Book review: What Every Girl Should Know: Margaret Sanger’s Journey, by J. Albert Mann

Mann, J. Albert. What Every Girl Should Know: Margaret Sanger’s Journey. Atheneum, 2019. $18.99. 228p. ISBN 978-1-5344-1932-2. Ages 13-16. P6Q7

Born into poverty in the late 1800s, Maggie Higgins grows up rebelliously helping her mother with the other 10 children while she dreams of being a writer. Her alcoholic freethinking father drives her mother into the grave with his lack of jobs and her many pregnancies, several of them ending in miscarriages, and Maggie is forced to leave nursing school to care for her father after her mother’s death. Although many of the episodes are fictional, Maggie’s life as a child and young adult shows why she becomes a strong advocate for birth control to save other women from the misery that her own mother suffered.

Verdict: An afterword explains why Sanger, a believer in eugenics, did not deserve the stain of racism given her throughout history because she provided birth control for minorities and poor people. The focus on Sander’s childhood without showing how she developed into become an activist leaves a gap in her life.

March 2019 review by Nel Ward.


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