Adolf Hitler, birth control, Bronx cheer, Eleanor Roosevelt, Frank Lloyd Wright, Japan, John D. Rockefeller Jr., Margaret Sanger, parties, party, prank phone call, Tucson
At least since the days of the Wild West, Tucson has seen some of history’s most infamous characters. These days, the city celebrates this past with events such as Dillinger Days, which commemorates John Dillinger’s apprehension and arrest in downtown Tucson. Some controversial figures didn’t merely pass through town but instead made Tucson their home, including the namesake of the Margaret Sanger Health Center and inductee into the Arizona Women’s Hall of Fame: Margaret Sanger.
In the 1930s, when Sanger first came to Tucson, the town was known for its healthful climate – a reputation that drew Sanger here early in the decade when her son, Stuart, was suffering from an ear infection. “Arizona was so unlike any place I had been before; you either had to be enthralled by it or hate and dread it,” Sanger wrote in her autobiography. “But I knew there was a delight in the cool nights and the translucent, sunny days with a lovely tang in the air.” The following spring, her son in better health, “we packed our bags once more in the little car and drove away, looking back regretfully at the indescribable Catalinas, on which light and clouds played in never-ending change of pattern.”
This first stay left a favorable impression in Sanger’s mind, and in 1935 she returned with Stuart, who this time was suffering from an eye infection. His doctor wanted to operate but Sanger thought he could be cured by a fasting regimen, in which she joined him. The alternative treatment wasn’t successful – but during this time Sanger decided she liked Tucson so much that she and her husband, J. Noah Slee, thought about making it their permanent home. Continue reading
Posted in History
Tagged Arizona Inn, birth control, birth control pill, Catalina Mountains, Clinica Para Las Madres, Hermosillo, J. Noah Slee, Margaret Sanger, Margaret Sanger Slee, Mexico, Nogales, Planned Parenthood, Planned Parenthood of Southern Arizona, population growth, Stuart Sanger, the Pill, Tucson, Tucson Medical Center, Tucson Mother's Health Clinic, Tucson Watercolor Guild, watercolor
September 14 marks the birthday of Margaret Sanger, founder of the modern birth control movement. Born Margaret Higgins in 1879 in Corning, New York, Sanger would become a trailblazer and set the stage for women to control their reproductive destiny.
Margaret was the sixth of eleven children. She watched her mother struggle with the challenges of childcare and frequent pregnancies, and it made a permanent mark on Margaret’s mind. Feminist author Gloria Feldt tells us:
Margaret’s earliest childhood memories were of crying beside her mother’s bed after a nearly fatal childbirth. Anne Higgins, a devout, traditional Catholic, did die at age 50, worn out from frequent pregnancies and births.
Margaret’s father was a freethinker, a stonemason, a charmer who loved to drink and spin a tale but was less than a dependable provider. Margaret knew poverty; she identified with the struggles of women. Her experiences formed her sensibilities about the moral rightness of birth control. And she had that freethinker streak that allowed her to break boundaries.
Part of the Higgins’ family’s problems stemmed from the fact that Michael Higgins was very vocal in his opposition to the Catholic church. Corning was a predominantly Catholic community, and Higgins’ opinions made it hard for him to secure commissions as a stonemason. It also made the Higgins children the subject of ridicule amongst their peers. This may have been a blessing in disguise, however, because it helped the Higgins children rely on each other for companionship. And when Margaret was ready to launch the birth control movement many years later, her sister would join the fray. Continue reading