Hannah Mayer Stone
1893 – 1941
A pioneering physician and advocate of birth control, Hannah Stone defied both New York City police and the federal government in her efforts to make contraception legal and available to American women. Her attempts to circulate birth control information landed her in a New York City police paddy wagon after a raid on the clinic where she was director.
Born in New York City in 1893 to Jewish parents, Max and Golda Rinaldo Mayer, Hannah (Mayer) Stone earned a pharmacy degree from the Brooklyn College of Pharmacy in 1912, after which she attended Columbia University. New York Medical College together with Flower Hospital granted her a medical degree in 1920. She married another doctor, Abraham Stone, an associate of the New York Department of Health. They had one child, Gloria.
Stone was an early associate of Margaret Sanger, the founder of the movement to legalize birth control. She became medical director of Sanger’s Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau of New York in 1923. Six years later, she was arrested along with her medical staff in a police raid on the clinic, for disseminating contraceptive information in violation of the law. After hearing the charges, the presiding magistrate dismissed them. In addition, the police were criticized for taking the staff to the police station in a patrol wagon.
The following year, in another attempt to halt her activities, the U.S. Government sued Stone for importing contraceptive devices from Japan, which it alleged was in violation of the Tariff Act of 1930. The Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the suit, holding that the law was not designed to prevent the importation, sale, or use of devices that conscientious and competent physicians might employ for the purpose of saving life or promoting the well-being of patients.
In addition to her work at the clinic, Stone and her husband opened the first Marriage Consultation Center in New York in 1931, followed by a second one somewhat later. She also was the coauthor of two books, one with her husband and the other with Margaret Sanger.
Hannah Stone did not live to see the fruits of her labors. She died on July 10, 1941, at age forty-eight.
The courage and daring that Hannah Stone displayed throughout her life—from her resoluteness in graduating from medical school in an era when few women could succeed in becoming physicians, to her struggle for the emancipation of women—make her a true hero and role model.
AJYB 44:344; Obituary. NYTimes, July 11, 1941, 15:4.