Margaret Sanger, "A New Deal for Women," 1932.
Source: "Margaret Sanger Papers, Library of CongressLibrary of Congress Microfilm 131:50."
This was likely written in the summer of 1932, in response to themes Franklin D. Roosevelt used in his presidential campaign.
Forgotten Man-- Today we witness the stirring among the masses toward male solidarity emancipation as this country has not seen since its discovery.
But is it not time some voice should be raised in behalf of the FORGOTTEN WOMAN--that a New Deal should be made for those forty-three million (43,000,000) women of child-bearing age, whose life’s happiness and development depends absolutely upon knowledge to control that function?
A New Deal for the Mother immortalized in Poetry, but cruelly neglected in fact--the Mother whose life is shadowed by the constant fears of pregnancy but whose appeal for knowledge is denied.
Prostitution can not be fought by laws or espionage. Without birth control prostitution can not be fought with success.
Hordes of human beings hurled into existence through self-indulgence, accident, or casual ignorance. This power of parenthood--with divine potentialities--has been diverted from its course into cruel and ruthless exploitation.
The benefits of birth control are direct and indirect.
The indirect effects are specially though not exclusively concerned with its action of stabilizing the growth of population. The political Economist, the Sociologist are concerned.
The Physician, Social worker, Parents and Individuals are interested in its direct influence. 1 The Individual 2 The Family 3 The Race
We must bring home to the minds of thinking people the vital significance of the hereditary factor in each individual life. As we see the truth we must have the courage to proclaim it. It is a stirring and encouraging fact that within the past twenty years, knowledge of birth control has been demanded by all groups of people; that the truth shall no longer be concealed; that the facts of life shall be faced with unswerving courage; and that ignorance and prejudice shall no longer be allowed to menace the lives and happiness of the whole of one people. Many outposts have been captured. The citadel of opposition must be overcome with the weapons of fact, persuasion, and of unconquerable truth, for truth is greater than half-truth, as knowledge is nobler than ignorance.
Wholesale human misery can and will be prevented when we apply the certainty of modern science to our problems instead of the baseless superstitions of medieval theology.
If we shall take a broad outlook of the present Social and Economic problems, we must see that:
First--Habits, customs and tradition of a large part of our population are distinctly dysgenic, owing mainly to centuries of erroneous and false ideas.
Second--That to continue the rate of growth of population is the most momentous issue before the nations of the world today. It transcends all mere political controversy such as tariffs, taxes, currency which can be dealt with by Congresses and Legislatures. But the real life of a Nation, the life of the years ahead depends upon the application of the science of life to the basic problem of the quality of life itself.
We have come to the Crossroads. Which path shall we choose--Strength and Efficiency or Degeneration and Decay?
Birth Control and National Strength must stand or fall together. No longer can we build on the fertility of the physically and mentally unfit. Their upkeep and maintenance has already created a burden under which the Nation begins to stagger. Billions of dollars each year has been spent to preserve them with all the ingenious and kindly resources that modern humanitarian instinct could command.
We have allowed and encouraged the procreation and multiplication of the physically and mentally and socially unfit and preserved them at the cost of the skilled and professional classes until the balance has become unequal to the task.
A Nation rises or sinks on the physical or mental quality of its citizens. It cannot thrive when its fundamental structure is based on defective stock, the increase of morons, feebleminded, psychopaths, diseased slum populations.
It is the mentally weak, the dull, who sap the vitality of the Nation. Their increase becomes a menace to all legislative or social progress. They become the hordes of unemployables, easily exploitable, too weak and ill-equipped to earn a livelihood unaided. They continue to use up the energy and resources of life, without contributing anything to advance our civilization.
We cannot separate the basic quality of life from the economic and fundamental wealth of our Nation. The two are interlocked and react upon each other in the closest fashion. Only our politicians and self-seeking opportunists fail to recognize this. It is not necessary to speak with detailed precision on the minor variations of statistical result. The actual insane may be one million instead of two. The mentally defective may be 35 million instead of 50 million. The unemployables. The unemployables, sick, diseased, may be more or less than our statistics quote, but the fact remains clear, and, all honest investigators will admit, that one-fourth of those who make up this Nation are physically or mentally unfit to carry on the heritage of our civilization. It is this group who combat and weigh down the advance of the Nation. A Nation can only survive in this inter struggle when its units are each fit to carry its equal share.
Had birth control been applied to the problems of poverty, maternal and infant welfare, overcrowding, delinquency and dependency twenty years ago, many of the social and economic conditions we are faced with today would not have arisen. It is the stubborn opposition of medical superstitions which hold progress back. It is the opponents of this humane cause who have increased human misery and at whose doors the death of women in child-bearing and abortions should be laid. They take their stand against birth control but in doing so they must recognize and admit that they also stand for unnecessary and inexcusable waste of mothers’ lives the crowding out of child life, the stunting and dwarfing of child development; the conditions of overcrowding; the increase of abortions; in armies of unemployed and unemployables.
The increasing hordes of feeble-minded children, mental defectives, insane parents and physical and mental weaklings--they have put forth no program to deal with these fundamental factors of life.
Future generations will look upon their ignorance and arrogance as enemies of the poor, who while living in comfort themselves exploit the fears and superstitions of the poverty stricken masses for their own power and wealth
Havelock Ellis says:
"Birth control beyond all reasonable doubt, is, with the feelings and ideas at present prevailing in our civilization, the only method we possess of effecting that restriction of the population, which is required in order to make human life on earth fairly livable."
The birth control movement spread and is now everywhere accepted by the enlightened and intelligent of all nations in practice if not in principle.
To this fact comes the complaint that birth control is practiced among the best class of the country. Well, why not? A beneficial and progressive measure must be applied where initiative and capability exist. It need not end there. Laws compel the poor to apply for medical knowledge to public institutions.
Dickinson and Bryant “all birth control is self control.” " and The final justification for the practice of birth control is, that in it we possess what may now be the only instrument left us for moulding the future race.”
The history of the Woman’s Movement in this era, when it shall be written, will record a strange and illogical fact which will be difficult for future generations to believe or even to understand. The fact that the Woman’s Movement for emancipation has kept itself apart from any cause which advocated sex reform, sex hygiene and birth control.
It will be unbelievable for any enlightened forward thinking person to understand this because it is just that difference in sex--the biological burden or function of child bearing and rearing which rests so definitely on her that has caused less efficiency in woman and consequently her unequal economic position in Society.
Woman has struggled upward for her rights and she has won them one by one, but until she has her biological freedom over the laws of child-bearing her other prizes so hardly won can do little for her onward march in civilization. The function of procreation must be under her control for the woman who is constantly submerged in the fears of pregnancy can never be equal in social or political efficiency to men.
Were it not for the few women who through wealth and the position of influence or or those living childless or unmarried lives, the Woman’s Movement would still be struggling for her equal place in the social strata.
Are there any women today anywhere in political, commercial or professional leadership with large families? No. It is only because they have had this function under complete control that they have been able to rise to any heights in educational cultural stature of our modern life.
The leading women in the political movement while accepting the practice of birth control for themselves have been most punctilious in keeping their news and opinions on this subject cloistered with those which their ecclesiastical fathers handed down to them. They left the work of refuting certain claims about sex and sin, and shame to men. It was such writers as Edward Carpenter, Havelock Ellis, August Forel and others equally courageous, who dared to awaken and arouse public interest in the beauty, power and magnitude of the sex impulse and to dissociate it from indecency, obscenity and pornography. The younger people today are accepting these views which are forging ahead with other advanced ideas. They all link together in a chain giving strength to a higher phase of consciousness by which the human race will advance and evolve.
Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project