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Topic: Dame Margaret Sparrow

Is part of topic Contraception

Dame Margaret Sparrow

In 1961, a 25-year-old medical student and mother of two named Margaret Sparrow became one of the first New Zealand women to take the contraceptive pill. She didn’t know it then, but helping women to take control of their fertility would become her passion and career.

Doctor and collector

'It started as a purely professional interest, just wanting to record our history … but it became a hobby.' Over nearly five decades, Dame Margaret has collected an eclectic range of contraceptive devices – about 1,000 in total. She gave most of them to Te Papa in 2011. Together, they offer a snapshot of attitudes and technology around birth control in New Zealand since the 1930s.

A force for change in sexual health

Dame Margaret’s career has included many firsts. She pioneered contraception and abortion services for students, and vasectomies for men. She was one of the first doctors to prescribe the emergency contraceptive pill, and has long been an outspoken advocate of abortion law reform.

In 2002, Dame Margaret was made a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (later Dame) for services to medicine and the community.

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