Lena Levine used her medical and psychological training to offer women pioneering services for birth control, sex education, and marital counseling at Margaret Sanger’s Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau, developing an international reputation for her work on infertility and sexual dysfunction. Together with Abraham Stone and Margaret Sanger, she founded the International Planned Parenthood Federation in 1948. She also wrote best-selling advice books about women’s sexual fulfillment.
Lena Levine was born in Brooklyn, New York, on May 17, 1903, the youngest of seven children of Sophie and Morris Levine, Jewish emigrants from Vilna, Lithuania. Educated at Girls High School in Brooklyn, Hunter College, and Bellevue Hospital Medical College, Levine graduated in 1927, married fellow student Louis Ferber, and established a private practice in obstetrics and gynecology in Brooklyn. A daughter, Ellen Louise, was born in 1939, followed three years later by a son, Michael Allen, who developed viral encephalitis in infancy and was left severely mentally disabled. Tragedy struck again in 1943 when Louis Ferber died of a heart attack.
Unable to accommodate her responsibilities as a single mother to an unpredictable professional schedule, Levine studied psychoanalysis with Sandor Rado at the Columbia Psychoanalytic Institute and converted her practice to psychiatry. With doctors Abraham and Hannah Stone, she then combined her interests into developing innovative services in birth control, sex education, and marriage counseling at Margaret Sanger’s pioneering Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau. Following Hannah Stone’s death in 1941, Levine and Abraham Stone ran the clinic together and acquired an international reputation for the treatment of a range of sexual and reproductive problems including female frigidity and infertility.
With Sanger, they helped found the International Planned Parenthood Federation in 1948 and then traveled and lectured extensively. In best-selling advice books, including The Doctor Talks with the Bride (1938) and The Modern Book of Marriage: A Practical Guide to Marital Happiness (1957), Levine championed equality for women in marriage, along with greater sexual fulfillment. She died of a stroke in New York City, on January 9, 1965.
SELECTED WORKS BY LENA LEVINE
The Doctor Talks with the Bride (1938).
The Modern Book of Marriage: A Practical Guide to Marital Happiness (1957).
Chesler, Ellen. Woman of Valor: Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control Movement in America (1992, second edition 2007).
NAW modern; Obituary. NYTimes, January 11, 1965, 45:3.