Margaret Sanger, "Questions and Answers by Mrs. Margaret Sanger at Conclusion of her Speech," 17 Jan 1932.
Source: "Margaret Sanger Papers, Library of CongressLibrary of Congress Microfilm 65:380."
This is a transcription of questions from the audience and Sanger's responses following a speech Sanger gave to the New History Society at the Park Lane Hotel, New York, on January 17, 1932. For the text of the speech, see " My Way to Peace ." Sanger made several corrections and comments by hand. The transcriber also made one handwritten comment, included because it suggests the content of part of one of Sanger's answers was not transcribed.
1. I heard it stated that the intellectual and gifted classes sterilize themselves. Is there anything to prove that they are sterilized, and that their small birth rate is a matter of choice?
There is nothing that will confirm that the intellectuals are sterilized. It is a question of choice ↑proper knowledge↓ . The people of these classes usually are more ambitious. They go to Law Schools and colleges, and marry at a later age thus postponing parenthood, but there is nothing in the statistics to show that they are sterilized. However, it is better ↑& more↓ possible for them to keep up their standards of living and to give to their children all that they require.
2. At the coming Geneva Conference, will this matter of birth control be taken up into conjunction with disarmament?
No. But it should.
3. What nation was the first to abust ↑practice↓ birth control?
4. In how many states of the United States can birth control information literature be legally distributed?
Such literature cannot go through the United States mails. However, the theory and history of birth control may be sent by mail in printed form, but letters conveying the practical information, the kind that tells what you want to know, is strictly forbidden.
5. How do you propose to distribute this information and advice in view of these restrictions?
We hope to change the law so that physicians may receive up to date literature and medical supplies, and be able to enlighten the public.
6. Would it not be better, instead of practicing birth control, to reduce the hours of labor and increase pay, thus solving the unemployment situation and providing thus provide for the surplus population?
I think we would all like to receive a decrease in hours and an increase in pay. The point is, doesn’t one bring about the other? If you can look into this very deeply, you will find out that while it may help primarily, it will not solve the problem ultimately, but only lead to a further increase in population. We are suffering because of child labor. A child competes with its own parents in industry, and that is why the population has been multiplying in order to increase the earning power of the family, and has made this problem so acute. This system must be changed, and we have got to have birth control.
7. Is it not a fact that Holland is the most peaceful country in the world today because she practices birth control?
Yes. Holland was the first country to organize the information on birth control. France started it very early at the time of Napoleon by distributing contraceptionary advice and information, but although the idea was good, she was not as efficient as Holland who had the most excellent results to show for it in 40 years. Her death rate has gone down considerably. Holland is a peaceful country.
8. What is Russia doing today about this birth control problem?
In Russia, while the government does not have any provision concerning birth control, or ↑for↓ the facilities of distributing scientific information and advice, any individual desiring this it may receive instruction and information on his or her individual health. When they become married in Russia, they are questioned as to where they are going to live, what are their plans for a livelihood, how many children they expect to have, etc. (please add to this)
The labor condition in Russia today is more satisfactorily advanced than in any other country in the world.
9. What is your idea about immigration?
I believe that it would be better for us to keep the doors closed for another 10 years, but not for all time. At least until we have pulled ourselves together; until we have our own back yards cleaned up and put in order.
10. Is it not unsafe to distribute information on birth control through the mails for fear it might fall into the hands of the younger people who are not entitled to it, and who might abuse it causing their morals to be corrupted?
We cannot get immoral by knowledge.
We have clinics where they may receive adequate information for their individual needs. This can only be given when the individual comes in person to receive medical information from the doctors directly, and we must instruct and encourage the people to do this.
Morality and union never beckon on the outside. There is nothing immoral in knowledge. It
is from the beginning and from within. After 2,000 years of control over our youth, if
the church is still afraid to trust our younger people with knowledge, and keep them in
ignorance and fear, then I must say and confess that they must have been a failure.
11. You say that birth control leads to peace. Then why is it that Australia and New Zealand, where there is much birth control going on, are the must warlike nations, while France has furnished less men for wars? ↑?Questionable about A. & N.Z.↓
When talking about controlling the birth rate, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t have strong men and a good ↑larger↓ population. It is nature through which you control the birth rate. In Holland it gave them an increased population, but a slowly increasing population. You can increase the population slowly and absorb it easily and without bad results. Controlling the birth rate doesn’t mean a decrease in population, but a sturdy healthy quality of human beings as in Holland where the men have increased in height from 4 to 5 inches, with a marked improvement in stature and physical health.
12. What can the public do to help you change the laws on birth control?
A great deal. People should write to their representatives and Senators in Congress stating what it may mean to us as a principle toward peace. Most of our congressmen are not conscious of this movement, and will not act unless we call it to their attention, and we can do it by writing to our senators and representative of our state.
13. Why not ask all of these people here tonight to write? Well, I would like it very much.
14. Wouldn’t birth control lead us to the possible destruction of the human race?
↑ Note by Bernard Berkowitz, the transcriber: Note: Please supply answer which dealt with something about an instinct of self-preservation. ↓
We protect our health and that of our children. The birth rate has gone down in certain classes that have had the good things in life. The families that live in poverty and ignorance send their children to factories, and they have the worst times. There is a better chance of happiness and advancement through means of birth control.
15. Would it be advisable to have a health certificate issued before marriage?
That is not altogether enough. Only those interested would want this, to insure themselves. But if the morons, the feeble, and the diseased who could not secure such a certificate, wouldn’t require it at all because they would go and live together and have children anyway.
16. Have you any definite plan so that the intellectual classes might multiply about 700 times in order to improve our society?
What do we need a large population for? It is better to have a number of people to whom
you could insure a greater amount of happiness. That is what we want.
17. In Oregon, a law was passed a few years ago requiring that a health certificate be issued before marriage. If those who wanted to get married and were unfit went to another state, thus eluding this law, couldn’t they be punished for it?
No. They could thus elude the Oregon law, and there is no law against any Oregon residents indulging in this practice.
18. To what extent have you succeeded in teaching birth control to mental defectives?
Most women who come to clinics and other health stations want means of safeguarding their health and that of their families. We have a very small percentage of mental defectives that are cognizant of the fact that they should not have children. The question of methods makes a great deal of difference, and we advise sterilization as the best remedy.
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