Marie Stopes PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 17 March 2010 10:20

Marie Carmichael Stopes, D.Sc., Ph.D.

Born: 15 October 1880

Died: 2 October 1958, Dorking, Surrey.

Age: 77

Cause of death: Breast cancer

Notable because: Activist for women's rights - becoming a target for the Church through her work in empowering women. Accused of being a Eugenicist and anti-semite. Opened first UK Family planning clinic in 1921. Played a major role in breaking down taboos about sex that bound many in ignorance.

Marie Stopes was a Scottish author, palaeobotanist, campaigner for women's rights and pioneer in the field of family planning. Stopes edited the journal Birth Control News which gave anatomically explicit advice, and in addition to her enthusiasm for protests at places of worship this provoked protest from both the Church of England and the Catholic Church. Her sex manual Married Love, which was written, she claimed, while she was still a virgin, was controversial and influential.

The modern organisation that bears her name, Marie Stopes International, works in 38 countries across the world - ranging from the UK, Bolivia, and the Philippines through to Pakistan, Kenya and Papua New Guinea.

Stopes attended University College London as a scholarship student studying botany and geology, graduating with a first class B.Sc. in 1902. After carrying out research at University College London she pursued further study at the University of Munich, receiving a Ph.D. in palaeobotany in 1904. Following this Stopes earned a D.Sc degree from University College London, becoming the youngest person in Britain to have done so. In 1903 she published a study of the botany of the recently dried-up Ebbsfleet River. In 1907 she went to Japan on a Scientific Mission, spending a year and a half at the Imperial University, Tokyo, exploring for fossil plants. She was also Fellow and sometime Lecturer in Palaeobotany at University College London and Lecturer in Palaeobotany at the University of Manchester, in this capacity she became the first female academic on Manchester's faculty.

During Stopes' time at Manchester, she studied Coal and the collection of Glossopteris (seed Ferns). This was to prove the theory of Eduard Suess concerning the existence of Gondwanaland or Pangaea. A chance meeting with a Robert Falcon Scott, (Scott of the Antarctic), during one of his fund raising lectures brought a possibility of proving Suess's theory. Stopes' passion to prove Suess' theory led her to discuss with Scott the possibility of joining his next expedition. She failed to join the expedition but Scott had promised to bring back samples of fossils to prove the theory of the existence of Gondwanaland. A little more information can be found at the Geological Society web site concerning this area Cold Comfort.

Stopes opened the UK's first family planning clinic, the Mothers' Clinic at 61, Marlborough Road, Holloway, North London on 17 March 1921. 1925 the Mothers' Clinic moved to Central London, where it remains to this day.

Stopes and her fellow family planning pioneers around the globe, like Dora Russell, played a major role in breaking down taboos about sex and increasing knowledge, pleasure and improved reproductive health. In 1930 the National Birth Control Council was formed.

Stopes was a prominent campaigner for the implementation of policies inspired by eugenics, then not a discredited science. In her Radiant Motherhood (1920) she called for the "sterilisation of those totally unfit for parenthood [to] be made an immediate possibility, indeed made compulsory." She also bemoaned the abolition of child labour for the lower classes:

"Crushed by the burden of taxation which they have not the resources to meet and to provide for children also: crushed by the national cost of the too numerous children of those who do not contribute to the public funds by taxation, yet who recklessly bring forth from an inferior stock individuals who are not self-supporting, the middle and superior artisan classes have, without perceiving it, come almost to take the position of that ancient slave population."

In 1935 Stopes attended the International Congress for Population Science in Berlin, held under the Nazi regime. She was more than once accused of being anti-Semitic by other pioneers of the birth control movement such as Havelock Ellis

After her son Harry married a myopic woman, Stopes cut him out of her will. The daughter-in-law - Mary Eyre Wallis, later Mary Stopes-Roe - was the daughter of the noted engineer Barnes Wallis. Stopes reasoned that prospective grandchildren might inherit the condition. 

Supporters of Stopes generally concede that she made such remarks, but argue that they should be read in their historical context; such attitudes were not uncommon at the time. For example, the author Virginia Woolf once wrote in her diary "On the tow path we met and had to pass a long line of imbeciles...They should certainly be killed." Following Stopes' death in 1958, a large part of her personal fortune went to the Eugenics Society

Marie Carmichael Stopes was the daughter of Henry Stopes and Charlotte Carmichael Stopes.

Prior to her claim that her marriage to Canadian geneticist Reginald Ruggles Gates in 1911 was unconsummated, she had a serious relationship with Japanese botanist Kenjiro Fujii or Fugii, whom she met at the University of Munich in 1904 whilst researching her Ph.D. It was so serious, that in 1907, during her 1904-1910 tenure at Manchester University, she went to be with him in Japan, but the affair ended. Her marriage to Gates was annulled in 1914.

In 1918 she married the financial backer of her most famous work, Married Love : A New Contribution to the Solution of the Sex Difficulties, Humphrey Verdon Roe, brother of Alliott Verdon Roe. Her son, the philosopher Harry Stopes-Roe, was born in 1924.

Stopes died at her home in Dorking, Surrey, UK from breast cancer.

From the 1920s onward, Marie Stopes gradually built up a small network of clinics that were initially very successful, but by the early 1970s were in financial difficulties. In 1975 the clinics went into voluntary receivership. The modern organisation that bears Marie Stopes' name was established a year later, taking over responsibility for the main clinic, and in 1978 it began its work overseas in New Delhi. Since then the organisation has grown steadily and today the Marie Stopes International (MSI) global partnership works in 38 countries, has 452 clinics worldwide and has offices in London, Brussels, Melbourne and USA.

In 2006 alone, the organisation provided services to 4.6 million clients and by 2010 aims to protect 20 million couples from unplanned pregnancies and unsafe abortion.

Marie Stopes founded Portland Museum, Dorset on the Isle of Portland, which opened in 1930, and acted as the museum's curator. The cottage housing the museum was an inspiration behind The Well-Beloved, a novel by Thomas Hardy, who was a friend of Marie Stopes


Married Love A New Contribution to the Solution of Sex Difficulties

Author: Marie Carmichael Stopes
Manufacturer: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
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Editorial Review: This collection of literature attempts to compile many classics that have stood the test of time and offer them at a reduced, affordable price in an attractive volume so that everyone can enjoy them.


Married Love

Author: Marie Carmichael Stopes
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Editorial Review: Married Love By Marie Carmichael Stopes


Married Love or Love in Marriage

Author: Dr. Marie Carmichael Stopes

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Editorial Review: Married Love or Love in Marriage is a book written by Dr. Marie Carmichael Stopes, first published in March 1918 by a small publisher, after many other larger publishers turned her down because of the content. It rapidly sold out, and was in its sixth printing within a fortnight.

The US Customs Service banned the book as obscene until April 6, 1931, when Judge John M. Woolsey overturned that decision. Woolsey is the same judge who in 1933 would lift the ban on James Joyce's "Ulysses", allowing for its publication and circulation in the United States of America.

It was the first book to note that women's sexual desire coincides with ovulation and the period right before menstruation. The book argued that marriage should be an equal relationship between partners. Although officially scorned in the UK, the book went through 19 editions and sales of almost 750,000 copies by 1931. -- from Wikipedia


Plays of old Japan, the 'No'

Author: Marie Carmichael Stopes
Manufacturer: University of California Libraries
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Editorial Review: This book was digitized and reprinted from the collections of the University of California Libraries. It was produced from digital images created through the libraries’ mass digitization efforts. The digital images were cleaned and prepared for printing through automated processes. Despite the cleaning process, occasional flaws may still be present that were part of the original work itself, or introduced during digitization. This book and hundreds of thousands of others can be found online in the HathiTrust Digital Library at



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Last Updated on Wednesday, 17 March 2010 10:35

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