Document 15: Hannah Stone, Medical Director of the Clinical Research Bureau, to Margaret Sanger, 27 March 1932, 2 pp., Reel 32, Papers of Margaret Sanger, 1900-1966, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Document 15: Hannah Stone, Medical Director of the Clinical Research Bureau, to Margaret Sanger, 27 March 1932, 2 pp., Reel 32, Papers of Margaret Sanger, 1900-1966, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.


   This letter reporting on Stone's activities includes her impression of Bousfield's visit to the clinic as part of his evaluation for the Rosenwald Fund. Stone wrote that she believed that Bousfield's assessment (see Document 16) would be entirely positive. The letter also provides insight into the wide range of issues she dealt with as the primary doctor at the Clinical Research Bureau.

   Hannah Stone was medical director of the Clinical Research Bureau from 1925 until her sudden death in 1941. In that role, she built the clinic into the largest contraceptive service in the nation. By the time of her death, she had seen 100,000 patients. She used clinic data to prove the safety and effectiveness of the diaphragm and a number of spermicides. This extensive experience gave her great confidence in the clinic procedures and contraceptive techniques developed at the CRB. In the mid-1930s, Stone was the lead doctor in a legal challenge brought against the Comstock Act that prohibited the dissemination of contraceptive information and devices. The landmark decision in this case, United States v. One Package of Japanese Pessaries (1936), "paved the way for de facto legalization of birth control under the supervision of doctors."[80] The research data Sanger had been collecting in her birth control clinics proved to be crucial in One Package. The following year, the American Medical Association passed a resolution that recognized contraception as a legitimate medical service and recommended that the topic be taught in medical schools.[81]

   Although Stone made enormous contributions to medical knowledge, her association with birth control clinics damaged her professional standing. In this letter, Stone noted that she was not permitted to become a member of the New York Medical Society because of her association the CRB. After the 1929 police raid on the Clinical Research Bureau, in which Stone and another doctor were arrested and patient files were confiscated, the medical society rallied in support of their professional right to practice and maintain patient confidentiality. Although the charges were dropped, the controversy of the episode stayed with her. Stone's renewed efforts to gain membership in the society, discussed in this letter, were also unsuccessful. Without explanation, the society once again tabled Stone's application later that year.[82]

   Stone's hope that Bousfield's report would be unqualifiedly positive was not borne out. Instead, Bousfield's report spoke at length about racial tensions in the clinic and Stone's role in creating those tensions. See Document 16 for the report and Document 21 for Sanger's response to Bousfield's criticism. See also Document 14 for minutes of the Advisory Council meeting in which these racial tensions came to the fore. For Bousfield's support of the birth control movement, including the Harlem Branch clinic, see Document 17E.

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March 27, 1932.

Dear Mrs. Sanger:--

   Mrs. Prevost has already written to you, I understand, the details about the visit of Dr. Bousfield of the Rosenwald Fund. Primarily, Dr. Bousfield wanted to know what the reaction of the colored population, and particularly of the colored physicians, were towards the Clinic. I had a long interview with him and explained to him the work of the Clinic, but I thought that he could best determine our relations to the Harlem Community by discussing this matter with the members of the Harlem Advisory Committee directly. I asked Mrs. Prevost to call the Advisory Board together to meet Dr. Bousfield.

   This meeting, I believe, was a very successful one, and Dr. Bousfield told me that he was carrying away a very satisfactory impression of the work and status of the Clinic. His questions were not only on what the Clinic was doing for the community, but also on what the community, as represented by the Advisory Council, was doing to promote and assist the work of the Clinic. Incidentally, he felt that the Clinic had shown admirable growth and progress during the period of its existence. The minutes of this meeting will be sent to you as soon as they are prepared.

   I have been up to Harlem twice this week, and so far I feel that with a few changes the work there should be able to proceed smoothly and effectively. I shall write to you more about that within the next few days.

   I wish to thank you for your note to Dr. Dickinson. At the insistence of several physicians from the Academy, I applied again for membership to the County Medical Society. (You may recall, perhaps, that my application in 1926 was 'tabled' because of my affiliation with the Clinic.) Soon after filing my application, this time as before, I was asked to appear before the Membership Committee and to bring with me "all the literature or pamphlets distributed by the Birth Control League, including a list of the Board of Directors, or Charter Members of the Birth Control League" (sic.) Evidentally the Committee was still unaware of the distinction between the League and the Clinic, but I brought the data concerning both.

[p. 2]

   You will be interested, I know, to learn something of what occurred at this meeting. As the matter is still pending, this information is 'confidential'.

   All the questions put to me dealt with the activities of the Clinic. They asked whether I was acquainted with the State law on Contraception; on what grounds we gave advice at the Clinic,--when I mentioned 'spacing' as one of the indications, there was a definite note of disapproval and I was asked about my authorities on this point. At one time, when I said that I would give advice to a woman with a contracted pelvis, they asked whether I did not think that a woman of this type could have a Caesarian Section instead.

   They also wanted to know whether the Clinic had been investigated by the Health Department, what the cause of the raid was, and how we determine whether the patients who come to the Clinic are married and whether we send out investigators to their homes to check up on this point.

   I do not know, of course, what the report of the Committee will be but from their questions and reactions I gained the definite impression that their attitude towards the entire subject of birth control was one of hostility and prejudice. It was so much like one of those Hearings in Albany or Washington, and the questions might just as well have come from the Senators or Assemblymen.

With my greetings to you,


Hannah M. Stone


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