Working Women Fight For Family Planning Rights

First Birth Control Clinic Opens in the United States

On October 16, 1916, the first birth control clinic in the U.S. opened at 46 Amboy Street in the Jewish neighborhood of Brownsville, Brooklyn. When the doors were opened, hundreds of women poured in.

Reproductive rights and women’s health were popular topics in the Yiddish press, with Emma Goldman lecturing on the subject “in Jewish and in English” to mass audiences. Goldman was arrested for such a lecture in February 1916. The Yiddish translation of Margaret Sanger’s famed reproductive health book, What Every Girl Should Know, was published the same year.

For ten cents, each woman received a short lecture on the female reproductive system, instructions on the use of various contraceptives, and a copy of What Every Girl Should Know. The clinic served more than 500 women over the next ten days until Sanger, her sister Ethel Byrne, and Yiddish interpreter Fania Mindell were arrested and the clinic shut down.

Sanger was held in jail for 30 day as her sister went on a week-long hunger strike in Brooklyn’s Raymond Street Jail. The clinic was shuttered permanently.