The Life and Legacy of Marie Stopes

The Life and Legacy of Marie Stopes

10 Things You May Not know About the Founder of Marie Stopes International. 




  1. Marie Stopes was a paleobotanist. 

Marie Stopes was awarded a PhD in paleobotany from the University of Munich in 1904, and became the youngest doctor of science in Britain; she was the first female academic at the University of Manchester.

2. Marie Stopes did not approve of divorce or abortion.

Marie Stopes was an outspoken advocate for birth control and the rights of women, but believed in the sanctity of marriage. She sought an annulment for her first marriage, because she did not agree with divorce, and would not allow her clinics to provide abortions.

3. Marie Stopes wrote the UK’s first sex manual, called ‘Married Love.’

“Married Love” shocked the conservative men and women of the Victorian era, and Stopes was the subject of criticism from both the Anglican and Catholic Churches.  However the book proved  popular and sold 2000 copies in the first two weeks after its release.

4. Marie Stopes was a member of the British Eugenics Society.

In her book, “Radiant Motherhood”, Stopes advocated for the forced sterilisation of poorer classes, and even claimed that ‘idiots’ were more plentiful in wine-growing districts. (She associated feebler babies with conception during drunkenness.)

“It should be the policy of the community to discourage from parenthood all whose circumstances are such as would make probable the introduction of the weakened, diseased or debased future citizens.”

Stopes declared that parenthood should be made ‘impossible’ for those who had the potential for conceiving children with mental or physical weaknesses. She is notorious for sending a book of her poems about racial purity to Adolf Hitler.

5. Marie Stopes knew Margaret Sanger and defended her in a letter to President Woodrow Wilson.

In 1915, Marie Stopes met Margaret Sanger, also a eugenicist, who was in England to garner support for her efforts to introduce birth control in the US.   Stopes wrote a letter in favour of Sanger to President Woodrow Wilson, to which other members of the Eugenics Society were signatories, including novelist H.G.Wells.

Have you, Sir, visualised what it means to be a woman whose every fibre, whose every muscle and blood-capillary is subtly poisoned by the secret, ever growing horror, more penetrating, more long drawn than any nightmare, of an unwanted embryo developing between her heart?…

….I pray, Sir, than you may be instrumental in rescuing, not only Mrs Sanger, a tender and sensitive mother from injustice, but that you will hasten the establishment of a new era for the white race when it may escape the sapping of its strength and the diseases which are the results of too frequent childbirth by over-worn or horror-stricken mothers.


6. She opened the first family Planning clinic in the UK in 1921.

Marie Stopes was keen to see poor women given access to birth control. She often lamented that women should not be forced to become mothers against their will, and that ‘poor and feeble’ children were the result of prolific breeding by the poorer classes.

Female doctors and nurses were exclusively employed for the sake of the women patients. Services were free, offering advice and access to birth control for poorer women; data about contraceptive use was gathered for research purposes. Stopes was accused of using the poor for scientific experimentation.

7. She invented her own contraceptive device.

Rubber cervical caps which were designed by Stopes were distributed from her clinic. In 1925, she began a mail order service to deliver contraceptives.

8. After her death, the Anglican Church changed their teaching on birth control, due in part to her influence.

Marie Stopes died from breast cancer in 1958. In the year of her death, Anglican Bishops at the Lambreth Conference acknowledged the need for birth control, accepting that “procreation was not the sole purpose of Christian marriage”.

9. Marie Stopes was featured on a stamp in the UK.

The British postal service honoured Stopes by naming her a ‘woman of distinction’, and her portrait was, somewhat controversially, featured on their 2008 50p stamps. Telegraph columnist, Gerald Warner claimed, “Marie Stopes is forgiven racism and eugenics because she was anti-life.”

10. Marie Stopes International now runs 600 centres around the world, providing contraception to around 15.6 million clients and performing over 3 million abortions per year.

Fifteen of Marie Stopes’ clinics are located in Australia; the organisation was recently awarded a contract to provide ‘reproductive health’ services on behalf of the Western Australian government.

Marie Stopes International’s pharmaceutical company, MS Health, is currently Australia’s sole manufacturer and distributor of the abortion pill Mifepristone/Misoprostol (GyMiso, also known as RU-486) which accounts for around a quarter of the abortions provided by their Australian facilities.

Dr. Marie, as MSI is now known here, provides training for doctors who wish to dispense the abortion pill and also free resources on ‘reproductive health’ to doctors and schools. 

You might be sickened, as I am, to read the glowing recommendation of (pseudo-Catholic) Bill and Melinda Gates’ 2014 report on the Marie Stopes website.

I’ll finish with a quote from the eugenicist par excellence, Marie Stopes, who saw herself as a visionary whose ‘evolutionary’ take on  marriage would create a world where child labor was acceptable but unplanned children were not.

The evolution of mankind will take a leap forward when we have around us, only fine and beautiful young people, all of whom have been conceived, carried, and born in true homes by conscious, powerful and voluntary mothers. Then at last will God’s will be done on earth and  the power of Satan broken.

Radiant Motherhood, p 252.


Curtin University Library online

2013 statistics from the Marie Stopes International website. - ‘Radiant Motherhood’ pdf.

Author: genericmum

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