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Margaret Sanger, "Birth Control, 1955," 1956.

Source: " Britannica Book of the Year (1956), pp. 104-105."

For other articles in the Britannica Book of the Year series, see Birth Control, 1941 ; Birth Control, 1942 ; Birth Control, 1943 ; Birth Control, 1944 ; Birth Control, 1945 ; Birth Control, 1946 ; Birth Control, 1947 ; Birth Control, 1948 ; Birth Control, 1949 ; Birth Control, 1950 ; Birth Control, 1951 ; Birth Control, 1952 ; Birth Control, 1953 ; Birth Control, 1954 ; Birth Control, 1956 ; Birth Control, 1957 ; Birth Control, 1958 For typed draft of the article, see Margaret Sanger Microfilm, Smith College Collections S72:972.

Birth Control.

A growing awareness by government leaders and the public of the world’s dangerous imbalance between overpopulation and natural resources was becoming apparent in 1955. (A world population growth of 90,000 a day was estimated by the United Nations department of social affairs.) Attention was focused on the need for developing a new, simplified and inexpensive contraceptive method–one which would be acceptable to people of diverse cultural backgrounds. Under the auspices of the Planned Parenthood federation’s Dickinson Research Memorial fund, medical research pointing toward a contraceptive pill or injection made tangible progress during the year. M. C. Chang, research biologist at the Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology under the direction of Gregory Pincus, predicted that such a pill might be available to the general public within five years. Chang, who received a 1955 Lasker award in planned parenthood for outstanding research in animal and human fertility, announced that several compounds which worked well on laboratory animals were ready to be taken over by physicians for controlled tests on men and women.

Lasker awards in planned parenthood were also given to Howard C. Taylor of Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and to Lady Dhanvanthi Rama Rau, founder and president of the Family Planning association in India, for their work in the family planning field.


The first international birth control conference ever held in Latin America took place in San Juan, P.R., where the International Planned Parenthood federation’s western hemisphere region held its pioneer conference in May 1955. An appeal was directed to the World Health organization to include child-spacing instruction in its program of preventive medicine. Resolutions were also sent to the UN Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Commission of Women asking that the right to space children be recognized as a basic human freedom.

Another major international family planning meeting was held in 1955 when the International Planned Parenthood federation met in Tokyo in October for its fifth world conference on planned parenthood. Delegates from 15 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and the Americas, including some of the world’s most eminent scientists in the sex physiology and population fields, presented latest findings on world population trends, natural resources, family planning methods, marriage guidance and sex education, infertility, abortion and sterilization.

A panel of experts in education, medicine, psychiatry, religion, social work and business made an intensive examination of family life patterns at a symposium during the American Planned Parenthood federation’s 35th annual meeting in May. Geared to the theme of “The Family in Pursuit of Happiness,” panelists traced the growth of family life from birth through marriage and parenthood into its relationship with community and the world.

U.S. Services.–

The year 1955 also marked the start of a long-range program designed to make the services of Planned Parenthood more readily available to all families that need it. The new emphasis on reaching more people was conducted with a wider use of communications mediums–literature, radio, TV and motion pictures. A graphic account of Planned Parenthood’s four-point program of birth control, aid to the childless, education for marriage and marriage counseling, and research was unfolded in the Planned Parenthood federation’s annual report for 1954 (published in 1955): The program was being conducted by the federation and its 110 state leagues and local committees in 29 states and the District of Columbia, and had been endorsed by numerous religious bodies and prominent clergymen.

At the Margaret Sanger Research bureau, New York city, physicians and students from medical colleges all over the country came to receive instruction in contraceptive techniques. The bureau was the only teaching center in the U.S. offering education and instruction in all phases of the planned parenthood program.

Affiliates’ activities were conducted by nearly 4,500 volunteers and 450 employees. U.S. birth control clinics numbered 536–378 of which were in public health clinics, hospitals and medicals schools, and 178 were sponsored by Planned Parenthood committees–reaching a total of nearly 250,000 people. Medical assistance to help infertile couples was provided by Planned Parenthood in 31 infertility clinics and 65 referral centers. An additional 119 infertility clinics were located in hospitals and medical schools across the country.


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