PLANNED PARENTHOOD OF GREATER OHIO, pioneer local provider of FAMILY PLANNING, opened on 21 March 1928 as the independent Maternal Health Assn. (MHA). One of the first 50 such clinics in the U.S. and the first in Cleveland, the MHA provided married WOMEN with birth control—then an illicit service unavailable from most medical facilities and physicians. The MHA affiliated with the Planned Parenthood Federation of America in 1942, and in 1966 changed its name to Planned Parenthood of Greater Cleveland (PPGC). Although supporting women's right to choose an abortion since 1973, PPGC has never offered abortions. Influenced by volunteer experiences with distraught mothers at a prenatal clinic, DOROTHY HAMILTON BRUSH and Hortense Oliver Shepard, with other supporters (including EDNA BRUSH PERKINS and Katherine Bingham Fisher), first attempted to offer birth control through city hospitals (see HOSPITALS AND HEALTH PLANNING). Thwarted by fear of prosecution under the Comstock Law and of opposition from the city's sizable Roman Catholic population (see CATHOLICS, ROMAN), the privately funded association opened instead in the Osborne Bldg. (on Prospect Ave. near PUBLIC SQUARE), staffed by such physicians as SARAH MARCUS and RUTH ROBISHAW. The BRUSH FOUNDATION provided significant financial support. The first Medical Advisory Board of prominent physicians (including William H. Weir) added credibility while MHA officers (including FRANCES PAYNE BOLTON, honorary chair, and Frances Southworth Goff, treasurer) and an executive committee (including Julia McCune Flory and ROGER PERKINS, M.D.) governed the organization; GLADYS GAYLORD served as clinic administrator for nearly 20 years. Many well-known residents, some with roots on "Millionaires Row" (EUCLID AVE.), have served as MHA trustees. To circumvent legal prohibitions, a few volunteers personally transported supplies (while on business trips) in the clinic's early years. The MHA saw 510 clients from a wide geographic area between 1928-30. The clinic trained professionals in family planning and soon offered marriage counseling (1930s) and fertility counseling (1946). It opened its first branch, on Cleveland's west side, in 1936, and sent Gaylord to help establish clinics across Ohio and in Puerto Rico (1930s). The Cleveland MHA remained separate from national organizations until 1942, but served as the headquarters of the Maternal Health Assn. of Ohio (est. 1933).

Aided by newly available federal funding in the 1960s, the clinic expanded: it served 1,611 clients in 1960, 2,967 in 1964; staffed the city's first public family-planning clinic at Metropolitan General Hospital (1965); and sponsored the Community Family Planning Project (1968), funded by the CLEVELAND FOUNDATION and INDUSTRY. In the 1980s and 1990s, among other services, PPGC worked to lower the high teenage pregnancy rate, with its Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Panel (with the FEDERATION FOR COMMUNITY PLANNING), peer training, and self-esteem enhancement. PPGC served 10,828 clients in 1983 and 14,047 a decade later. In 1994 it maintained clinics in BEDFORD, EAST CLEVELAND, LAKEWOOD, and BROOKLYN, in addition to its headquarters, 3135 Euclid Ave. Planned Parenthood served approx. 14,000 people in 1994. Betsey Kaufman served as executive director in 1995.

In 2012, PPGC merged with Planned Parenthood of Central Ohio and Planned Parenthood Affiliates of Ohio to become Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio. As of 2020, the organization operates nineteen health center locations to serve women and families in sixty-eight counties. The organization provides abortion services in their two centers in Columbus and Bedford Heights.  

Black, white and red text reading Western Reserve Historical Society

Finding aid for the Planned Parenthood of Greater Cleveland Records, WRHS.


Meyer, J. Any Friend of the Movement: Networking for Birth Control, 1920-1940. Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, 2004.

Meyer, J. "Birth Control Policy, Practice, and Prohibition in the 1930s: The Maternal Health Assn. of Cleveland, Ohio," (Ph.D. diss., CWRU, 1993).

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