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
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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
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
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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
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
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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