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Planned Parenthood Federation of America records group III (PPFA III)

Identifier: SSC-MS-00371b

Scope and Contents

The records of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America are divided into three sections, PPFA I, PPFA II, and PPFA III. This finding aid covers PPFA III. PPFA I consist of the earlier records of the Federation (1918-74), whereas PPFA II consists of the central files of PPFA from the 1950s through 1980s, though some earlier items are also included.

The bulk of PPFA III consists of administrative records (primarily after the 1980s) and a wide range of audio and video recordings created or collected by PPFA. Administrative records include correspondence with local affiliates, publicity, reports, and meeting records.

In addition, the collection includes the papers of President Faye Wattleton, files on anti-choice organizations maintained by the Planned Parenthood Security Group, and oral histories created for PPFA's centennial.

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1920 - 2018
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1980 - 2010


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for use with following restrictions on access:

All administrative records of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. are closed for 25 years from the date of creation.

Any records that contain any information about Planned Parenthood security protocols will be closed to research for 75 years.

Conditions Governing Use

To the extent that they own copyright, PPFA has retained copyright in their records donated to Smith College. Copyright in other items in this collection may be held by their respective creators. For reproductions of materials that are governed by fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For those few instances beyond fair use, or which may regard materials in the collection not created by PPFA, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from Smith College Special Collections to move forward with their use.

Biographical / Historical

In 1921 Margaret Sanger founded the national lobbying organization, American Birth Control League (ABCL) which in 1942 became Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA). Between 1921 and 1942 the organization underwent two transformations. In 1923 Sanger opened the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau (BCCRB) for the purposes of dispensing contraceptives under the supervision of licensed physicians and studying their effectiveness. The ABCL provided institutional backing for clinics. The BCCRB merged with the ABCL in 1939 to form the Birth Control Federation of American (BCFA). In 1942 the name of the BCFA was changed to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

The name change reflected a redefinition of the organization's goals from family limitation to family planning. While PPFA continued to function as the largest birth control organization in the country, it sought to position itself as a more mainstream and moderate organization committed to a broad range of programs related to reproductive health. Under the leadership of National Director D. Kenneth Rose, the PPFA expanded its programs and services through the 1940s, adding affiliate organizations throughout the country. By the end of World War II, the Federation was no longer solely a center for birth control services or a clearing house for contraceptive information but had emerged as a major national health organization. PPFA's programs included a full range of family planning services, including marriage education and counseling, and infertility services. The leadership of the PPFA, largely consisting of businessmen and male physicians, endeavored to incorporate its contraceptive services unofficially into regional and national public health programs by emphasizing less politicized aspects such as child-spacing. During the 1950s, the Federation further adjusted its programs and message to appeal to a family-centered, more conservative post-war populace, while continuing to function, through its affiliated clinics, as the most reliable source of contraceptives in the country.

From 1942 to 1962, PPFA concentrated its efforts on strengthening its ties to affiliates, expanding public education programs, and improving its medical and research work. By 1960, visitors to PPFA centers across the nation numbered over 3,000,000 per year.

In the 1950s PPFA began focusing greater attention on global population issues as new concerns arose over the political, social, and cultural implications of overpopulation in Asia and around the world. The organization became active in international birth control work through its membership in the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), which Margaret Sanger helped found in 1952. In 1961 the population crisis debate, along with funding shortages, convinced PPFA to merge with the World Population Emergency Campaign, a citizens' fund-raising organization, to become PPFA-World Population. Later in the 1960s, after several decades of emphasizing a family-centered, more conservative program for public health, PPFA reasserted its primary commitment to championing women's reproductive rights. It was also in the 1960s that family planning began to win the support of the federal government. Alan Guttmacher, M.D., who served as president of PPFA from 1962 until his death in 1974, was an effective advocate for the idea of a woman's right to safe and effective birth control. He successfully fought for the development of federally funded domestic and international family planning programs. Guttmacher also played an important role in the development of the birth control Pill and IUD. The Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI) was named in his honor. AGI is an independent corporation for research, policy analysis, and public education on reproductive health issues and is a special affiliate of PPFA.

In 1970, Congress enacted Title X of the Public Health Services Act, providing support and funding for family planning services and educational programs and for biomedical and behavioral research in reproduction and contraceptive development. The Family Planning International Assistance division was established in 1972 by PPFA, becoming the largest U.S. nongovernmental provider of family planning services to developing countries.

In 1978, Faye Wattleton was appointed the first woman president of PPFA since Margaret Sanger. She led PPFA in its ongoing battle to preserve access to safe and legal abortion, to protect client confidentiality, especially for minors, against encroachments by the state, and to preserve federal funding for domestic and international family planning programs. By the time she retired from PPFA in 1992, Wattleton had greatly expanded its program of advocacy around the idea that sexual and reproductive liberation is central to women's equality.

In the 1980s and 90s, PPFA faced an onslaught of opposition to family planning and birth control. The organization challenged regulations passed under the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush that placed restrictions on U.S. funding of family planning services overseas and domestically. Organized right-wing opposition and violence against birth control and abortion providers also became a serious concern. PPFA continues to confront this opposition while it also addresses the public health issues surrounding sexuality and reproduction, such as the AIDS epidemic and the effect of poverty on families and children. Gloria Feldt currently serves as president of Planned Parenthood.


The Margaret Sanger Papers Microfilm Edition: Smith College Collection Series, edited by Esther Katz, et al., University Publications of America, 1995


313.54 linear feet (349 containers)

7.906 Gigabytes

Language of Materials



The records of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America provide substantial information about the history of the birth control and family planning movement nationally and internationally. They are a significant source of information on all aspects of the history of birth control and family planning, including women's health issues; sex education; women in poverty; international population planning and policy; and the legal, political and social aspects of contraception and abortion. Types of material include correspondence; memoranda; minutes; reports; financial records; legal records; publicity; publications; photographs; audio tapes; video tapes; and posters. The PPFA Records are divided into three portions, PPFA I, PPFA II, and PPFA III, this being section III. PPFA III consists primarily of audiovisual recordings and post-1980s administrative records.


This collection has been added to over time in multiple "accessions." An accession is a group of materials received from the same source at approximately the same time.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

As a preservation measure, researchers must use digital copies of audiovisual materials in this collection. Please consult with Special Collections staff or email to request the creation of and access to digital copies.

This collection contains materials received from the donor in digital form that are not currently available online. Please consult with Special Collections staff or email to request access to this digital content.

Other Finding Aids

One or more content listings to individual accessions in this collection are available for download. Links can be found in the description of the individual accessions.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Deposited by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America starting in 1988. Coverted to a donation in 2019. Additions to this collection arrived in 2019 and 2020.

Related Materials

See also the PPFA I Records and the PPFA II Records.

Related material can be found in the Margaret Sanger Papers.

Processing Information

The contents of computer media in this collection has been copied to networked storage for preservation and access; the original directory and file structure was retained and file lists were created.

Processing Information

Between September 2022 and February 2023, Smith College Special Collections renumbered many boxes to eliminate duplicate numbers within collections in order to improve researcher experience. A full crosswalk of old to new numbers is available.

Finding Aid to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America records group III (PPFA III)
Minimum Finding Aid (Completed)
Dan Michelson
March 2021
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2020-07-16: Description added for born-digital content.
  • 2020-03-02: Finding aid written and published.
  • 2021-05-05: Added Accessions: 2019-S-0056; 2020-S-0019; 2020-S-0024
  • 2021-06: Legacy container inventories for 12 accessions added.
  • 2021-07-30: Content description added from accession inventory
  • 2021-10-20: Added legacy container inventory for Accession 1992-S-0019
  • 2022-05-20: Parsed and imported donor provided inventory to Accession 2016-S-0031

Repository Details

Part of the Sophia Smith Collection of Women's History Repository

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063