Marie Carmichael Stopes was an author, campaigner, palaeobotanist, a campaigner for eugenics and a pioneer of women’s rights.
She was born in Edinburgh in 1880, but her parents moved to Upper Norwood in London 6 weeks after her birth. She was home schooled for two years, then sent to St George’s School for Girls in Edinburgh and then North London Collegiate School. She attended University College London as a scholarship student, where she studied botany and geology graduating in 1902.
Her sex manual Married Love, written in 1918. It was controversial and influential. it brought the subject of birth control into wide public debate. The book was an instant success, requiring five editions in the first year. Stopes vehemently opposed abortion, arguing that the prevention of conception was all that was needed. In 1921, together with her second husband Humphrey Vernon Roe, she opened the mother’s clinic at 61 Marlborough Road, Holloway (which is marked with a plaque). The clinic was run by midwives and supported by visiting doctors. It offered mothers birth control advice and educated them about birth control – thus inventing the concept of family planning.
As a supporter of eugenics, one of her stated aims was to: ‘Furnish security from conception to those who are racially diseased”, this was a major issue, in reaction to this, Marie Stopes International in 2020 changed its name to MSI Reproductive Choices with no other changes.
She died in 1958; her ashes were scattered at sea.