For years, I always asked myself where the name “Marie Stopes” came from.

It was only until a few days back that I landed on part of the life story of this great woman, Dr. (PhD) “Marie Charlotte Carmichael Stopes”!


M0017375 Marie Stopes at the time of the marriage with Mr. H.V. Roe.
Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images
Marie Stopes at the time of the marriage with Mr. H.V. Roe.
1918 The authorized life of Marie C. Stopes
Aylmer Maude
Published: 1924
Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0



My first time interacting with anything named “Marie Stopes” was at my first workplace in the non-profit world, Reach A Hand Uganda.

In the first place, they were our instructors in as far as sexual and reproductive health and rights of people are concerned.

Over time, I made friends with so many of them, scattered all over the world!

Great people, these ones. Excellent work, they do!


Photo credit: Marie Stopes Uganda


According to the BBC,

Her studies as a paleobotanist took her to universities in London and Munich, then to Manchester where she became the first female member of the science faculty at the university.

In 1911, she married Reginald Ruggles Gates.

The relationship quickly broke down, and Marie realised that her husband was impotent and the marriage was unconsummated.

It was annulled in 1914.


Stopes’ reading on the subject prompted her first book ‘Married Love’, which was published in 1918.

The book was condemned by churches, the medical establishment and the press but was very popular, selling 2,000 copies within a fortnight!!!


Photo credit: The Independent


Thousands of women wrote to ask her advice.

Marie Stopes became famous overnight and used the publicity to advance her cause.

A second book, ‘Wise Parenthood’, followed. In the same year, Stopes married Humphrey Verdon Roe who was very supportive of her views.

They had a son in 1924.


Photo credit: Braver Grace


In 1921, Stopes opened a family planning clinic in Holloway, north London, the first in the country.

It offered a free service to married women and also, gathered data about contraception.

In 1925, the clinic moved to central London and others opened across the country.


Photo credit: MSI Reproductive Choices


By 1930, other family planning organisations had been set up and they joined forces with Stopes to form the National Birth Control Council (later the Family Planning Association).

The Catholic church was Stopes’s fiercest critic.

In 1923, Stopes sued Catholic doctor Halliday Sutherland for libel. She lost, won at appeal, and then lost again in the House of Lords, but the case generated huge publicity for Stopes’s views.

Stopes continued to campaign for women to have better access to birth control but spent most of the last two decades of her life writing poetry.

She died on 2 October 1958.


Photo credit: International Conference on Family Planning


Brittanica says this about Marie;

Stopes would later assert that her marriage was unconsummated and that she knew little about sex when she first married.

Her failed marriage and its eventual annulment in 1916 played a large role in determining her future career, causing her to turn her attention to the issues of sex, marriage, and childbirth and their meaning in society.

She initially saw birth control as an aid to marriage fulfillment and as a means to save women from the physical strain of excessive childbearing.

However, Stopes also was a staunch supporter of eugenics, and she advocated for eugenic birth control, wherein inferior women of the lower classes would be prevented from having children.


Photo credit: National Portrait Gallery


With this little information about Dr. Marie Stopes,

Do you see how this world-known institution came to be?

I am still in awe, reading more about her!