The Sangers – Artists and Rebels on Display May 1st for First Friday Art Walk
Exhibit features the artwork of Margaret, William and Alexander Sanger
WHAT: As a part of First Friday Art Walk, May 1st, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England (PPNNE) will sponsor The Sangers – Artists and Rebels, an exhibition of the paintings, drawings and photographs of two generations of the Sanger family, Margaret, William and Alexander. Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, took up watercolors after moving to Tucson, Arizona in the late 1930’s painting mostly desert scenes (photo attached). By contrast, her husband, William Sanger, was a professional painter as well as architect, and began displaying his work in the 1910’s (photo of painting attached). A frequent visitor to Maine, many of his canvases are stormy, dramatic and visceral. Alexander Sanger took up drawing and watercolors after his retirement as President and CEO of PPNYC in 2000. He paints, like his grandfather, on the Maine coast and also in New York City.
The Artists and Rebels exhibit coincides with the 50th anniversary of PPNNE and the centennial anniversary of William Sanger’s arrest and imprisonment for distributing information about birth control. In early 1915, with his wife in exile in Europe, he was entrapped by an undercover police officer sent by Anthony Comstock into handing out one of his wife’s birth control pamphlets in violation of the Comstock Laws. His trial in September 1915 was a cause célèbre. William challenged Comstock to his face, stating that, “it is the law, and not I, that is on trial here today.” He spent 30 days in the Tombs.
WHEN: Friday, May 1, 2015
5:00 PM – 8:00 PM Reception with artist Alexander Sanger
(Press can preview the exhibit Wednesday, April 29 or Thursday, April 30)
WHERE: Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, 3rd Floor
443 Congress Street, Portland
WHO: The public is invited to view an exhibit of the artworks of Margaret Sanger, her husband William Sanger and their grandson Alexander Sanger, who will be in attendance.
Brief Bios of the artists:
Margaret Higgins Sanger (1879-1966), born in Corning, New York to a sculptor and his wife was the sixth of eleven children. Educated through the eleventh grade, she became a kindergarten teacher and then a nurse. Married in 1902 to William Sanger, she had three children and by the end of 1910, was a recruiter for the Socialist Party and an organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World. Margaret participated in the Lawrence Textile Strike of 1912 and then the Paterson Silk Workers Strike of 1913. In 1914, she published seven issues of her newspaper, The Woman Rebel, and was indicted for violating the Comstock Laws, which prohibited the giving out of, or advocating, contraceptive information. In 1916, she opened America’s first birth control clinic in Brooklyn, N.Y. and went to jail for 30 days. In 1921, she founded the American Birth Control League, which later became Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Thirty years later, she conceived and organized the development of the birth control pill, and founded the International Planned Parenthood Federation. In 1965, the United States Supreme Court declared the Comstock Laws unconstitutional. Margaret died the following year, one week before her 87th birthday.
She took up watercolors after she moved to Tucson, Arizona in 1937 for her health. Among her teachers were Ralph M. Pearson and Hobson Pittman, who delivered a eulogy at her funeral. She was part of the Tucson Watercolor Guild and took painting trips into the desert around Tucson and down into Mexico. She also painted with DeWitt Peters on several trips to Haiti in the late 1940’s.
William Sanger, (1873-1961) painter and architect, was born in Berlin, Germany and was educated at Cooper Union. He later studied architecture at Atelier Masquery and painting at the Society Beaux Arts. William studied pictorial composition with Hugo Ballin, Edward Simons and Robert Blum. In 1915, he was arrested for handing out one of his wife’s birth control pamphlets and spent 30 days in the Tombs Prison. In May 1917 with a world war raging, William journeyed to Spain to see El Greco’s paintings first hand. He traveled around northwestern Spain and painted watercolors of the Gates of Glory at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. He returned to New York in April 1918. William traveled to Maine in the 1920s, 30s and 40s to paint, venturing as far Down East as Eastport and Grand Manan Island. At his death in 1961, he was working on copper etchings for an illustrated biography of Thomas Paine.
Alexander Sanger was born in New York City, the 4th of 6 children to Edwina and Grant Sanger, his father Margaret Sanger’s second son. Educated at Andover and Princeton, he earned law and business degrees from Columbia and an advanced law degree from NYU. He practiced law as an associate and then partner of the firm of White & Case for 14 years, before setting out to help run a family manufacturing firm. In 1991, Alexander was named President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of New York City, a position he held until 2000. In that year he became, and remains, Chair of the International Planned Parenthood Council as well as Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Population Fund. In 2004 he wrote a book, Beyond Choice: Reproductive Freedom in the 21st Century. He operates a website, AlexanderSanger.com where he writes on reproductive rights issues. He took up drawing in 2000, studying with Betty Edwards, and watercolor painting in 2011, taking classes with Joan Iaconetti, Charles Reid and Tim Clark. His photo essay, “The First Day of School”, was exhibited at the Waterman’s Community Center in North Haven, Maine in 2011.
Sangers: Artists and Rebels Art Show in Portland, Maine
On Friday May 1 the gallery at Planned Parenthood of Northern New England will be hosting “The Sangers: Artists and Rebels”, featuring the drawings, watercolors and photographs of yours truly, together with watercolors by my grandparents, Margaret and William Sanger. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the art of my family. This is also the 100th anniversary of my grandfather's going to jail for birth control, preceding my grandmother’s first incarceration by a year.
The gallery is a 443 Congress Street, Portland, Maine and will be open 5-8pm.
The Planned Parenthood family lost a mighty warrior on February 26 - Tom Webber died at age 71, far too young. His lungs gave out, no surprise to those who knew him, since he had a habit of using them at full volume on many occasions, whether he needed to or not. I first met Tom in 1991 at a meeting of the CEOs of the larger Planned Parenthood affiliates. Since I was new, I introduced myself to my new daunting colleagues. Whatever I said, it inspired Tom to come up to me at the first break to welcome me and thank me. Shortly thereafter, as the meeting recommenced, Tom launched into one of his habitual diatribes about some organizational failing, weakness or idiocy. He would lean forward, point his finger around the room and dare anyone to contradict him. It was great theater, and he also invariably made sense.
I know that I have been asked to leave more restaurants because of Tom than any other friend - the list of dining establishments would fill a Zagats of its own. We always had a good time unwinding after our meetings. His good humor and cheer were infectious.
Tom led the Planned Parenthood of Minnesota and South Dakota for 30 years. He fought the opposition valiantly and never gave an inch. Despite picketing and firebombing, Tom increased services to women and families manyfold during his tenure. So frustrated was the opposition that one of them physically attacked Tom in his office.
There weren't, and aren't, many men who had been named affiliate CEOs at Planned Parenthood. Those of us who have been have a special bond. We viewed Planned Parenthood as a beacon for reproductive rights, human rights and the betterment of the planet. This was a cause that demanded that men and women work together. It was an honor to work alongside Tom Webber. He did so much good for so many.
Once again, we've had a year of ups and downs, a year of strong stands for women's rights and crushing defeats. Here's a quick run-down of some of the most memorable moments of 2014:
- Last month, the Chamber of Deputies in the Dominican Republic put forward a measure to reinforce -- and strengthen -- the country's existing ban on abortions in all circumstances.
Thankfully, Dominican President Danilo Medina vetoed the measure, urging legislators in a letter to decriminalize abortions in cases where the woman's life is at risk or in cases of rape, incest, or fetus malformation. In his letter, President Medina stated that the fundamental right to life of the pregnant woman or girl must prevail, as well as "respect for their human dignity and their mental and moral integrity." He also highlighted the public health necessity to provide these services to reduce the country's high maternal mortality rate, as well as provide services to the most vulnerable.
Just this week, the Deputies voted to decriminalize abortion after hours of intense debate, winding back the original conservative proposal they had on the table. This is a big step forward though the fight is far from over -- thankfully, a strong civil society -- including our Member Association PROFAMILIA will be watching.
- Iran took a step back by restricting access to birth control options in the hope of increasing population growth. In August, Iran's parliament voted to ban vasectomies and all other permanent forms of contraception. Doctors caught performing the procedure could face imprisonment. This new bill marked a dramatic shift from Iran's previous progressive policies and is yet another reminder of the fragility of reproductive rights -- and the need for sustained advocacy.
- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently put his presidential foot in his mouth when he declared that women are not equal to men. At a meeting in Istanbul on women and justice, Erdogan said that women and men are created differently and not capable of doing the same kinds of work.
Erdogan added that motherhood is the highest position women can hope to achieve, stating "you cannot explain this to feminists. They don't accept motherhood. They have no such concern."
- In July, a United Nations told the Irish government to amend its abortion law, which only allows legal abortion when there is a "real and substantial risk to the life of a pregnant woman."
In its recommendations, the UN Human Rights Committee ordered the country to legalize abortion services for pregnant women facing serious health threats, as well as in cases of rape, incest and fatal fetal impairment. It also criticized the burdensome procedures women must endure to have doctors certify that the pregnancy poses a threat to their life, and cited the discriminatory and disproportionate impact the restrictive law has on women who are unable to travel abroad to access safe and legal abortion services.
The Committee reviewed Ireland as part of its oversight of states' compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a treaty obligating member states to ensure equal enjoyment of all civil and political rights, including the rights to life and to be free from torture or other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, and paid extensive attention to the very restrictive abortion law.
While Ireland has been reviewed in the past, hopefully, this most recent review will result in dignity and change for the women and adolescents of Ireland.
- While I am a fan of Russian literature, it's no replacement for sex ed. Though that's what some Russian leaders are claiming. This month, Russia's children's rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov said the country would not introduce sex ed in schools because it contradicts Russia's norms and traditions. When asked how children should learn about sex, he said that "children need to read more" and that Russian authors like Dostoevsky and Tolstoy offered children all they needed to know about sex and relationships.
Just think if you had relied on passages like the following from Anna Karenina for your sex ed:
"That which for Vronsky had been almost a whole year the one absorbing desire of his life, replacing all his old desires; that which for Anna had been an impossible, terrible, and even for that reason more entrancing dream of bliss, that desire had been fulfilled. He stood before her, pale, his lower jaw quivering, and besought her to be calm, not knowing how or why."
Margaret Sanger at 100 Event at Museum of City of New York
Women Rebels: Margaret Sanger and The Birth Control Movement at 100 Thursday, December 4 at 6:30 pm
This year marks the centennial of the American birth control movement, founded in New York by trained nurse and social activist Margaret Sanger. In March 1914, Sanger began publishing the journal Woman Rebel, which coined the term “birth control” and popularized the revolutionary notion that each woman should be "the absolute mistress of her own body.” Join author and TheNation journalist Katha Pollitt for a conversation with Sanger biographer Ellen Chesler; New York University Professor of History Linda Gordon; SisterSong co-founder Loretta Ross; and Alex Sanger, Chair of the International Planned Parenthood Council (and Sanger’s grandson) about Sanger’s legacy and why the reproductive rights movement continues to roil debate in this country today.
A Move Forward for Abortion Rights
in the Dominican Republic
Recently, I was in the Dominican
Republic to visit our Member
Association Profamilia and learn more about the state of sexual and
reproductive health and rights in a country whose paradise-like environment
belies deep pockets of poverty.
During the three days I spent with
Profamilia, I met doctors that drove in smoldering vans without air
conditioning to reach the most remote and rural communities. I met doctors who
were helping girls as young as 12 access contraception and treatment for
sexually transmitted infections, women and children that lined up at the crack
of dawn to receive medical care. And while I knew that the Catholic country's
abortion ban was among the most restrictive in the world, I came back to New
York to find out that the Dominican Chamber of Deputies reinforced its abortion
ban with a harmful new penal code.
Thankfully, a few days ago,
Dominican President Danilo Medina vetoed the measure, urging legislators in a
letter to decriminalize abortions in cases where the woman's life is at risk or
in cases of rape, incest, or fetus malformation. In his letter, President
Medina stated that the fundamental right to life of the pregnant woman or girl
must prevail, as well as "respect for their human dignity and their mental
and moral integrity." The letter also stressed the need for the country to
live up to international human rights agreements signed and ratified by the
Dominican Republic, including the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination
of all Forms of Violence Against Women and the Convention on the Prevention,
punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women.
In his letter, the President
highlighted the public health necessity to provide these services to reduce the
country's high maternal mortality rate, as well as provide services to the most
vulnerable. "We are one of the countries with the greatest number of
pregnancies in girls and adolescents, pregnancies that are not only high-risk
to the health of the mother, but often hide situations of rape and abuse."
President Medina continued, stating that these issues presented the country
with a "public health problem of the first order", a problem that
disproportionately affects poor women in a country where 40% of residents live below the
According to the Center for
Reproductive Rights, more than 90,000 unsafe abortions take place in the
Dominican Republic each year. While these exceptions to the abortion ban will
help reduce that number, all women should have access to these life-saving
services. The complete criminalization of abortion violates women's rights to
life and health. Beyond that, it's a failure when it comes to public health
policy: restrictive laws do not make abortion disappear nor do they reduce the
incidence of abortion. These laws simply put women and youth in dangerous
situations that threaten their health and many times, their lives. It also
makes physicians hesitant to treat the complications of unsafe abortion for
fear of imprisonment.
No woman should have to risk
imprisonment to access the health services she needs, wants, and deserves. This
is an important step forwards for a region with some of the most restrictive
abortion laws in the world, and a critical step for a country that two years
ago drew global attention when the country's total abortion ban stopped
treatment for a pregnant teen with cancer.
With reproductive freedom in jeopardy, Alexander Sanger, grandson of renowned family planning advocate Margaret Sanger and a longtime leader in the reproductive rights movement, has taken an urgent, fresh look at the pro-choice position—and even the pro-life position—and finds them necessary, but insufficient. In Beyond Choice he offers the first major re-thinking of these positions in thirty years.
“Well researched and readable, Beyond Choice should be required reading for both pro-choice and pro-life supporters.” —Governor Christine Todd Whitman