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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Marie Stopes

b. 1880, Edinburgh; d. 1958, near Surrey, England

In 1904, Marie Stopes received a doctorate in botany, became the first woman to teach science at Manchester University later that year, and around 1916 began focusing on birth control as a way to solve marital problems by freeing women from the stresses of childbirth. Two years later, she published Married Love and Wise Parenthood, both addressing the subjects of contraception, sex, and marriage. In 1921, Stopes and her second husband, Humphrey Verdon Roe, opened the Society for Constructive Birth Control in London, the first family planning clinic in Britain. Stopes’ Contraception: Its Theory, History, and Practice, published in 1923, was the most comprehensive treatment of the subject in its time. But the genuine contributions to reproductive freedom embodied in Stopes’ crusade must be weighed against her equally passionate commitment to eugenics and repeated calls for compulsory sterilization of the “unfit.”