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Marjorie Foster Saltzman ’44

A pioneer in the field of family planning, Marjorie volunteered at Planned Parenthood for longer than any other person in America, teaching thousands of teenagers about birth control, family planning, and sexual health.

Marjorie considered overpopulation the world’s most pressing problem, and she wanted every pregnancy in Portland to be a planned one. In her straightforward manner, she delivered the unvarnished facts. Even sniggering boys in the classrooms snapped to attention when she explained Oregon’s laws on paternity testing and 18 years of child support payments.

“As Saltzman proceeds, the class settles, the buzz of nervous excitement and embarrassed laughter subsiding into rapt attention,” columnist Jonathan Nicholas of the Oregonian wrote in 1989. “By the time she reaches for her packet of condoms, you could hear a pin drop.”

Margie grew up in Sandpoint, Idaho, the middle of three sisters, in a close-knit family. But they were the only Jewish family in town, and when her daughters became teenagers Mrs. Foster announced, “That’s it. We’re getting out of Sandpoint. I want my daughters to marry Jewish boys.”

The family moved to Portland in 1938, and the girls were enrolled at Lincoln High School. Marjorie attended Reed for a year before transferring to the University of Washington, where she studied sociology and psychology. In 1942, she met Jack Saltzman, who had just graduated from the University of Oregon and was soon to be an officer in the Coast Guard. They got married the next year; Jack’s first assignment took them to San Francisco, where Marjorie worked for Bank of America.

After World War II, the couple moved back to Portland and raised four children. Marjorie was active with many different organizations, including Temple Beth Israel, the League of Women Voters, the National Council of Jewish Women, and the Donald E. Long Home for juvenile offenders. Volunteering led to what would become her life’s passion, Planned Parenthood. In 1969, she began advocating for women’s reproductive rights. She was a board member and a donor at Planned Parenthood, but her greatest contribution was as an educational volunteer, which she did for more than 40 years, going into classrooms, shelters, and prisons to teach family planning and sexual health.

In 2003, she was honored with the Margaret Sanger Award as Planned Parenthood’s longest-term volunteer in the nation. “Marjorie has been described as delightful, unflappable, enlightening, and straight up awesome by generations of teenagers and educators.” Her efforts were commemorated when the Marjorie Saltzman Education Center opened at the Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette location in 2010. The education center holds many of the training materials Marjorie developed. However, the recognition that meant the most to her came from the students themselves. A typical response was expressed in a note that stated: “Nobody has ever talked to me about this. You made it so easy to ask questions. Thank you for telling me things that will keep me from making mistakes. Know that you are making a difference.”

She lived to see her name added to the Walk of the Heroines at Portland State University, and Elders In Action awarded her the Health and Education Silver Award. Her children, Jeff Saltzman, Barbara Lovre, Dan Saltzman, and Julie Leuvrey, survive her.

Appeared in Reed magazine: December 2016

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