Margaret Sanger, "Wanted--A Bigger Motherhood," 1912.
Source: "Margaret Sanger Papers, Library of CongressLibrary of Congress Microfilm 131:0108."
For a draft version of this article see "A Crying Need for a Greater Motherhood," ca. 1912 on Library of Congress Microfilm 131:46.
Mothers of today ↑let us↓ keep that last line ever before our eyes. "Pass guiltlessly upon the other side." For as the children of today are the society of tomorrow holding full sway over all--we must stand back & see the view the passing generation of our creation and we can not shut our eyes to the good or wrong we have done them. Accordingly shall we be judged. Wonder & exclaim as we stand back & review the passing people of our creation, why so many are in jails & prisons, so many paupers and prostitutes so many thieves & murderers and so few having the flag of his country many marred & sick & dead--
The problems of the children, of sex of education, in fact are problems of life, are the mothers problems and the mothers of today have been too long shifting her responsibilities on her single sister & passed upon "the other side." On the child of today is moulded so will that form will our future Society take and so will they call us to account for the neglect toward them.
Only a few days ago Im talking to a farmers wife and was greatly impressed by their attitude of "passing on the other side." In relating some of the experience I had on the lower East Side in homes of poverty and sickness, where a father and mother work side by side in the factory, leaving the family of five children to the care of the oldest girl in years--the children remain in the streets all day getting their meals ↑lunch↓ as best they can out of garbage pails or gutter until the parents come home at night. After I had related a few such stories which had come directly under my care, tears glistened in her eyes, she drew both her children close to her and said "Oh City Woman I'm so glad my children have their mother, & good food, & plenty of air & sunshine, I'm so happy that they are out of those harried cities & here where they can chase the butterflies gather daisies & romp & play to their hearts desire"-- She dashed a tear from off her nose, braced herself in her chair and began, "but after all its no use in our worrying about these things, they are there, & they can't be helped & I just won't think about them."
This good kind human was as deserted wife & mother as we could find today to her own, but no other little waif ever stood even in the shadow of that love, she would not think of the waifs so she "passed upon the other side." Mothers of today is this not what millions of us are doing. Are we not afraid to meet the cruelties of our own neglect. Are we not afraid to face the four millions of little toilers returning at night fall from the mills & factories with faces pale & worn & bodies bent and old, they have been making the clothing for us, for ours, which gives us more time for culture & education, they return old in experience and weary with life at twelve years--to their huts to eat their scanty food & throw their frail and tired forms upon heaps of rags on the floor, to prepare for the next day's toil: Are we not afraid to face the thousands of little ones spending their daytime from sunrise to sunset in the dark cellar picking over old rags & doing so called "easy work" emerging at night fall thinly clad, tired and pale not a ray of sun to kiss their features for months.
Are we not afraid to face the thousands of "little mothers" ranging in years from 9 to 12 weighed down with the burdens and cares of the younger children, shoulder bent and whole body tending toward deformity with carrying the little ones.
Think of allowing the future men and women to be reared by Children not much older than themselves-- how many accidents is due to this neglect, How easily Society passes on the other side & smiles at the "little mother" & praises them, but does nothing to preserve their health for the future big mothers.
Are we not afraid of the thousands of little girls whose power of motherhood has been taken from her on account of diseases of gonorrhea etc. contracted in filthy toilets in the tenements, hundreds of little girls contract this disease & are neglected-- mothers are away at work, the "little mother" knows nothing of this ailment, and so the baby of three years is being slowly eaten away by this dreadful disease and unless death relieves her she lives deprived of the most beautiful gift of this life-- the gift of motherhood.
Mothers of today let us look at each other unmasked--let us tear this mask of indifference & hypocrisy from off our eyes, & face these conditions & meet them squarely. These children who work in the mills & factories, & cellars, these neglected & starved children of the slums; these diseased & deformed children of neglect. Even the children who are pushed about in the streets by every one, the children of the reform schools and jails, yes even the children who walk the streets at night to sell their bodies are all ours--they are ours. Mothers-- yours & mine. Our sisters are their mothers they are & all belong to us-- for we are mothers of the ↑human↓ race-- These children cry out to us for protection ↑These creatures of our creation↓ They are the products of our neglect. And the time has come for mothers of today to face this neglect.
Children are creatures of environment as all mothers know and yet walk through the streets of any city from 9am to 3pm when the older children are in school & see what environment the children of today, the men & women of tomorrow, are spending their little lives, waiting for the time to go to school.
From the time a baby can toddler from its mothers side until its ready for the kindergarten it receives its first lessons of life-- and thousands yes, millions learn this first lesson in the street. There is no place for them, they are in the way on the roads on the side walks on the steps in the houses. No place in this beautiful world of ours for Gods most perfect creation the little child. & our future Society taken its first lesson eating from garbage cans, stealing from grocers lying, fighting, swearing, and we will wonder & exclaim as we stand back & review the passing people of our creation, why so many are in jails & prisons, so many paupers & prostitutes, so many thieves & murderers and so few bearing the flag of his country many marred & sick & dead.
The problems of the children, of sex of education, in fact all problems of life, are the mothers problems, and the mothers of today have been too long shifting her responsibilities on her single sister & passed upon "the other side" as the child of today is moulded so will that form will our future Society take, and so will they call us to account for the neglect toward them.
Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project