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Margaret Sanger Research Bureau records

Identifier: SSC-MS-00320

Scope and Contents

The Margaret Sanger Research Bureau records contain correspondence, clippings, pamphlets (some in foreign languages), miscellaneous printed material, books, and 194 glass slides and two films used by Norman Hines for lectures on birth control in the 1930s.

It appears that these records contain items from the Bureau's library as well as remaining historical material from its consolidation in 1974. The collection is less the administrative records of the Bureau, although there are a few, and more subject files collected by the Bureau over the years. The Margaret Sanger papers include more records from the Bureau. Nevertheless this collection represents a rich source of information on the early birth control movement in the U.S. and abroad. Of particular interest are general 19th and 20th century pamphlets on birth control, religious views, sex education, contraceptive methods (dating from 1877), and early commercial catalogs; writings by Margaret Sanger and other pioneers of the early birth control movement such as suffragist and socialist Annie Besant; birth control and sex education advocates Mary Ware Dennett and Marie Stopes; Malthusians George Drysdale, Charles Robert Drysdale, and Charles Vickery Drysdale; and eugenicist, socialist, and feminist Moses Harmon. Organization files include reports, history, bibliographies, laws, legislation, and general literature published by the American Birth Control League, Birth Control Federation of America, National Committee on Federal Legislation for Birth Control, National Committee on Maternal Health, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and other birth control leagues, clinics and conferences in the United States and England. The collection includes a library of 59 books on birth control, sexuality, marriage, family, and related topics.

The collection also includes several accessions of materials received in recent years, including donations of materials belonging to the MSRB's last director, Dr. Aquiles J. Sobrero.

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1815 - 2007
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1917-1969


Language of Materials

Most of the records are in English. Some of the materials from Dr. Aquiles J. Sobrero are in Spanish.

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 it owns copyright, Planned Parenthood Federation of America has retained copyright in its works donated to Smith College.

To the extent they owned copyright, the donors in 2016 and 2017 of materials created by Dr. Aquiles J. Sobrero have dedicated copyright in these materials to the public domain. This agreement is governed by a CC0 (Creative Commons 1.0 Universal) public domain dedication.

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 or Sobrero, 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

The Margaret Sanger Research Bureau (MSRB) operated under numerous names and parent organizations from 1923 to 1974, providing birth control and infertility clinical services to thousands of patients, and serving as a site for medical research and education on these topics.

Margaret Sanger founded the MSRB in 1923 as the Clinical Research Bureau, operating under the direction of the American Birth Control League (ABCL). In 1928, Sanger resigned as president of the ABCL and assumed full control of the clinic, renaming it the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau (BCCRB). The BCCRB and the ABCL merged in 1939 and became the Birth Control Federation of America (it became Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) in 1942 with the clinic retaining much of its independence). In 1940, it was renamed the MSRB in honor of its founder.

Under the guidelines of the 1939 merger, the MSRB was only loosely affiliated with PPFA until the mid-1950s, when budget deficits forced the Bureau to more closely align its services with the Federation in exchange for financial assistance. The Bureau assisted with fund-raising and became the clinical research arm of the PPFA. In return PPFA funded the Bureau and provided grants for doctors and researchers on the Bureau staff.

In 1968, because of continuing financial difficulties the Bureau became affiliated with Columbia University. However, budgetary difficulties in 1974 forced the Bureau to shut down and combine its staff with Planned Parenthood of New York City in a new facility called the Margaret Sanger Center in New York.

Between 1940 and 1962 (the last year of Sanger's involvement with the MSRB) the Bureau provided comprehensive contraceptive services for women and couples, and became the largest combined birth control and fertility center in the world.

After Medical Director Hannah Stone's death in 1941, Abraham Stone, her husband and successor, altered and expanded the MSRB to accommodate his growing interest in infertility. In 1945, Stone inaugurated a Fertility Service that offered counseling, testing, and treatment for infertile couples. He expanded the Bureau's Marriage Consultation Service and steered the Research Department into a greater emphasis on infertility studies. While the Bureau continued to offer contraceptive services, the number of patients dropped as contraception became more widely available through private physicians. However, the Bureau grew as a teaching center, offering seminars, research projects and clinical work for visiting doctors, nurses, and medical students. The Bureau also offered a fellowship program for gynecologists and obstetricians for intensive training in birth control techniques.

Margaret Sanger withdrew from day-to-day MSRB affairs in the 1940s, but continued to make many of the budgetary and personnel decisions. Though she disagreed with how the Clinic had evolved under Abraham Stone's leadership, she continued to raise funds for the MSRB. In 1950 Sanger turned over even more control to Stone, naming him director and selling him the West 16th Street building. For more information on the Margaret Sanger Research Bureau see the Margaret Sanger Papers Project.


11.208 linear feet (22 containers)

0.000028 Gigabytes


The Margaret Sanger Research Bureau (MSRB) operated under numerous names and parent organizations from 1923 to 1974, providing birth control and infertility clinical services to thousands of patients, and serving as a site for medical research and education on these topics. The MSRB records contain correspondence, printed material, clippings, books, glass slides, films, and a library of 59 books on birth control, sexuality, marriage, family, and related topics. Of particular interest are 19th and 20th century pamphlets on birth control, religious views, sex education, methods and early commercial catalogs; writings by and about Margaret Sanger and other pioneers of the birth control movement; and printed material produced by various birth control leagues and clinics in the United States and England.


Materials in this collection received before 2005 are arranged into series by type of material. Materials received since 2005 have been added to the end of the collection as one new series for each accession.


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

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

A letter from the Margaret Sanger Center written in 1974 indicates that "historical material on Margaret Sanger and the birth control movement which has been housed for many years at the Margaret Sanger Research Bureau" was donated to the Sophia Smith Collection. Margaret Sanger Research Bureau material was also received in 1967 and it is presumed that most or all of it was placed in the Margaret Sanger papers and records of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Additional material was donated by Alexander C. Sanger in 2010 and Jennie Correia in 2012.

The accessions of materials from Aquiles Sobrero were donated separately by Adela and Raul Sobrero in 2016 and 2017.

Related Material

Associated material in the Margaret Sanger Papers and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America Records, Sophia Smith Collection.

Processing Information

Series 1-6 were re-processed by Susan Boone in 2005.

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 Margaret Sanger Research Bureau records
Legacy Finding Aid (Updated)
Susan Boone, Ellice Amanna
2005, 2018
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (
  • 2017-07-26T17:48:13-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.
  • 2018-03-27: New series with 2017 accession added
  • 2018-12-14: Container added, finding aid updated with notes, dates, barcodes
  • 2020-04-09: Description added for born-digital content.
  • 2021-07-09: Content description added from accession inventory
  • 2021-07-26: Added legacy accession inventory for 2012-S-0018
  • 2022-03-03: Integrated description of oversize material

Repository Details

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

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063