The League provided public education through lectures about birth control; created exhibits; distributed literature and pamphlets; and participated in close coordination with Evanston Hospital’s Director of Social Services for outpatients (Dr. Elizabeth Pode), who referred post-natal patients to the EBCL. This practice provided the EBCL with most of its patients.
The Illinois Birth Control League started making family planning resources available in Chicago in 1923 and gradually incorporated surrounding geographical areas, gaining a surprising amount of support and momentum from community groups. The Evanston Birth Control Center opened in 1932 at 800 Davis Street with the mission of providing reproductive health services and family planning advice to low-income women. Initially, the Evanston Branch was visited by a doctor, nurse and social worker from Chicago but shortly after its inception, a local committee was formed and all but the monetary responsibilities were assumed by the Evanston Birth Control Center. The EBCL operated first as an extension of the Chicago office of the Illinois Birth Control League. In 1935, the organization became a member of the Evanston Council of Social Agencies (a predecessor to the United Way). In that same year, they opened a storefront for the distribution of family planning information in the Carlson Building. The Birth Control Center of Evanston gained membership to the Evanston Council of Social Agencies in 1935 and was one of only a few to acquire that local significance at the time. In 1936, they received a visit from Margaret Sanger, who spoke to a full house at First Methodist Church. The name changed in 1941 from the Birth Control Center of Evanston to the Evanston Planned Parenthood Center following the national renaming of the organization. From 1947 until 1952, the EBCL was an independent organization, working in conjuction with other local institutions such as the Evanston Hospital and The Cradle to distribute family planning information and offer Evanston women reproductive healthcare and choices. It also was one of the first organizations to offer infertility counseling and ran mobile medical clinics in low income neighborhoods. The organization joined what is now called the Chicago Area Planned Parenthood Association in 1953. The work of the center included family planning services for teens, infertility counseling, and mobile clinics to low-income neighborhoods. In 1964, oral contraceptives were offered for the first time at the center. In 1969 the City of Evanston Health Department assumed responsibility of the center’s operations.
This organization provided low-income women in Evanston access to medical care and family planning, starting in 1932. During this era, birth control was making history as both a social and medical reform and it wasn’t until half a century later did birth control become legal in America. Activists involved in spreading the controversial word risked a great deal to provide services to American families. This was thirty years before public health officials or even the American Society of OB-GYNs declared that family planning was “an essential part of medicine and public health.” The EBCL was a progressive force in the field of female reproductive health and rights, decades before Roe vs. Wade or widespread acceptance of family planning.