Document 37: Mabel Staupers to Margaret Sanger, 13 March 1935, Reel 33, Papers of Margaret Sanger, 1900-1966, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Mabel Staupers, a member of the Advisory Board and a nurse, was a longtime social activist and resident of Harlem. In 1922, Staupers played a pivotal role in the establishment of the Harlem Tuberculosis and Health Committee. She also helped organize African American women reformers; in 1935, Staupers, Estelle Massey Osbourne, and Mary McLeod Bethune founded the National Council of Negro Women, which in 1941 became the first national women's organization to officially endorse birth control. In 1934, she was hired as the first paid executive secretary of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses. During her tenure in that position, she worked to remove racial barriers for nursing professionals.
Staupers wrote this letter in response to Sanger's suggestion at several Advisory Council meetings that the council take full responsibility for funding the clinic (see Document 2, Document 3, Document 9, and Document 27 for the clinic's funding). Following the conventions of the period, Sanger's business model for clinics assumed that the local community would assume the cost of running the clinic after an initial period. In the context of higher rates of unemployment and lower wages, few Harlemites could afford to pay for the clinic's services (see Document 22 and Document 27). In addition, the Harlem community had little wealth of its own, and its charitable resources were very limited (see Document 25 for the Harlem community's response to the hardships of the Depression). The combination of the loss of the philanthropic funds, the limited charitable resources in Harlem, and the inability of most clients to pay for services left few options for raising the clinic's annual budget. The CRB continued to cover the costs of staff and supplies, and in 1933, the clinic moved to the New York Urban League building in an effort to reduce costs (see Document 30, Document 34, and Document 35). In both 1934 and 1935, Sanger turned to the Advisory Council for assistance.
Point 1 of Staupers's letter described the difficulties of Sanger's proposal within the context of Depression-era Harlem. Staupers made it clear that she supported a continuing relationship with the CRB, describing the collaboration of the Harlem group and the CRB as "the best kind of social work." She suggested a compromise measure by which the Advisory Council would take responsibility for raising part of the clinic budget.
March 13, 1935
Mrs. Margaret Sanger
2100 Massachusetts Avenue
My dear Mrs. Sanger,
I have been thinking about your suggestion which you made at the last meeting of the Harlem Advisory Council. Perhaps, it may be the time for the Advisory Council to take over the Birth Control clinic in the Urban League Building, and carry it on. Personally, I do not feel that this suggestion is workable at this time.
(1) The finances of individuals in Harlem who might be glad to contribute to the clinic have so many demands that the entire responsibility of operating the clinic would seem to me impossible.
(2) Since the Birth Control movement is a general one, it is the best kind of social work to have a joining of hands from your group and our group in serving the people of Harlem.
(3) Just as the Harlem branches of the Y. M. and Y. W. raise a certain portion of their budget, I feel that our committee ought to be asked this fall to do the same thing; this portion to be matched by persons whom you might be able to interest.[A] A finance committee from the general council should be named.
I have missed many meetings and perhaps some of these suggestions have already been thought about. I would prefer to see you remain actively interested in this project for some time since the clinic does not serve Negro residents only, but also a large percentage of the White group.
Very sincerely yours,
Mabel K. Staupers
A. The Harlem branches of the Young Men's Christian Association and Young Women's Christian Association provided vocational classes and related social services for Harlemites. They also participated in political efforts to increase employment opportunities for African Americans. Both organizations were members of the Greater New York Coordinating Committee for Employment; see Greenberg, "Or Does It Explode?" pp. 16, 18, 25, 133, 168, 189; and Document 10 and Document 25.
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