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Planned Parenthood Federation of America records (PPFA I)

Identifier: SSC-MS-00371

Scope and Contents

The records of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America date from 1918 to the present and document the work of PPFA and its predecessor organizations, national and international, in the areas of advocacy, medical research, legislative reform, public relations, as well as the work of individual administrators, staff, and affiliated organizations. The collection is 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 records are divided into two portions, PPFA I and PPFA II, this being section I. PPFA I consists of the earlier records of the Federation (1918-74), and is completely organized and open to research. PPFA II consists of records received since 1988, dating from the 1920s to the present, so there is some overlap in the dates. The PPFA II Records are unprocessed, but restricted materials (see information on use) have been segregated from those that are open to research. The container list for PPFA II is not online, but a print version is available in the Sophia Smith Collection.

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1918 - 1974


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for use without restriction beyond the standard terms and conditions of Smith College Special Collections.

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 had 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. In 1921 when she founded the American Birth Control League (ABCL) it provided institutional backing for the clinics. The BCCRB merged with the ABCL in 1939 to form the Birth Control Federation of America (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 more 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 300,000 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. It became active in international birth control work through is 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. (This history is excerpted from The Margaret Sanger Papers Microfilm Edition: Smith College Collection Series)


53.793 linear feet (117 containers)

234 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. The records contain correspondence, memos, minutes, reports, publicity, publications, and congressional and legal materials. They document many aspects of the work of the PPFA and its predecessor organizations, advocacy, medical work, and the activities of its staff and affiliates. The PPFA Records are divided into three portions, PPFA I, PPFA II, and PPFA III, this being part I. PPFA I consists of the earlier records of the Federation (1918-74).


This collection is organized into seven series:

  1. I. American Birth Control League
  2. II. Birth Control Federation of America
  3. III. Planned Parenthood Federation of America
  4. IV. Planned Parenthood - World Population
  5. V. Related Organizations
  6. VI. Correspondence
  7. VII. Subject Files
  8. Oversize Materials

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The early accessions to the PPFA records were received from Loraine Campbell, Margaret Sanger, and others in the 1970s. Beginning in 1988, the records have come directly from Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Existence and Location of Copies

The Records of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (Part I) are available on microfilm and included in the collection.

Related Material

See also the PPFA II Records and the PPFA III Records. Portions of PPFA Subject series (A-B) are in the Planned Parenthood Federation of America Records, Countway Library, Harvard University. Related material can be found in the Margaret Sanger Papers.

Processing Information

Processed by Margery Sly, 1996.

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.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America records (PPFA I)
Finding Aid
Margery Sly
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (
  • 2005-09-23: mnsss128 converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02-5c.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
  • 2017-07-26T17:48:11-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.
  • 2020-07-01: Description added for born-digital content.

Repository Details

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

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063