Byrne, Ethel

  • Polly Hampton
Reference work entry

Ethel Byrne, along with her sister Margaret Sanger, founded the first birth control clinic in the United States in 1916. Ethel and Margaret grew up in Corning, New York. Their mother, Anne, suffered from tuberculosis. Contraception, in addition to being illegal, was unheard of in the girls’ devout Catholic neighborhood. Anne became pregnant eighteen times and had seven miscarriages. She ultimately delivered eleven children and was further incapacitated with tuberculosis after each pregnancy.

Ethel and Margaret’s father, Michael Higgins, was a tombstone engraver by trade, but spent much of his time studying politics and social issues. The family lived in increasing poverty with each additional child. Their economic situation worsened when Higgins invited one of his heroes to speak in town. His hero happened to be an agnostic as well as a socialist. The local priest was horrified, and advised his parish to shun Higgins like the devil himself and to purchase their tombstones elsewhere....


United States Health Promotion Child Health Birth Control Control Method 
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Suggested Reading

  1. 1.
    Gray, M. (1979). Margaret Sanger: A biography of the champion of birth control. New York: Richard Marek.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Werner, V. (1970). Margaret Sanger: Woman rebel. New York: Hawthorne Books.Google Scholar

Suggested Resources

  1. 1.
    Planned Parenthood Federation of America. (1998). Retrieved March 2003, from http:\\www.plannedparenthood.orgGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Polly Hampton

There are no affiliations available