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Primary Sources: Correspondence between Sanger and McCormick

Margaret Sanger and Katharine McCormick exchanged many letters on the Pill. It's clear from their correspondence that each of the elderly activists followed the medical developments closely.

Source: Margaret Sanger Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College

407 COMMONWEALTH AVENUE,
BOSTON.

November 15, 1948

Dear Mrs. Sanger:
Thank you so much for your very kind letter of November 3rd. I am so glad that you remember me and our all too few meetings. I still feel, as I have felt from the first, that there is nothing more important than birth control. I do indeed appreciate the terrific, and unfair, struggle that it is subjected to in Massachusetts. I have wanted very much to assist financially in this contest more than it is possible for me to do at present. I can do almost nothing on outside charitable contributions until the overwhelming demands of the confiscatory inheritance taxes on my husband's estate are paid. This matter has been much delayed and I do not yet know when it will be finished.

Again with my thanks and fond appreciation of your letter,

Sincerely yours,
Katharine Dexter McCormick
(Mrs. Stanley McCormick)

Mrs. Margaret Sanger
901 N. 6th Avenue,
Tucson, Arizona.

65 Sierra Vista Drive
Tucson
Arizona

October 27, 1950

Mrs. Stanley McCormick
407 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, Massachusetts.

Dear Mrs. McCormick:
It is good to have yours of the 19th and to know that your interest in Birth Control is still active. I was not able, in fact I am not allowed by my doctors here, to go East at this time of year and so I missed attending the Annual Luncheon on the 25th. My son, Grant Sanger of Mount Kisco, accepted the Lasker Award for me. It was quite wonderful to have it because I know that the Laskers give the Award only for years of accomplishment.

As to your questions: A. Where the present need of financial support is most needed, and B. What the present prospects are in contraceptive research. I will answer B. first because I consider that the world and almost our civilization for the next twenty-five years, is going to depend upon a simple, cheap, safe contraceptive to be used in poverty stricken slums, jungles, and among the most ignorant people. Even this will not be sufficient, because I believe that now, immediately, there should be national sterilization for certain dysgenic types of our population who are being encouraged to breed and would die out were the government not feeding them. Contraceptive research needs tremendous financial support, but if one were asking me what to do with $100,000, I would without hesitation suggest that this be given in parts to the National Research Council under the Committee of Contraceptive Research and request that they start with $25,000 allocated to five or six university laboratories in this country, in England or Germany, definitely to be applied for contraceptive control. If this amount were spent over the world and young people could have prizes for winning of some part of this project it would stir their imaginations and I think a five year project of this kind would really bring us nearer to results.

If smaller amounts would be considered, for instance a $10,000 grant, I would like to see the support of our International work which was rejuvenated, I might say, at Cheltenham, England in 1948. I was fortunate to be able at that time to finance the Conference as no one in England had any money and our own past good supporters are also feeling the pinch of taxes. We made a good start with Sir John Boyd Orr as the leading figure. Lord Horder and Lady Denham giving us full support by their presence and moral sponsorship. We are hoping to have another Conference in 1952 in Geneva or in India. These are the two projects that are like Orphan Annie without real support and are both tremendously important.

The Planned Parenthood Federation is, of course, national and does purely educational work. They have done an excellent job in holding groups together but they have rather abandoned the project of getting our Public Health units interested and insisting contraceptive supplies and advise to be given to the element of population over which they, the Public Health officials, preside. As I see, the PPF they are rather marking time and just holding their own. Of course they always welcome money and any substantial support and they are also dedicated to the supporters to give a certain percentage of their income to the National Research Council for research.

This, I think, gives you my very personal opinion for the worldwide need. Japan is clamoring for material. India is also ready for a national education program. Egypt, even Italy, are also ready for some program which will help their people all in desperate need.

I am so pleased to hear from you and I shall never forget your wonderful generosity in those early days when we struggled so for the prestige and names like your own and the wonderful reception you gave the 300 delegates at the Conference in Geneva at your home overlooking the lake. I hope if you come this way you will let me know and give me the great pleasure of seeing you again for a heart to heart talk. I do not expect to be East until late this spring.

With sincere regards,
(signed) Margaret Sanger

407 COMMONWEALTH AVENUE,
BOSTON.

November 18, 1950

Dear Mrs. Sanger:

Thank you a thousand times for your letter. It was exactly what I wanted and helped me very much. I am most grateful for your time and trouble.

I have long wished to be of more constructive assistance to the Birth Control movement, especially along the lines of contraceptive research. I realize that this is largely a financial matter and I hoped that this year I might be able to make a start of it. Unfortunately, our estate, which was terribly crippled by the inheritance taxes of over eight-five percent, will again suffer from the new ones about to be imposed so I do not yet know what I shall be able to do. I am more deeply concerned than ever over the overwhelming necessity that this reform must meet as soon as it can -- now too long delayed as we both know.

With gratitude for your very helpful response to my appeal and with warmest regards,

Sincerely yours,
Katharine Dexter McCormick
(Mrs. Stanley McCormick)

Mrs. Margaret Sanger,
65 Sierra Vista Drive,
Tucson,
Arizona

March 10, 1952

Mrs. Stanley McCormick
1600 Santa Barbara Street,
Santa Barbara, California

Dear Mrs. McCormick:
Have you had any information from the Federation as to what research is going on under their auspices? I am interested in what Dr. Pincus is doing on hormones, and if you have not heard from the Federation as to these projects that are in progress (they have not been finished, of course) I will be glad to send you copies and keep you informed.

Most cordially yours,
Margaret Sanger

393 COMMONWEALTH AVENUE
BOSTON MASSACHUSETTS

June 14, 1954

Dear Mrs. Sanger:
Dr. Pincus was here yesterday for two hours and I want to tell you all he said for I felt so encouraged by it. I will put it under headings as they may make this information less scattered.

1. There is no difficulty in getting all the progesterone we need at about 50 cents a gram and it may be possible to get it even cheaper. The firm "Chemical Specialties Inc." in New York from whom we would obtain it has a surplus supply on hand at present. Dr. Pincus said there would be no difficulty that he knew of in getting a tablet made of any strength (200 or 300 or 500 mgs.) that was desired -- that Chemical Specialties Inc. would provide it.

2. Dr. Pincus' estimate of cost per woman checks with that of Dr. Stone -- namely about 100 grams per woman per year (considered standard experimental dose) @ 50 cents a gram makes the price of the treatment for 100 women for a year cost about $5000.00. This cost is solely for the progesterone -- it does not include the cost of the doctor in charge of the examinations nor of the secretary who keeps the important records of the case.

3. Dr. Pincus has had experiments (with animals) going on with inoculations of progesterone during his absence. He was very discontented with the first inoculations because the solvent for the progesterone was an oil and thus caused irritation to skin and muscles. He has secured a new solvent from a resin base which his laboratory has been experimenting with (on animals) during his absence and this has proved to be very satisfactory. He anticipates that with this new solvent he can inject any strength of progesterone he wishes (on women) so that it might be possible to give a woman an inoculation that would last for as long as one to three weeks. Contrary to what was reported previously an inoculation (with the same amount of progesterone) is two to three times as strong as by mouth. While Pincus was away Dr. Rock started inoculations with the oil solvent for progesterone on about half dozen women but found the oil proved to be irritating, although he believed the inoculations to be physiologically effective. Within a month -- as soon as he can get supplies of progesterone in the new resin base solvent -- he will begin inoculating a few women patients to see if there is any irritating effect on them with this preparation of progesterone. Therefore you see that the inoculation experiments are really in their first beginnings.

4. Dr. Pincus and Dr. Rock having completed progesterone tests on women for a one year period have just now been reviewing their data. They find that while they started out with 60 cases they now have 30 on which they can place reliance for accuracy. They find that in these 30 cases progesterone has given them satisfactory contraceptive results.

5. Drs. Pincus and Rock joined the medical committee of the Planned Parenthood Federation for the year '54. They have not been called to any meeting of this medical committee. If this committee proves to be an inactive one they will not remain on it as it would be wasted time for them.

6. Dr. Pincus is under the impression that the Watumull scientist (the Watumull's protégé) is not coming to this country until sometime in '55. I said that I understood that he was to come during the present year. He said that both he and Dr. Rock would be glad to receive and inform the Japanese gynecologist whenever he came, and did I know when he would be here. They also would be glad to welcome the Watumull doctor whenever he wished to examine the Worcester Foundation or that at the Brookline Lying-in Hospital.

7. Progesterone does not require any special care even in hot climates. It remains stable even in the tropics as it has, like most hormones, a very high melting point.

8. I told Dr. Pincus about your interview with Dr. Larsen in Honolulu. He suggested that either Dr. Rock or himself go out there to look over the situation as a testing place for progesterone. My own suggestion was that Dr. Larsen (or some one appointed by him) should come here to see the work going on at Shrewsbury and Brookline as that might be the quickest way to reach an understanding about carrying on in Honolulu.

Dr. Pincus asked me to give you his best regards and his regrets that he missed your recent visit in Boston. I said I would ask you if you knew when the Japanese gynecologist was coming, -- also about Watumull doctor's arrival here.

I was very pleased with what I heard from Dr. Pincus. I do not see why we should not go ahead now as rapidly as we can. The testing work is bound to be very slow at best so we should make every effort to get it under way (in Japan and Hawaii) as soon as possible. Dr. Pincus expects to see Dr. Stone in New York very shortly, he said, and would learn how they are getting started there. It seems to me that our first step now is to get the Japanese gynecologist here -- also Dr. Larsen or his representative from Hawaii.

With warm regards,

Sincerely yours,
K.D. McCormick
Mrs. Stanley McCormick

Mrs. Margaret Sanger
121 East Arrellaga Street
Santa Barbara, California

WESTERN UNION
1954 JUL 19 AM 8 46

MRS. MARGARET SANGER
121 EAST ARRELLATA ST SANTABARBARA CALIF

ROCK CANNOT LEAVE. BOTH HE AND PINKUS FAVOR PORTO RICO. TEST MORE COMPLICATED THAN I REALIZED AM TRYING TO GET THEM DOCUMENTED WRITING

STANMAC
393 COMMONWEALTH AVENUE
BOSTON MASSACHUSETTS

393 COMMONWEALTH AVENUE BOSTON MASSACHUSETTS

July 19, 1954

Dear Mrs. Sanger:
I had a fine talk with Dr. Rock for two hours on the 16th. This vist was more than valuable to me -- it was invaluable. It is always so hard to get all the facts one needs about any particular matter. I suppose it is because one does not ask the right questions necessary to reach the heart of the matter. In this talk with Dr. Rock I learned a great deal that I should have known before but evidently had not clearly understood. He took a lot of trouble to show me just what their difficulties are with the progesterone testing work. I had not realized that these were so formidable.

Dr. Pincus is imaginative and inspirational. Dr. Rock is informative and very realistic about medical work. Both he and Dr. Pincus are very exacting in regard to the progesterone test examinations for they consider that the proof of progesterone's effectiveness rests on these examinations -- is made or broken by them. The two critical ones are (1) the vaginal smears and (2) the urine. At the Brookline Lying-in Hospital Dr. Rock's married daughter does the vaginal smears and he sent her to New York for special training with a vaginal-smears-examination expert in order that this work might be of the first order. I expect to learn more this week of the details of all the progesterone test examinations so that you and I can be more fully informed concerning them.

It is the considered opinion of both Drs. Pincus and Rock (and repeats their opinions of last year) that the best way to enlarge their investigation of progesterone would be to open a station in Puerto Rico's Welfare Department. I went over this pro and con with Dr. Rock and had already discussed it with Dr. Pincus. The reasons they are in favor of Puerto Rico are as follows:

1. It is near enough so that the vaginal smear slides and the urine collections can be sent here for examination. It is only one night by plane so that material and doctors can go back and forth easily.

2. The Puerto Rico medical personnel is thoroughly acquainted with Dr. Pincus' work and he has complete confidence in them. This personnel has assured them that sufficient selected patients can be easily secured.

3. They are convinced there would be no religious interference.

It was a surprise to hear from Dr. Rock how necessary the patient's cooperation was -- that none with families can be used as they would not be able to give the necessary time to this cooperation. I was surprised to hear that 25 cases took the whole time of one woman doctor (Conant) at the Brookline Lying-in Hospital. I was very surprised to realize that Pincus wished to have the smears and urine examined here instead of in Puerto Rico and I cannot understand it for I think no such arrangement exists with Dr. Stone in New York.

I expect to be able to clear up these details before long as I shall see Dr. Hoagland as well as Drs. Pincus and Rock again soon. However, it is already clear to me that for an enlargement of the testing work of Drs. Pincus and Rock the Welfare Department in Puerto Rico is considered by them to be the most practical place. I had not thought of Puerto Rico at all seriously as you know but may have to. I will keep you informed of course.

Yours,
K.D. McC
Mrs. Stanley McCormick

Mrs. Margaret Sanger
121 East Arrellaga Street
Santa Barbara, California

393 COMMONWEALTH AVENUE BOSTON MASSACHUSETTS

July 21, 1954

Dear Mrs. Sanger:
I went to Shrewsbury yesterday and had a talk with Drs. Hoagland and Pincus at the Worcester Foundation laboratory.

They are both most reluctant to do anything in Japan and believe Puerto Rico would be the easiest and safest enlargement of their and Dr. Rock's work. They know two U.S. doctors -- David Tyler and Linden Lee -- who are working on cancer and tuberculosis in Puerto Rico and in whom they have great confidence. As the latter -- Lee -- is an authority on vaginal smears (used in his cancer research) they have no hesitation in accepting his results in this line. In the urine tests they think that probably those could be covered in the Puerto Rican University Medical school laboratories (both Tyler and Lee are professors teaching in this School) but the urine could also be sent in concentrates to the Worcester Foundation for analysis. They would have no question about the accuracy of the biopsies.

I asked Dr. Hoagland if the Worcester Foundation would handle the work in Puerto Rico providing the funds were supplied by me. He said this could be arranged and will forward me a tentative budget of what the cost might be -- probably between 7-10 thousand.

In regard to Japan they both said that jealousy and resentment of American doctors made it a difficult place of operation even if kept quite apart -- assuming this to be possible -- from Governmental agencies and control. They said that the only possible course would be -- as you had thought and arranged -- to have a Japanese gynecologist come to the Worcester Foundation and work with them for awhile -- but even so they would be fearful that if he tried to conduct similar work in Japan he might run into unforeseen difficulties and so discredit the work in general. In their judgment any medical efforts in Japan would be fore-doomed to failure as they would only arouse suspicion and friction. They consider it would be most unwise for American funds to be so used. Furthermore they do not see either Japan or India as practicable for progesterone testing stations at present. They consider that is only when progesterone has been established in a large number of cases that Japan and India should be started on it and then principally with the inoculation method if by that time this has been proved better than oral treatment.

In regard to Hawaii Drs. Hoagland and Pincus believe the situation is entirely different. There we are in U.S. territory (as in Puerto Rico) and are dealing with American doctors speaking our language and using our methods. Once such doctors learned the procedure by coming to the Worcester Foundation the only difficulty would be efficient smears examination and urine analysis as it might be too long a journey for samples to be sent to the United Sates. I explained that we had as yet no definite plans in connection with Hawaii.

I have begged Dr. Rock to document his daily procedure and he has agreed to do so if he can get the time to write as he prefers not to dictate. I am sure I could never get it from Pincus in sufficient detail. I am pursuing Dr. Rock and if he can't do it this week he has promised to do it next week so I am hoping to have the procedure in type to bring with me.

I find that I have mis-informed you concerning Dr. Rock's religion. Dr. Pincus called him a "reformed Catholic" which I thought meant that he had left the Catholic Church. I was mistaken and learned recently that he does belong to the Catholic Church. How they manage to put up with him I do not know! It seems to me that his position is that religion has nothing to do with medicine or the practice of it and that if the church does not interfere with him he will not interfere with it -- whatever that may mean!

The weather here has continued perfect -- no heat waves. I have one more task just arisen in connection with the Women's Hospital then I hope to get off.

Yours,
K.D.McC
Mrs. Stanley McCormick

Mrs. Margaret Sanger
121 East Arrellaga Street
Santa Barbara, California

393 COMMONWEALTH AVENUE
BOSTON MASSACHUSETTS

May 31, 1955

Dear Mrs. Sanger:
Thank you so much for yours of the 26th, giving me your plans and dates. Here now are mine as they have finally evolved. I must go to Switzerland after all so shall be leaving by plane on June 3rd, returning on June 21st. Any mail sent here will be forwarded promptly. I shall be in England as well as Switzerland but I can't tell yet just when. On my return to Boston on June 21st, I shall probably be here for a week or so and then fly to California reaching Santa Barbara early in July.

I am so glad to know that you will be getting to 121 about June 15th and that your friends will be with you. I am sure that Marjorie will have the house ready for you all at that time and the piano tuned. Do not hesitate to tell her just what you wish done regarding the linen or anything else, for she will cooperate I feel sure, and will have enough assistance to make the house-keeping run smoothly. Do not worry about the laundry -- of course I insist upon meeting those bills, but that does not mean that you cannot have things just as you wish. As you know, you can of course change the furniture around in any way you like. I do hope you will be comfortable. I shall be so delighted to think of your being there and to find you there on my arrival in July.

A great deal has been going on here regarding Dr. Rock's work and also that of Dr. Pincus! I had a long visit with the latter before he left yesterday for the Endocrine Conference at Atlantic City and I enclose Miss Delaney's notes of that talk. We have all been terribly shocked and saddened by the accident to Dr. Hoagland's younger son -- se clippings enclosed. The complications with Dr. Rock's work have been principally financial in respect to the fact that it does seem a pity to have to spend so much to secure a little additional space for his work and at double the original expense. I do dislike to put money into bricks and mortar rather than into brains and experiments, but in this exceptional case it appears necessary.

Upon my complaining vigorously to Dr. Pincus on our lack of clinical wherewithal ("How can we get a 'cage' of ovulating females to experiment with" -- this being our clinical bottleneck) he came back the next day with a plan to use patients at the Massachusetts State (Insane) Hospita...

[rest of letter missing]



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