Category Archives: Women’s Rights

A Short History of Birth Control in the United States

Human Rights March for Equality – Source Library of Congress

Overview

Our mother was born in 1916, the same year the first birth control clinic opened in New York. She was a human rights activist and voting advocate until she died at the age of 89.

We received advocacy genes from both of our caring intelligent parents who were self-educated strong individuals raised in poor loving families. They encouraged hard work, independence, and broad horizons. Being females was not a detriment in their eyes but through the years, we have found it a struggle in a man’s world and have personally faced discrimination.

A review of contraception history and factors related to women’s rights is important because so many young men and women today matured during a period when many rights were established. That time has changed. Women gained the right to vote one hundred years ago, a right more important today than ever.

Women, and men who care about them–not to control their bodies and lives but support their independence, have entered a new era of activism.

The Supreme Court actions that overturned Roe v. Wade forces all women into a negative economic and personal rights environment. Contraceptive rights have reverted to the 1800s with religious patriarchs even mandating a child-victim of incest, or victims of rape, carry a resulting conception to term.

Source Samantha-Sophia Unsplash

THEN

In 1848, a conference attracted three-hundred women and men who met to gain women the right to vote. It took seventy-two bitter years of activism, hunger strikes, arrests and fighting obstruction for women to prevail. Congress finally passed the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution giving women the right to vote in 1920.

While early activists fought for a woman’s right to vote, another group of feminists spent their lives helping women obtain sex education and access to birth control. One of those women, Margaret Sanger, grew up in a household of poverty with ten siblings. Her mother had eighteen pregnancies.

In 1902, Margaret began working as a nurse, and later a midwife. She cared for chronically pregnant poor women living in the tenements of New York who begged her for information to help stop unwanted pregnancies.

Sanger’s book, Motherhood in Bondage, contains hundreds of letters from hopeless women across the country imploring her to help them limit the number of children they bore. Most of them wrote of being married as teenagers and bearing a child each year. One 43-year-old woman with nineteen children had begged her doctor for contraceptive information, only to be told to be careful. Stories included child-mothers escaping poverty to marry, and having a child before their thirteenth birthday. One, married at age fourteen, had fourteen living children, many miscarriages, and failing health due to multiple pregnancies and poverty.

The women’s plight incited Margaret’s actions, but by talking about birth control she risked imprisonment under the Comstock Act of 1873. That draconian law made it illegal to discuss, produce, print or use the U.S. Postal Service to mail any literature or product pertaining to the body related to birth control and venereal disease, rampant before the age of antibiotics. Anatomy textbooks being sent to medical students were prohibited and confiscated. Doctors failed to educate women about ovulation and contraception because they could be jailed for discussing the topics.

Anthony Comstock, the influential politician and religious zealot who became a U. S. Postal Inspector, considered Sanger’s pamphlets on sex education and clinics providing contraception advice to be obscene and pornographic. His imposed religious views set medical education and U.S. public health back decades.

After her arrest for publishing and distributing contraceptive information, Margaret fled to Europe under an assumed name to avoid prosecution that could have carried up to a 45-year sentence. She studied methods of contraception in the Netherlands and returned to open the first U.S. birth control clinic in New York City in 1916. She and her sister Ethel Byre, also a nurse, provided contraceptive information and treated 486 patients in ten days, before the NYPD Comstock Vice Squad swept in to arrest the nurses and patients.

Ethel nearly died in jail during a hunger strike to raise awareness for their cause. Margaret was sentenced to the penitentiary for thirty days and upon release, reopened her clinic in protest. She founded the American Birth Control League in 1922 that eventually became Planned Parenthood of America.

Margaret Sanger’s desire to help women fueled her lifelong activism to teach contraceptive methods and advance sex education. The Catholic Church considered Margaret an enemy and opposed her work, but she had seen what continual pregnancies had done to her devout mother and others in poverty producing huge families.

Support and fortunes of philanthropic people like International Harvester heir Katherine McCormick, John D. Rockefeller, and Margaret’s second husband, oil magnate James Noah Slee, fueled her campaigns for birth control and research for an oral contraceptive. Sanger and McCormick both lived to see the success of their efforts when the FDA approved the first oral contraceptive, Enovid, in 1960.

In 1972, the Supreme Court finally struck down the last of the oppressive Comstock law that restricted doctors from prescribing oral contraceptives to unmarried women ending nearly one hundred years of Comstock tyranny.

Source Gayati-Malhotra Unsplash

NOW

More than sixty years after the epic moment in 1960 making birth control pills available, women are fighting the same old battle, the right to self-determination and contraception.

Some legislators at the national level have vowed to defund Planned Parenthood clinics across the United States. Those who fight to defund the clinics and legislate reduced contraceptive availability and education are antiabortionists. They vehemently attack clinics that provide abortions, leading to violence, bombings, and terrorist murders of healthcare personnel.

Planned Parenthood provides healthcare to both men and women, education, contraceptives, treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, and they offer fertility consultation.

Comprehensive sex education and free contraceptives reduce unplanned pregnancies and abortions. Why would those against abortion defund Planned Parenthood clinics limiting access to education and birth control, thus increasing the need for abortions?

Abortions have been a legal right under U.S. law since the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision in 1973. That decision deemed abortion a fundamental right under the U.S. Constitution. Roe, (a pseudonym to protect her privacy) was a single pregnant woman who brought a class action suit against the constitutionality of Texas laws that made abortion a crime except to save the life of the mother. District Attorney Wade provided the state’s defense. The historic decision overturned the Texas law and held that a woman and her doctor could choose abortion in earlier months of pregnancy without legal restriction, and with restrictions in later months based on right to privacy.

Any adult has the right to make personal decisions based on their religious views. However, our founding principle of separation of church and state in the U.S. means no one as the right to impose their religious views on others.

Broad availability of birth control education and contraception has been shown to reduce unplanned pregnancies and reduce the need for abortions. In spite of this fact and the desire of most citizens in the United States, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in this month. Their 2022 sweeping judgement not only removed a woman’s right to make personal healthcare choices, it broadly affects autonomy in every sphere of existence. The partisan justices also tainted the Court and destroyed the established framework of the United States of separation of church and State.

The next blog will provide an overview of Reproductive Biology for men and women, then related topics from the booklet will follow. If you are interested in following the Lipstick Logic blog, please subscribe by providing your email.

Thanks for stopping by.

Betty and Bev, The Lipstick Logic Sisters

Patriarch Patrol

Religious ultra-conservatives and entitled men of the United States are removing rights from half of the U.S. population yet remain untouched in this era of severe suppression and control of women. The Comstock Act of 1873 named for Anthony Comstock the influential politician and religious zealot, imprisoned nurses and doctors for helping women by educating them about their bodies and contraception. One-hundred-fifty years later, austere laws against women’s rights are ready for enactment across the country.

Handmaiden.2

We are returning to Motherhood in Bondage. The book published in 1929 contains hundreds of letters from hopeless women across the United States crying for help to limit the number of children they bore. One 43-year-old woman with nineteen children had begged her doctor for contraceptive information only to be told to be careful.

It’s happening again. Women are being stripped of their rights. Doctors and nurses are at risk for imprisonment for providing healthcare for women. Even contraceptive insurance coverage for women is being blocked by some employers. We must legalize OTC contraceptives and morning-after pills in all states.

Handmaiden

If Roe v. Wade is overturned, it will change the face of America. By removing female autonomy, we join countries around the world where women have no rights. It took women 100 years to obtain the right to vote, now it’s time use that right. To make change and gain control, women and men who love them must come out in droves to vote for protection of women’s rights and defend our democracy by voting out the all the conservative patriarchs.

Please vote for women’s rights.

Bev and Betty

Two Logical Sisters

Women’s Rights

Your Voice, Your Choice

 

The Lipstick Logic Motto

Symbolic of the individuality of each woman’s life, this lip print represents each woman’s unique story. By changing lip colors, a woman can change her appearance.

By making new choices she can change her life.

It’s a man’s world. Despite great accomplishments, women are repressed today just as they have been for centuries. We have a long way to go to abolish patriarchy and achieve equality. The time to start is now. Be persistent. Make change happen.

Women are products of their environments. Some are fortunate enough to have been born into a financially stable, nurturing, stimulating family. Others, must rise from poverty or abuse, from the depths of disadvantage and pain.

Applying what we learn from mentors and lessons from powerful women can enrich our own lives. Through their strength, determination and actions, some women have changed the world, but each woman can take action to change her own life.

We follow in the footsteps of suffragettes who fought hard for a woman’s right to vote, yet many women do not vote. Women have traveled to space, yet some women have never learned to drive a car. Some have become bank presidents, while others have never written a check.

Women have excelled in many fields without being acknowledged for their competence and brains. Nursing is one example of an underpaid, female-dominated field, where it took more men entering the profession for wages and status to improve. A stark reminder from the past is when women served in the military during WWII. Often, they did not receive military benefits, burial benefits or medals, so when women in the war died, their fellow females pooled money to send the body home.

More than 250,000 women served in the armed forces during WWII. They worked in many capacities. Some were captives. Some died. Thousands were pilots, yet these brave women were not given equal compensation. Finally, in 1979, these women were rightfully granted veteran benefits. I recently met a young female helicopter pilot who flew combat missions in Afghanistan. Women in the military today have earned respect in broad leadership, combat and technical roles.

A few years ago, I met a motorcycle enthusiast riding cross-country alone at the age of eighty. She enjoyed traveling alone. Self-dependence remained at her core, just as it was during WWII when, as a military pilot, she flew transcontinental aircraft deliveries with minimal navigation instruments, and when aviation weather-forecasting was nearly nonexistent.

Marge Piercy, an American author, feminist and social activist, once said, “A strong woman is a woman determined to do something others are determined not be done.”

Women are multitaskers. Managing businesses and households, bearing and caring for children, assisting aging parents, supporting mates in their work, and participating in community and school projects, all this is often accomplished while working a full-time job.

Women are strong. They are resilient, developing skills through necessity and employing them throughout life. Women must remain goal-oriented and avoid people who impede their progress.

Most working women have experienced the abuse of power. Many women develop skills in the business realm, but are not treated as equals. Sometimes management level women participate in deriding other women like entitled men who abuse and use their power against subordinates.

Although women are socially defined as unequal, we are developing voices and taking action to stand strong against repression. With change, conflict is inevitable. When conflict is suppressed or hidden, issues are not addressed. View conflict as an avenue of growth. Learn from adversity.

The ability to cope in a crisis is strengthened by experience. Life lessons from strong women show this to be true. Adversity teaches wisdom, wisdom that can be shared with others.

Leave your negative past behind. Become the person you want to be. Face life with strength and a positive attitude. There is hope, but the fight for equality goes on.

 

Report abuse

Run for Office

Vote for rights

Defend yourself

Find your passion

Become self-reliant

Refuse to be put down

Do not become a victim

Take charge of your future

Learn skills for independence

Develop a roadmap for your future

 

Betty Kuffel, MD

Lipsticklogic.com

A Woman’s Right to Vote

 

Vote for Democracy

Author: Betty Kuffel

 Two years in a concentration camp made Anna a very strong woman who set a good example for all of us. Years ago, I asked if she could tell me about her experiences in the Theresienstadt Nazi prison camp to help other women learn how to be strong in the face of adversity.

 Anna gave me permission to share her story after her death. She was born May 17, 1923 in Hungary, the daughter of a diplomat. Her father’s travels required she attend a boarding school in Switzerland after her mother suffered paralyzing injuries in a horse-riding accident and died. Anna was eleven. She had one older brother. Anna died this year at the age of 94. She loved life, eating chocolates and drinking champagne with friends, family and rescue animals at her side.

 I wrote Anna’s story in her voice, as if she is talking to you. This genre is creative non-fiction. The story is true. Dialogue based on her words. Names were changed at her request.

 Life in a Box

On a blustery December night in 1943, German soldiers kicked in the door of our Vienna apartment. Yelling uniformed men dragged us to a waiting car. Exhaust choked my breath as I slid into the back seat with Patrice. He gripped my hand and whispered in German, “Anna, say nothing.”

An officer pushed in beside me. Patrice leaned forward to meet his eyes. He asked, “Why?”

The man spat, “You’re spies for the Americans, like her father.” As the car sped through town to the country, Patrice argued with the man to no avail. The car stopped. Armed men jerked the doors open at a train yard where cattle cars lined the tracks. Crowds of distraught people of all ages shivered in falling snow.

Officers crushed us into a rail car with standing room only. The door dragged shut, locking us in total darkness.

Weeks earlier, my father, a notable Hungarian diplomat, had disappeared with my brother. I feared for their safety. We weren’t Jewish and I naively believed the Nazis would never come for us. I felt secure with my studies in medicine, living with my charming French husband, Patrice, a busy physician. In wartime, we found strength in love, snuggled in our apartment preparing for Christmas. How could this be happening?

Strangers’ bodies pressed against me. When the car jerked into motion, a trembling child’s hand gripped my leg for balance. Patrice wrapped his arms around me. We rocked with the motion of the train. He said, “Be strong, my love. Our medical skills may help us survive.”

The train rattled slowly along the tracks for days. Odors of cow manure and human excrement spilling from overflowed cans filled the car. Nausea swept over me in waves. Exhausted prisoners leaned against each other, taking turns to rest along rough rocking walls. Only the warmth of other bodies heated us. Sometimes when the train stopped, farmers brought us water and bread we passed hand to hand, sharing.

A young woman near me slid to the floor, unable to rise. She begged me to keep her infant safe while she slept. I consoled the crying baby, who finally quieted, after I gave her a piece of cloth dipped in water to suck. Patrice watched. “You’ll be a wonderful mother.”

The train lurched to a stop. The door opened wide. Cold fresh air diluted the stench around us. Shouting German officers announced our destination would be Terezin, Czechoslovakia – Theresienstadt, a Nazi concentration camp.

Fear stopped my breath. I wanted to be back in Vienna. Safe. Warm. Loved. I clung to Patrice until two uniformed men pawed through frightened prisoners, dragging men out the door. They jerked Patrice from my arms and shoved him out to the ground.

I wanted to join him. Patrice shook his head. I wedged my body against the door frame, staring as officers lined him up with the other prisoners facing away from the car. Shots rang out. Patrice crumpled to the ground, unmoving. Bodies fell beside him staining the snow red.

Sobs wracked my thin body as I pushed to the back of the car. Around me, women shrieked. I hid in silence hoping the soldiers wouldn’t come for me. Finally, the door closed, and the railcar moved forward. I cried for Patrice for days and distracted myself from numbing grief by trying to calm others. Locked in the rocking cattle car, I wondered what lay ahead as I helped crying children, comforted women and hugged old people.

At Bohusovice station, the train stopped and our march to Theresienstadt began. A line of starving humanity straggled along the two-kilometer dirt road to the prison compound. At the entrance, they separated women, children and boys under twelve, from the men. Soldiers searched and registered us, noting education, skills and training. I recalled Patrice’s words and stressed my medical training. I was assigned to an overwhelmed hospital block. Even the hospital’s poor conditions came to be a reprieve in a camp crawling with rats, mice and lice.

Treatment and food depended on the commandant, a position that changed every six months.

We starved. Rapes and beatings occurred daily. I wasn’t spared. Guards targeted me, a young attractive woman. The Germans couldn’t impregnate me. I was already pregnant with Patrice’s child. When we were arrested, I’d missed one menstrual period. The child within gave me strength to endure the violence.

At five-feet tall, dressed in a sack dress and underweight, I was nearly six months along when I confided in a coworker. She later helped me through childbirth in a small clinic room. Guards allowed me to keep the darling blond-haired boy, believing he was a German-rape child. They let me bring him with me to work. The baby saved my life.

Two years in the Nazi concentration camp burned horrific images in my memory. Propaganda reports said Theresienstadt was a model camp even allowing the International Red Cross to visit. Sometimes an orchestra played for hours, but the camp was a front for the extermination of Jews. At least 150,000 men, women and children passed through the gates en route to gas chambers. Nearly 100,000 of us died of disease and starvation.

We women found refuge lying on triple-tiered metal bunks, whispering in darkness. We supported each other and even celebrated Christmas. There was little to share but friendship, yet we had a gift exchange. We secretly wrapped tiny presents: little bits of soap, a button, a piece of candy, and quietly sang Christmas carols. It was beautiful.

On May 10, 1945, eight days after Berlin fell to the Allies, Russian forces liberated Theresienstadt. I picked up my little boy and rushed out the gate, heading to Vienna by rail freight car. Along the way, he became very ill. Locals helped us.

I was desperate to reach the American Zone and make it to the home of a boarding school friend in Heidelberg, Germany. We crossed the Danube to Linz, Austria, on an inner-tube, then traveled by bus to Germany. We finally arrived safely at my friend’s home. Two days later my beautiful little boy suddenly worsened and died in my arms.

Grief paralyzed me. My entire family, gone. My life was over. My one friend in the world saved me. She helped me climb out of depression and compartmentalize my devastation. I placed my past in a mental box and closed the lid. It was a lid I couldn’t open for more than sixty years.

In Heidelberg, I buried myself in studying medicine, later switching to laboratory science. In five years, I saved enough money to immigrate to Canada. Crossing the Atlantic on a Cunard Steamship Line cruise ship brought me to a safer place. I wanted to breathe free in a democracy and never again endure a dictator. I dreamed of being an American citizen with the right to vote.

With the help of my sponsor and new friends in Toronto, I earned a Master of Science in Microbiology and later moved to Chicago where I worked at a large hospital. Life was good. On a weekend outing to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, I fell for a charming man with twinkling blue eyes. We married and lived an idyllic life of sailing and skiing, raising two sons and a daughter.

After earning citizenship, I voted in every election. My first life remained locked in a box of memories, but I remained acutely aware of catastrophes that can happen when citizens are deprived of the right to vote.  I considered it my duty as an American to participate in every election.

Following my daughter’s death from breast cancer and my survival after ovarian cancer, I finally lifted a corner of the lid of the old box that held the secrets of my hidden past. I feared terrible memories might fly out and destroy my life again.

I first talked about Christmas in Theresienstadt with my doctor, a close friend. Later, I told her of Patrice and our son. I shed no tears. It was like a story of someone else’s life. My doctor coaxed out a few more memories, but many experiences had to be left untold.

When I was ninety, dark thoughts screamed back when a white supremacist with threats of marching with guns, came to my small town. Not in America! My anger boiled. The town mounted a rebellion against his actions and eased my anxiety.

In my second life, as a free American citizen with the precious right to vote, I lived every day ready to play, surrounded by family, friends and rescue animals. I even skydived at age eighty. Under the oppressive Nazi regime, I could never have dreamed of the freedom I savor every day. Eleanor Roosevelt’s saying is my life’s motto: Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it is called the present.

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50%Symbolic of the individuality of each woman’s life, this lip print represents each woman’s unique story. By changing lip colors, a woman can change her appearance. By making new choices, she can change her life.

Betty Kuffel, MD