Margaret Sanger, "Eulogy for Hannah Stone," 28 Oct 1941.
Source: "Florence Rose Papers, Sophia Smith Collection Margaret Sanger Microfilm, Smith College Collections S72:273."
Sanger gave this eulogy at a memorial service for Dr. Hannah Mayer Stone, the medical director of the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau, held in New York City. For a published eulogy, see "In Memoriam--Hannah Mayer Stone, Aug. 1941."
MRS. MARGARET SANGER:
Mr. Chairman and Friends. I think this is a nice idea. I think that being missed is something that we all like, but being thought of and remembered is even better. I like to be thought of and to be remembered, and I hope that Hannah Stone likes it too. To many Hannah was a personality rare and unique in this modern world. She had that rugged strength, combined with gentleness, and this was combined with a delightful sense of human and the gift of laughter. It is an old saying that you never know a person until you have lived with them, and I would like to add that you don't know them quite so well until you work with them, and you might add to that that when you work with them and you have obstacles to overcome, hardships and difficulties to meet day after day, that in the course of a lifetime you know each other pretty well. In the years that Hannah Stone and I worked together I found many splendid and remarkable qualities in her, and I am going to speak about just four, which, because she had these qualities, and they were not abstract,-they were qualities of character and personality,-because she had these that the birth control movement is where it is today. These qualities were courage, vision, skill and competence, and integrity.
The first was courage. Her courage began with the very day that she decided to come and stand beside me in the birth control movement. Friends, it took courage at that time. I had to have a doctor. According to the law of New York State, only a doctor could give contraceptive instruction for the cure or prevention of disease. I was not a doctor, I was only a trained nurse, the stooges of the doctors, so I had to have a doctor, but it was not any kind of a doctor. I was particular what kind of doctor I wanted. I wanted a woman, she must be married. She must have children, or at least know something of motherhood, she had to have the kind of nature that understood human beings, that had to love them, had to try to solve their problems. She understood them and this indeed was where the birth control movement was fortunate that Hannah Stone came and stood beside us and became the Medical Director of the first birth control clinic in this country. She had to show her courage very definitely when she took her stand. She was at the time connected with one of the most outstanding and largest obstetrical hospitals in the city and I have a letter here where she was ordered to come before the Chief of Staff of that hospital, and to take her choice, that she could not remain in that hospital on its staff and at the same time be in the birth control clinic. And she took her stand. And for a young woman just, we might say, rising with her foot on the ladder of success, because success she certainly would have attained, to have taken that stand when the movement was by no means popular, there was nothing she could gain, except to be sure that inner joy of service. And today that same hospital has a flourishing contraceptive service for the patients who are in that institution. So her courage and her choice have been vindicated by time.
The next is her vision. She was with me but a short time when Hannah Stone realized that if we were going to do at all what we wanted to do that we were tremendously handicapped by lack of materials or supplies that had to be smuggled in from Europe. She then began to devise a formula, a chemical formula. Together with one of our co-workers, Dr. James Cooper, she got up this formula which today is really serving as the basis of almost all chemical contraceptives in this country and abroad. And she was not content to allow it to be commercialized or to keep it a patent for herself, but she insisted that the formula be given to her colleagues in the medical profession and to spread it through medical channels and medical publications. That was the vision Hannah Stone had, that all who were working in the field of human endeavor of health should have access to this particular information that she had brought forth.
The next, that was very definitely expressed and shown, was her competence and skill. In 1929, when the little clinic that we had on 15th Street was raided by the police and Hannah Stone and her co-workers were hauled off to court, she had to show them that she was within her medical rights, that this decoy patient who was sent by the police to trap her so that the clinic might be closed, she had to show and prove that she had the knowledge of the law and that she was keeping within the law. The police in their raid took many cards and especially history records and there indeed, when these were viewed by the authorities, they found that she had been very competent in her directorship, that the findings of the patients indicated that. . . . . . were absolutely within the laws of this state. Hannah Stone not only gave to the medical profession in this state another verification of their rights, but she also established in the public mind the truth that that clinic was maintained under ethical and medical standards. I must say right here that the medical profession in New York City, the Academy of Medicine, behaved magnificently, they came to court, they stood splendidly behind her, and for that I am sure she rejoiced to the end of her time.
Then, not content with putting Hannah Stone through all these tests, I had to ask her to do one thing more. The Federal law had to be challenged, but it was a law that had been on our statute books for over sixty years, which claimed that no one, not even a physician, could send anything through the United States mails or common carriers which gave information to prevent conception, a book a chart, a leaflet, a pamphlet, or an article designed for such a purpose, and that law had never been challenged, and so a number of articles had been sent to me from Japan and they were promptly destroyed by the customs officials, and I went to Hannah Stone and said -- I would like another package to be sent for our Research Bureau, I would like them to be sent to you. It is a great deal to ask you to do because it means going to courts, staying around for days and days, having publicity that is not always pleasant, and your license might even be taken away as a practicing physician. How about it? And that is here Hannah Stone's integrity was proven. Without hesitation she said "of course, of course". And so the package was sent to her from Japan. We had our attorney, a very skillful and prominent attorney, and then again she went through many days sitting in the courts and going through with her trial that is a very difficult thing for any sensitive person, but then again she went through many days sitting in the courts an going through with her trial hat is a very difficult thing for any sensitive person, but again she won out by the depth of her spirit! By her knowledge a decision was rendered that a physician could receive such articles and could send them through the mails and common carriers for the patient's health or general well-being. So again another victory was won for the members of her profession. Another milestone was passed. Hannah Stone and she also made it possible for the birth control movement to have immunity. Now she as a physician was familiar with the phenomenon of birth, and she as a physician was familiar with the phenomenon of death, and it was between these two extremes that she was concerned. She like many of us here tonight, was concerned in making way for the unborn child, of making a way here and now, that it might better fulfill its destiny, and just as Hannah Stone was making way for the unborn here, I like to think that she has joined those splendid forces who make a way for us over there.
Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project