Document 14: Advisory Council Meeting Minutes, 23 March 1932, 2 pp., Reel 33, Papers of Margaret Sanger, 1900-1966, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
These minutes provide a formal account of the meeting of the Advisory Council with Midian O. Bousfield, who attended the meeting as part of his evaluation of the clinic for the Rosenwald Fund. (See Document 17E for Bousfield's support for the birth control movement.) The fund conducted the evaluation as part its process of deciding whether to renew the clinic's grant. This document is the first of several that provide differing points of view on Bousfield's visit and evaluation.
At the time of this meeting, Bousfield was emerging as a nationally recognized leader within the African American medical community. In 1931, Bousfield was awarded a Rosenwald Fellowship. From 1934 to 1936 he served as an associate health officer for the fund, and from 1936 to 1942 he served as director for Negro health, in which capacity he managed all the fund's health programs.
At the meeting, council members raised issues that revealed the racial tensions that rumbled beneath the surface of the clinic. Two key issues were on the minds of council members: there was no African American staff at the clinic, and the council had no say in the clinic administration and community outreach. The language in the minutes was very clear; two physicians, neurologist Dr. Harold Ellis and Dr. Peter Marshall Murray (president of the National Medical Association), and a nurse, Mabel (Keaton) Staupers (executive secretary of the Harlem Committee of the New York Tuberculosis and Health Association), stated that "there would be no broadening of the movement in Harlem" until these two issues were addressed. Council members did not want to take over clinic operations from the CRB, however, and the minutes reaffirmed that the "central office" should continue to run the day-to-day operations and have representatives at council meetings.
Dr. Stone responded that she felt sure that Sanger would "approve the plan," but in accepting the advice of these three highly accomplished professionals, she reiterated her belief that the clinic was "at present supplying a need which the race did not recognize." In effect, Stone's comments attributed the limited use of the clinic to ignorance in the African American community while flattering herself and the CRB group for providing a generous remediation of that shortcoming. The Advisory Council disagreed, locating racial tension as the source of the problem. "After some discussion," the group decided that outreach to the community would be done by "the people of Harlem, as this would be more effective." At the end of this discussion, Dr. Harold Ellis's comments perhaps provided a useful barometer of the impact racial tensions had on the council's interactions at the clinic when he noted that while he had never felt "at home" in the clinic, he now felt "welcomed." In 1933, Dr. Ellis became a staff physician at the clinic (see Document 19).
In the discussion of community outreach, Rev. William Lloyd Imes made the suggestion that the clinic should work through women's groups in Harlem. Over the next few months, Bessye Bearden arranged a debate on birth control at the Business and Professional Women's Club of Harlem (see Document 25). Mabel Staupers also offered additional meetings with the local chapter of the Graduate Nurses Club. And the numerous lectures given at area churches and social service agencies over the next two years likely reached many more women (see Document 19, Document 23, Document 24, Document 25, Document 26, and Document 29).
MINUTES of the first meeting of 1932 of the Board of Managers of the Harlem Branch of The Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau.
An informal meeting of the Harlem Advisory Council of the Harlem Clinic was called as the result of a conference with Dr. Stone, for Wednesday, March 23, 1932, at 11:30 A.M. to meet with Dr. Bousfield of the Rosenwald Fund of Chicago.
Dr. Stone presided. She stated the primary reason for holding the meeting was to introduce Dr. Bousfield, and to discuss the relationship of the community to the Clinic and vice versa.
She referred to unfinished business from the last meeting:1. The question of whether the sign downstairs on the street should have the words "Birth Control" put before "Clinical Research".
It was reported accomplished and the results were discussed.
2. The course of instruction in various contraceptive methods to be given to physicians in the neighborhood.
Dr. Stone states that this was not successful--Dr. Ellis suggested that the Doctors be allowed to come to any session instead of arranging special sessions. Dr. Stone stated that the reason for the special sessions was in order to enable her personally to give this instruction.
Dr. Murray felt that the Clinic had done its part and that those Doctors who were sufficiently interested in contraception would certainly seek enlightenment on their own initiative.
Dr. Stone then spoke of Miss Field's resignation and introduced Miss Lautermilch as her successor under the supervision of Mrs. Prevost from the Central Office.
Dr. Imes said that he thought the Clinic should have more publicity and that the way to reach the people of Harlem was through the various Women's Clubs.
Mrs. Prevost suggested that one of our Doctors might give talks on the ethical side of Birth Control.
Dr. Imes said that he found people were worried by the ethical side and he thought it was up to the ministers to abolish this belief.
Mrs. Staupers said "The Graduate Nurses Club of Harlem" would be glad to return for another talk such as Dr. Stone gave a few months ago.
Dr. Imes said that a definite program carried on by the churches and settlement houses would best show that eminent physicians approved of the Birth Control Clinic.
Rev. Bishop said that he felt that women in the better classes also needed our help desperately.
Minutes of March 23, 1932 meeting at Harlem Clinic Continued:
Mrs. Bearden said she would be glad to run a weekly release in her section of her newspaper as part of an education program. Mrs. Prevost said this would be submitted to Mrs. Sanger for approval.
Dr. Ellis states-- seconded by Dr. Murray, and approved by Mrs. Staupers that there would be no broadening of the movement in Harlem until a colored nurse was employed as a junior member of the staff and the Advisory Council given word, say, in the administration. It was preferred that Central Office continue its control and representation.
Dr. Stone said she felt sure Mrs. Sanger would be delighted to approve this plan and that we are at present supplying a need which the race did not recognize.
After some discussion the conclusion was reached that the main proportion of talks, lectures and propaganda be carried on by the people of Harlem, as this would be more effective.
Dr. Ellis confessed that he had never felt "at home" in the Clinic, but that now he felt that he was "welcome"--
Dr. Imes said that if we could make up a pamphlet he would be pleased to place it for distribution in the vestibule of the church and he considered libraries and clubs would be glad to do the same.
Dr. Stone then turned the meeting over to Dr. Bousfield.
Dr. Bousfield asked two questions:1. Has there been any direct opposition to the work of the Clinic?
The answer was--that there had been none as far as we know except from those having religious scruples.
2.Has anyone felt imbued with the spirit of the Birth Control movements to go out and work for the Clinic?
The answer was--in a small way--indirectly--and thru clubs.
Dr. Murray had a discussion regarding the referring of those patients that were not Clinic patients and able to afford the fee of a private physician.
Mrs. Prevost and Dr. Stone explain this matter and it was made known that with the progress of the Clinic a "Marriage Advice Bureau" might be established.
Mrs. Prevost thanked the members of the Advisory Council for their loyal response to our request for a meeting. The meeting then adjourned, there having been present:
Dr. Hannah Stone
back to top