Marie Stopes Opens First Clinic
On March 17 1921 this country’s first birth-control clinic opened at 61 Marlborough Road in Holloway, North London, providing advice on sexual health and contraception, and supplying affordable contraceptives. The pioneer behind this Mothers’ Clinic was Marie Stopes , a brilliant academic whose books Married Love and Wise Parenthood had already succeeded in annoying the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church, and nothing wrong with that. She was funded in her work by her second husband (her supposedly unconsummated first marriage one of the spurs to her work on sex education) Humphrey Verdon Roe, co-founder of the Avro aircraft company.
Marie Stopes came from a radical background, her mother one of the first female university students in Scotland, mixing young with intellectuals such as Thomas Henry Huxley .
If only our heroes were unsullied. Stopes was inspired by the American birth control activist Margaret Sanger, and like her became a confirmed believer in eugenics and racial purity. Those beliefs later saw Stopes a convinced fan of Hitler, happy to attend a Nazi-sponsored conference on Population Science in Berlin in 1935; and her provision of contraception to the poor was at least in part motivated by eugenic theory – two years prior to setting up the Mothers’ Clinic she advocated enforced sterilisation for those she considered undesirables.
Whatever the motivations for her work, furthered with the establishment of the National Birth Control Council in 1930, it was of great significance in controlling fertility and improving sexual health in this country.
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