Warning: Use of undefined constant editmode - assumed 'editmode' (this will throw an Error in a future version of PHP) in /home/mspporg/sangerpapers.org/includes/docheader.php on line 49

Margaret Sanger, "Too Many People: Radio Port-au-Prince Interview," Feb 1948.

Source: "Margaret Sanger Papers, Library Of Congress Library of Congress Microfilm 130:636."

This is a rough draft of Sanger's talk that was broadcast as a radio discussion on station HH2S in Port-au-Prince. Some handwritten corrections were made by Sanger, many more by Dorothy Brush, her traveling companion, including many of the questions asked by Jules Wiesel and Mrs. Petch. No final version of the talk was found.


Station HH2S--Radio Port Au Prince: Margaret Sanger


Sanger Thank you, Mr. Weisel. I am glad to have this opportunity to speak from Haiti on this vital quesiton of world population.

For the first time in history people are thinking of an international program for population control. ↑ Congress ↓ It is significant that a United Nations delegate at the international Health Conference said, "The control of the birth rate is as important as control of the atom bomb."


Population is a large and vague word-- But when you think about it more carefully it simply means people. Our leaders disagree on this problem of people. Some leaders want many more people to populate their countries. They give prizes and rewards to ↑fathers↓ mothers of big families. They think of national welfare in terms of how many nationals they have of military age. Other experts disagree with this philosophy, because they believe ↑ing↓ that unlimited masses of people are ↑a brake on; civilzation↓ meaningless--and dangerous. What this world needs, they explain are more productive, creative people who are able to contribute to our civilization ↑accelerate progress↓ These experts are alarmed at the swarming millions of unproductive, ↑dependant↓ defective human life that is multiplying with such senseless violence. They explain that this is a finite earth. Space is increasingly limited. Food resources are becoming alarmingly limited. ↑scarce↓ Must the productive people have less to eat in order to feed more and more ↑of the↓ unproductive ↑?↓ mouths? ↑Since↓ We have learned, the experts explain that we must ↑to↓ plan the size of our families according to our resources, the next step is to plan the number of people our countries can support. [ deleted]

↑This very summer an international congress of investment scientists & distinguished people alive to this danger are meeting in England to discuss world population and world resources. Population seems like an abstract subject.↓

↑Wiesel Are there figures to suggest how that number could be arrived at (2) ↓

SANGER: It takes 100 acres of tillable land to give meat to nine people once a day....100 acres of grazing land to give milk to forty children once a day....And 100 acres of tillable land to give bread or cereal to 280 people once a day. ↑ and people increase while the amount of land remains the same↓ Millions of people never have meat or cow's milk.

↑ Wiesel: The last war than did not diminish the population by much? ↓

Sanger: There are more people on the earth now in the last 150 years than there were during ALL the millions of years that man has lived on this planet... The earth is only so big--there's only so much food to go around--only so much soil to grow it in. ↑of course ↓ ↑and we now have 10% less food per person than before the war.↓ So we have to begin to think about our population problem.

[ deleted] the millions who were killed in the last war. . . And ↑but↓ still the population soared--while all the time the food to support all these people fell off, ↑as farm lands were ruined, sometimes terrain, by war.↓

PETCH: But why has this startling rise in population happened so fast--and in such a short time Mrs. Sanger?

SANGER: Modern medicine and sanititation have given us for the first time a genuinely effective method of death control. . . . PETCH: And now that doctors can keep us from dying ↑We do not die↓ as fast and as young as our ancestors used to die.

↑Wiesel: And so↓ you mean, there's nothing to stop people multiplying at a violent rate?

SANGER: You see ↑Before medicine↓ wars and germs killed off our ancestors quite effectively--so there was a real balance between the number of people who used to be born and the number who died to make more room for them.... But ↑not now.↓ wars alone don't hold down population. [ torn]

SANGER: Mrs. Petch i ↑I↓ if this rise in population keeps up we are going to increase at the frightening rate of 200 million every ten years... And despite Western Europe is sick from the population binge ↑(orgy)↓ it began a century ago. And we're all concerned with the problems of teeming Asia--wracked by famines, constant hunger and disease. Don't forget as we gain more control over the death rate through our increasing medical knowledge--there will be still more people. There just are not resources to give people the food nad clothing and shelter they must have. And the more people there are--the less each person can expect to get. ↑The lower our standards go↓

Wiesel Yet we hear cries of alarm from many nations informed they are losing out in the birth rate race. In fact most European countries still are taking official action to encourage more babies.

Sanger Yes, while those who are alive are starving.

PETCH: But why do you think that ↑are↓ most countries are so anxious for a high birth rate?

SANGER: You know Hitler had a powerful propaganda machine. I believe without realizing it people everywhere have absorbed his doctrine despite his downfall that there is an actual connection between numbers and power. ↑Its not the people Mrs. Petch Its the militarists, leaders in congested countries↓

SANGER: Look what happened with the Axis nations! They were all explosively over-populated even before World War 1. In the 1920's serious-minded Japanese and Italian officials tried to apply brakes to their terrific rate of growth. But the militarists won out. They knew that over-population made their countries ripe for military dictatorship and conquest. ↑What makes↓ Men want to fight ↑?↓ , for ↑lack of↓ bread for their children. ↑The cry for land is the cry for the cry for bread. The cry for babies is the cry for war.↓

PETCH: And then of course at the very opposite extreme to the Axis we have ↑There are↓ the vastly over-crowded countries like China and India.

SANGER: Yes-- ↑Where many are too weak from lack of food even to fight to eat.↓ we've been dreadfully confused on this problem of population. China and India's tremendous birth rate are certainly no sign of ↑Natural↓ strength or national virility ↑Political power↓ You know Mrs. Petch when I hear people quote from the Bible "Be fruitful and multiply"-- I want to remind them of another Biblical saying-- "Thou has multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy." That's from Isaiah in the 9th chapter, 3rd verse.

PETCH: But, Mrs. Sanger isn't there strength in numbers? And doesn't our national security depend on it?

SANGER: If America's safety depended on numbers we would have ↑been↓ beaten at the start of both world wars. You know what a decisive factor the United States actually was in modern, technological warfare. It is the quality of [brains?] ↑brains?↓ that counts. In fact our national--and international security depends on this!--and by quality I mean man's intelligence and ingenuity and foresight--but most of ↑/↓ all man's humanity. That is what will count in our fight to survive and achieve a stable world peace. We won the last war because we had a surplus of goods over and above the needs of our own daily living. We can win the peace because we have enough goods to keep ↑our own↓ people fed and clothed and housed. Happy, well-fed people are not led by ↑do not listen to↓ warmongers. They would think it a poor bargain to give up their freedom to dictators who promise them bread if they ↑already↓ have bread--and freedom to eat it in! That's the best combination for peace.

Wiesel You speak of an economy of population for the future-- May I ask if you think we are utilizing our present population as effectively as we could.

↑Sanger: No indeed.↓

SANGER: Technically trained people are badly needed in many parts of the world. We keep saying that in the case of certain skills and professions, a nation will ahve to wait for a whole new crop of babies to grow up before the trained group are availible in large enough numbers. I'd like to see an International Placement Bureau--a Labor Pool of skills and professions. Individuals from this pool could ↑choose to↓ be sent to any part of the world where they are needed.

PETCH: But how could you start this Labor Pool of professions and skills?

SANGER: Just think of all the highly trained men and women wasting away in the Displaced Persons Camps! It's criminal to waste people like that. If they could be made availible according to their skills, to the countries that need those techniques, it would be one way of solvign their problem.

PETCH: You know Mrs. Sanger, I've lived a great deal ↑I understand that↓ in Scandinavia--where your idea has been attempted on a national scale. It's been very successful. Those countries are really a small scale model of what you hope to do on a world scale, aren't they?

SANGER: Yes, so far only small countries with no imperialistic ambitions like the Scandinavian lands have attempted this planning of their people. ↑to their resources↓

PETCH: And they certainly found that it made for happiness and plenty for all their citizens. Everyone had a fair share of food and jobs and homes.

SANGER: When the great powers recognize the truth--that it's the caliber of people and NOT the quantity of people that matters, they will begin planning their populations. When that day comes, no nation will have more people than it's resources can take care of satisfactorily.

SANGER: ↑and that day will come.↓ There are courageous, farsighted people throughout the world who believe that the time has come for less waste in people, Mrs. Petch. They are deeply concerned with the swarming millions of unproductive, defective human life that is multiplying with such uncontrolled velocity. You see once we stop thinking that ↑realizing brains, not↓ numbers mean strength we have to change our attitudes. In modern war and in modern peaceful society, it takes ability and skill and education to function. Numbers no longer mean strength in war or in peace!

PETCH: Where are your Conference delegates coming from Mrs. Sanger?

And while you were helping to solve their problems the countries that employed them would be helped back on their feet. It's an extraordinarily interesting idea, Mrs. Sanger.

Wiesel: In closing Mrs. Sanger may I ask you how you became so influenced in so [one word illegible] an abstract idea as subject as population

[paragraphs missing]

They have accepted Hitler's propaganda that only frowing natios are strong, and so they think that nations with a stable or a declining population must be "old" or on their way out.

PETCH: Yes--I'm afraid a great many of us believe that. But isn't there some truth in the idea of a growing nation?

[paragraphs missing]

began to see what a tremendous job control of birth could do in effecting world peace. If hungry, despserate people explode into war, why not begin to balance the number of people born with the resources availablle to care for them? Then all of us can enjoy the good things of this world ↑none of us need starve or do without↓ . If medical science has given us the blessing of controlling death, it has been generous in also giving us the means of controlling birth. Now we can plan both the size of our families and the growth of our nations. And by planning we can produce the number of people that we can best take care of.

[paragraphs missing]

I've seen what poverty and overcrowding did in the slums of New York when I worked in them as a nurse 30 years ago. ↑ And I saw how control of numbers brought health & prosperity to a family.↓ I have just expanded ↑ The principles operating in ↓ those New York City slums . Now I see ↑to↓ the terrible world slums. Like all slums they breed death and hunger and disease--and finally war!

PETCH: So your idea has grown from one slum in one city to the whole ↑one slum of the one↓ world.

Subject Terms:

Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project