Margaret Sanger, "Carnegie Hall Meeting Opening Remarks," 6 Dec 1924.
Source: "Margaret Sanger Papers, Library of CongressLibrary of Congress Microfilm 130:701."
Margaret Sanger opened a birth control meeting at New York's Carnegie Hall with the following remarks. Also see her introductions of James F. Cooper , Dorothy Bocker , I. N. Thurman and Charles Francis Potter .For draft versions see LCM 131:54 and 59.
I wonder how many of you here tonight realize just how significant this gathering really is? How many of you realize that this meeting of intelligent, representative citizens brought together by an interest in birth control represents ten years of struggle and effort. Ten years: Ten years of battling against ignorance and prejudice. A ten year fight for the right to get people to talk and to think about the greatest problem that confronts the human race.
For there are few subjects which have so large a practical significance and at the same time cut so deeply into the foundations of social evolution as birth control.
There are few other questions of equal importance left so long in equal obscurity and yet none perhaps which can show so unequalled a leap in our social vista as birth control has done in so brief a period of time.
Ten years ago to utter the words was looked upon as a crime. To champion the right of millions and millions of enslaved mothers meant an indictment. the whole subject was taboo. It was almost a crime to think of the words.
Even three years ago as you most you remember, a meeting at the town hall was illegally broken up at the instigation of our enemies. We have had to fight every inch of the way. We have had to fight for peaceable and serious discussions of this momentous subject. Tonight the very fact that we are permitted to assemble here unmolested is in itself a great victory.
There are two fundamental reasons for the popular and growing interest in birth control and these are:
That civilization is confronted with two serious problems.
That of the pressure of population upon the food supply.
That of reconciling humanisation with race improvement.
Many of believe that birth control is the key to them both.
Mark Twain said. “Everybody talks about the weather but no one ever seems to ever do any thing about it.”
Well, the American Birth Control League has been, and is, doing something about these problems.
We know that words, theories, sentiments and sympathies are all very good in themselves but we have got to have intelligent thinking and put it into intelligent action.
If the program for birth control is to grow, to expand, if it is even to hold the ground it has gained thru these years of untold sacrifice, of often seemingly hopeless effort we must have cooperation. We must have courageous active cooperation. Not alone of individuals but of organizations and of those who accept the truth of birth control--but do nothing about it.
We need more English courage injected in the intellectual life of America. We need the kind of intellectual courage such as has been shown by Dean Inge, Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells, John Maynard Keynes and Lord Dawson of Penn, the king’s physician. These men have had the courage to publicly express their private convictions. They have never lost in the estimation of the British public by so doing.
The American Birth Control League is calling for the cooperation of the medical profession, for scientific research, for investigation and unbiased study. We continue to point out how birth control is the very pivot of all social problems--problems of child welfare as well as of national health.
We are trying to make the world safe for babies. We insist that sympathy, charity, palliative legislation is not enough. That milk stations are not enough. That maternity centers are not enough. That child labor laws are not enough.
If you could look into the faces of some of the parents whose children labor laws are trying to protect you would see that they are not enough. You would see that such parents has not sufficient earning power to provide for their own existence to say nothing of providing for the eight or ten children that they have already borne. When children are born of such parents and under such conditions necessity forces them to work as soon as they can toddle--or to die. Child labor laws are not enough and children of such parents should never be born.
Societies for the prevention of cruelty to children are not enough. We want to prevent the cruelty of children being born in cruelty. Could anything be more cruel than to be born in disease, ignorance, misery.
If we are to make this world safe for childhood, safe for future generations, safe for civilization we have got to check the endless stream of unwanted death doomed children. This stream can not be swept back with the broom of palliative legislation--nor with the feather duster of organised charity. It must be checked at the source by birth control.
Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project