Margaret and Me

With Margaret in Palm Beach, April 2015
With Margaret in Palm Beach, April 2015

Nine years ago my friend Margaret Lampe began telling me stories of her remarkable family and I began writing them down. In December 2006 we published her book, Mimi and Me, The Story of My Family, centering on her famous grandmother and namesake, Margaret Sanger, advocate for birth control and founder of Planned Parenthood. My friend Margaret continued the family tradition of activism and public service as a member of the Virginia Board of Education, 1979-84, and of the Presidential Educational Task Force that produced the 1983 report, “A Nation at Risk.” For many years, she led the North Arlington Great Decisions discussion group that I served as treasurer. Margaret now lives in South Florida. Yesterday we had lunch at Renato’s in Palm Beach.

Re-reading “our” book as a grandmother myself, I recognize anew what an important part of her life Margaret’s grandmother was from her birth until Sanger died 25 years later. Much of that time they lived next door to each other in Tucson, Arizona. Here are quotes illustrating what a strong woman she was:

Born in 1879 to a large Irish family in Corning NY and then working as a nurse and midwife in Brooklyn, Margaret realized that poor women had more children than they wanted and rich people did not. Margaret and her sister Ethel opened a storefront clinic in New York City and distribute a handbill in three languages inviting women to learn about the functions of their bodies. Jailed nine times, the sisters turned their energies to teaching jailed prostitutes about preventing conception.

When Mimi was invited to speak in Boston in the 1930s, the Archbishop of Boston, through his influence with the Mayor, forbade her to use City Hall. Arthur Schlesinger, Sr., a powerful judge, said he would speak on her behalf. He came to the podium and announced, “I am here to read the comments of Mrs. Sanger.” Mimi walked out with a bandage around her mouth and stood right beside him. That picture was on the front page of newspapers across the country.”

Mimi introduced her granddaughter to many famous people–Helen Keller, Elizabeth Arden, Helena Rubinstein, the actor Vincent Price, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. When Margaret was seventeen, Mimi took her, her sister Nancy, and two of their friends to Japan to meet birth control advocates there. What a privilege it was to help Margaret record these memories and much more. I have extra copies of the book. Let me know if you are interested in reading it.

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