Document 10: Margaret Sanger to Prospective Advisory Council members, 13 May 1931, Reel 32, Papers of Margaret Sanger, 1900-1966, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Document 10: Margaret Sanger to Prospective Advisory Council members, 13 May 1931, Reel 32, Papers of Margaret Sanger, 1900-1966, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.


   This draft announcement of the first formal meeting of the Advisory Council reveals the hopes and expectations Sanger had for the council. It included a list of the persons who were asked to be on the council and indicates who accepted. (Brackets in the transcription below indicate handwritten notes on the typed list.) Two prominent African American women were among those who served actively on the Advisory Council. Bessye Bearden, a journalist who worked as the New York representative for the Chicago Defender, was a longtime activist in the community. In 1922, she became the first African-African American women elected to the local Harlem school board. She was also a member of the Urban League and the National Council of Negro Women. In 1930, as a leader of the newly formed Housewives' League, she was at the forefront of efforts to persuade local merchants to hire African American clerks.[67] Mabel Keaton (Staupers), a nurse, had been executive secretary of the Harlem Committee of the New York Tuberculosis and Health Association since 1922. In that capacity she led efforts to provide health care and education about tuberculosis within the Harlem neighborhood. Her experience would prove to be a real asset to the Harlem clinic (see Document 11).

   Two ministers of local churches are among those who participated most actively on the Advisory Council. Dr. William Lloyd Imes was the pastor of the St. James Presbyterian Church, one of the largest churches in the community. Dr. Imes was also a member of the Urban League board. During the 1930s he played an active role in relief efforts organized by church groups, as well as the Don't Buy Where You Can't Work campaign.[68] In 1938 he became co-chair, with Rev. Adam Clayton Powell Jr., of the Greater New York Committee on Employment, which fought to increase public and private employment opportunities for African Americans throughout the city. Rev. Shelton Hale Bishop, pastor of St. Philip's Protestant Episcopal Church, also was active on the council. In November of 1930, Rev. Bishop organized Harlem church leaders into the Harlem Coordinating Committee on Relief and Unemployment, which asked all working adults in Harlem to contribute toward its efforts. Between December 1930 and July 1931, the committee provided financial assistance, food, clothing, or referrals to medical or service agencies for 20,000 people.[69] It coordinated the work of seventeen churches to feed 2,400 people a day. Hale was a regular attendee at meetings, despite his desire to avoid public connection with the clinic, and therefore to remain an unofficial member of the council. See Document 11. See Document 7 for earlier correspondence concerning the selection of individuals for membership on the Advisory Council.

   Plans for the council were set in motion in the early fall of 1930, and in subsequent months, Harlem clinic staff collected the names of potential members, informally contacted people to gauge their interest, and compiled a list of people who were willing to serve on the Council.[70]

   We hope you will be willing to serve as a member of the Advisory Council of the Harlem Branch of the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau. The others who have been asked to serve with you are as follows;

[+] Mrs. Margaret Sanger,

[+] Dr. Hannah M. Stone,

Dr. Peter Marshall Murray, [+ 1]

Dr. James L. Wilson, [+ 2]

[+] Dr. Louis Wright, [+ 3]

[+] Dr. May Chinn, [+ 4]

[+] Dr. Alonzo DeG. Smith, [+ 5]

[+] Mr. Shelton Hale Bishop

Dr. Wm. Lloyd Imes, [+ 6]

Mr. And Mrs. Edward A. Norman,

[+] Mrs. Bessye Bearden, [+ 7]

Mrs. Mabel Keaton, [+ 8]

[+ Dr. Lucien Brown 9]

[Mrs. Hernandez 10]

[Mrs. Felix Fuld 11]

[+ Mrs. Allen 12]

[Dr. Ellis 13]

[Mrs. Jane Fisher 14]

[Mr. Hill 15]

   The first meeting will be held on Wednesday, May 20th, at 4,30 P.M. in the rooms of the Bureau at 2352 - 7th Avenue, near 138th Street.

   We are anxious to get your advice and help in operating the Bureau so that it may work to the best advantage for the community; to determine the best way of reaching the women who most need help; to decide the best methods to use for educating the public concerning the aims and purposes of Birth Control, and how best to maintain the confidence and co-operation of the physicians and social workers of Harlem.

   We shall be very grateful for any assistance you may offer us.

Yours very truly,

[Signed] Margaret Sanger

May 13th, 1931

[+ Mr. Edw Norman]
[Miss. A. Field]


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