Margaret Sanger, "Conference on Contraceptive Research and Clinical Practice Welcoming Speech Notes," 29 Dec 1936.
Source: "Margaret Sanger Papers, Library of CongressLibrary of Congress Microfilm, 128:0262."
The Conference on Contraceptive Research and Clinical Practice was held New York City at the Hotel Roosevelton December 29 and 30, 1936. It was attended by over fifty representatives from birth control clinics around the country. No final version of Sanger's welcome has been found. For additional quotes from this event see Statement from the Conference on Contraceptive Research and Clinical Practice, Dec. 29, 1936 and The Future of Contraception, Dec. 29, 1936.For earlier drafts see the Library of Congress Microfilm 128:264, 131:62B, 72, and 76, and Margaret Sanger Microfilm, Smith College Collections S71:865 and 870.
LADIES AND GENTLEMAN:
On behalf of the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau, it is my privilege and my great pleasure to welcome you.
I am not going to take up the precious time of this Conference to tell you all that our clinic has achieved in the thirteen years it has been functioning. We are justly proud of its record, not only as a research center specializing in mechanical methods of contraception, but as an educational organization where students of administration and technical problems may come to study aspects of contraceptive methods not available elsewhere. We have kept the records of some fifty-six thousand women who have voluntarily appealed to us for help.
The outstanding achievement of this Clinic has been to remove the whole question of Birth Control from the field of hot and angry theoretical controversy to the calm quiet of scientific research, and to enlist the cooperation of competent scientists and physicians in amassing a wealth of incontrovertible evidence supporting the feasibility and the desirability of contraceptive practice.
Patient effort has been rewarded with a large measure of success. But we are not content to rest upon our laurels, to make large-scale claims. On the contrary: instead of looking back, we continue to look forward. We feel that these thirteen years, and the twelve that preceded them, must be considered as merely preliminary, pioneering years, during which we have succeeded in clearing away the tantalizing underbrush of prejudice and legal obstacles.
We stand at the dawn of a New Day.
This new era we are entering will be characterized, I hope, as that of scientific philanthropy, in contra-distinction to what may be rightly termed non-scientific. The old philanthropy is bankrupt. It has concerned itself mainly with the problem of CLEANING UP THE MESS created by the centuries of uncontrolled breeding.
We can thank the late DEPRESSION for one thing at least. It has turned a pitiless X-ray upon the failure of private and organized charities, upon scattered, uncoordinated and individualistic philanthropies, the aims of which have been ameliorative rather than preventive.
What a waste of money! What a waste of effort! What selfish vanity inspired these great donations. Along came the Depression, and suddenly the seamy side of human society was dragged out into the open for all with intelligent eyes to see.
What did we see?
Millions of Unemployed--and Unemployable.
Millions of Children Hungry, Undernourished, Starving.
Crime Multiplying a thousandfold; Gangs; Racketeers; Kidnappers.
Slums, Breeding Grounds of Disease, Crime, Defects.
Prisons, Asylums, Institutions for the Delinquent, the Defective, the Dependant.
Insanity, Feeble-mindedness propagating itself.
In spite of all the useless millions contributed in Charities, the Normal were compelled to bear the burden of the sub-normal. The whole crisis in racial health can be summed up in one word:
Waste of lives, waste of resources, waste of money.
Worst of all, the appalling, criminal waste of the precious materials out of which we must build the future of humanity-- Waste of Mother life and Child Life.
We must face the obvious fact that it is not enough to try to Clean up the Mess, to approach the problem of human breeding with perfumed disinfectants, to indulge ourselves in the vicious sentimentality of degrading charity. All the advances in Public Health and Sanitation have been made by attacking problems at their source--have been preventive in aim.
No advance in racial health and well-being can be attained until the POLLUTION Of the racial stress is stopped at its source. This PROBLEM IS NOT INSOLUBLE. RACIAL HEALTH IS NOT ONLY POSSIBLE: IT IS AN IMPERATIVE NEED. AND IT CAN BE ATTAINED IF [YOU?] DISINTERESTED SCIENTISTS. Fully realize the basic and leading role you must play in the supreme Drama of the Destiny of the Human Race. Your role is no secondary one to ↑subordinate↓ that of strutting Politicians, Dictators, or Captains of Industry. You are the CAPTAIN on the BRIDGE, guiding HUMANITY into the Unknown Future.
Give us your cooperation, your wisdom, your impersonal courage and bravery! Your greatness will not be measured by the cheap applause of the public: it will be measured by the greatness of the ideal to which you consecrate your efforts.
At the dawn of our New Day, the poor old Human Race seems to be STREAMLINING itself to an EASY EXTINCTION in a general IMBECILITY, since it is increasing and multiplying from its worst stocks. But with the aid of scientific research, the Race has wonderful, almost miraculous powers of regeneration and redemption.
I like to think of the Human Race as a broad deep stream flowing on to its fulfillment and realization. Now it is polluted, muddied. It is the function of the scientist to trace the source of that pollution and to get rid of it. RACE SALVATION awaits the fruits of scientific research and discovery.
I cannot close without expressing our jubilation ↑over↓ the recent opinion handed down by the United States Circuit Court of Appeals, declaring that the Federal Statutes were not designed to obstruct the circulation of articles which may be intelligently employed by conscientious physicians for the purpose of saving life and promoting well-being.” This means the field is cleared for the discovery of cheap, reliable, scientific methods of controlling human fertility. Contraceptive research is now free to pursue its course, ↑emancipated↓ freed of the stigma of prejudice.
Let us close with the hope that this Conference marks not the end of a troubled era, but rather the inauguration of a new epoch--not alone in contraceptive research and clinical methods, but more profoundly of a truly profound and far-seeing scientific love of Mankind.
Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project