Margaret Sanger was born on September 14, 1879 in the River Flats district of Corning. In the late nineteenth century, this was a crowded tenement-style neighborhood occupied mostly by immigrants such as Margaret’s Irish parents, Michael and Anne Purcell Higgins.
Though Sanger’s father, Michael Higgins, was a freethinker, her mother remained a devout Catholic. Margaret, the sixth of eleven children, was baptized a Roman Catholic and attended St. Mary Mother of Mercy Church. Michael Higgins is believed to have sculpted stone grave monuments for Saint Mary's Cemetery in exchange for a rental of a house on the river flats, the location of Margaret Sanger’s birthplace. Though Higgins was a freethinker, he supposedly sculpted numerous works on religious themes, including likenesses of saints and angels.