The Margaret Sanger Papers

Ferrer School (1911 - 1953)

Established by the Ferrer Association in 1911 on the model of the Modern School founded in Barcelona by Spanish anarchist and educator, Francisco Ferrer, the New York Ferrer School was supported by Emma Goldman, Leonard Abbott and other New York radicals. With limited quarters at 6 St. Mark's Place, the Ferrer School (also known as the Modern School of New York) became a center for radical thought and action in New York. It began as a lecture forum and adult learning center with Bayard Boyeson, a Columbia English professor with an interest in radical politics and avant garde arts and letters, as director. By October of 1911, the Ferrer Center was moved to a larger building at 104 East 12th Street and opened a Day School for children. With Will Durant hired as its director, the Day School emphasized independence, self-development and creative freedom in its educational program. Among Durant's first nine pupils at the Day School was Margaret Sanger's eldest son, Stuart Sanger. When they were older, her other children, Grant and Peggy Sanger, were also enrolled. Committed to the ideals of libertarian education promoted by the Modern School Movement, Margaret Sanger was an active in the Ferrer Association. She donated books to the Day School, wrote articles for the Center's journal, The Modern School and in 1914 gave a lecture on birth control at the Ferrer Center. In 1912, the Center moved to East 107th Street in Harlem. In 1915, after evidence of terrorism planned at the Ferrer Center was exposed, the directors of the Ferrer Association decided to move the school to Stelton, New Jersey where it functioned as a boarding school, though students had to live without indoor plumbing or heat. Though Stuart was, by this time, enrolled at the Winnwood School on Long Island, Grant and Peggy were among the first students at Stelton. It was there that five-year-old Peggy Sanger came down with pneumonia and had to be transferred to a New York hospital, where she died on November 6.
References: Paul Avrich, The Modern School Movement: Anarchism and Education in the United States (1980); Joseph J. Cohen and Alexis C. Ferm, The Modern School of Stelton (1925); Margaret Sanger, An Autobiography (1938).