Margaret Sanger as Yankee utopian progressive

Margaret Sanger, daughter of Irish Catholics; married first to a Jew; then to a South African; influenced by and conduit of happenings in Europe; also, a "Yankee" and proof that "progressivism" is best conceived of as an offshoot of New England Puritanism.

More of an activist than her father, Bill had recently joined a Socialist Party local in the Bronx, where he lived with his father, Edward Ely Sanger; his mother, Henrietta Wolfberg; and his younger sister, Cecilia. Most heretically appealing for the rebellious daughter of a Catholic from a town without a synagogue, William Sanger was a Jew--by heritage, not conviction.

The Sangers had emigrated from Berlin in 1878 when William was four years old. His father represented a growing stream of Jewish immigrants from Germany as well as, in greater numbers, Eastern Europe, pushed across the Atlantic by increasing pressure from the Prussian state. When the census taker came to their apartment in the Nineteenth Ward two years after their arrival, in 1880, Bill Sanger's father gave his name as Edward, a proper Anglo-Saxon name, and his occupation as a wool manufacturer. Twenty years later, living in a diverse neighborhood of mostly German Jews who sold real estate and insurance, he was listed as Elzia, an unusual contraction of the Hebrew name Eleazar.

At first, Maggie Higgins and Bill Sanger shared their alien status: she the migratory, rebellious daughter of a poor Catholic family, he a Jewish immigrant still living at home at twenty-six years of age. The, for the rest of their lives, they both obscured the facts of his family heritage, which became easier to do when his father died in 1903. Finding Bill's background exotic at first, she later erased it, lest it compromise the fragile birth control movement and her credibility to lead it. To be married to a Jew in the first decades of the twentieth century was to be associated with the radical political views of socialists and to invite the pervasive smear of anti-Semitism. [. . .]

In her Autobiography, Margaret Sanger transformed her father-in-law, Elzia, a wool manufacturer in the garment industry in New York, into Edward, a wealthy English sheep rancher who had moved to Australia. During one of his trips to Europe, through he was sixteen years her senior, Edward had fallen in love with the mayor Konigsberg's fourteen-year-old daughter, Henrietta. Smitten, he had waited for her to grow up and then returned to marry her.

[Jean H. Baker. Margaret Sanger: A Life of Passion]