Margaret Sanger, "Women in War," 13 Mar 1944.

Source: "Margaret Sanger Papers, Library of CongressLibrary of Congress Microfilm 116:0213A."

For earlier draft versions see Margaret Sanger Microfilm, Smith College Collections S72:261 and Library of Congress Microfilm 116:209A, 211, and 214B. No published version was found.


Revised Copy


With the many and various organizations in existence today, for the direct purpose of getting women of all ages and classes into war activities, it does not seem necessary for me to dwell upon these activities. The WAACS, WAVES, etc, etc, are doing the job of settling at least part of the question as to women in this war. Perhaps never before in our history have women been on a more equal footing with men as to training and ability then today. There are, however, two aspects of this war that need special consideration.

The first is the importance of giving the girl of lesser education, elementary or grade school, a full year’s training in essentials of greater and more precise details than those now given the Nurses’ Aides. The year should be divided into four periods of three months each. The first three months to be spent in acquiring knowledge concerning the physical body and its environment. By this I mean any physical body--her own or others--and its proper environment, which includes cleanliness, posture, exercise, rest and order, freedom from vermin and insects; general body and environmental hygiene. The second three months should be given over to the study of food--its values, selection, preparation, special needs for herself and family, and costs. The third period should be devoted to training in the care of and obtaining information regarding infants from birth to the fifth year; the period where our infant deathrate is highest. And the last period to be a giving back, in service, to hospitals as nurses’ assistants. A certificate should be given each girl at the end of this training, and she should be paid each month a stipulated wage, just as the boys in the C. C. C. Camps were paid while they were being instructed.

This one years training should be given to girls from 16 to 18 years of age, and they should not be permitted to work nor encouraged to marry until the course is finished. Such training and knowledge would bring dividends not only to the girls themselves, but also their families, and to the future world in which they must live, marry, and bring up another generation.

The second task that women, especially wives and mothers, should get themselves to do is to study and anticipate the kind of man who is to return to them after this war. I predict a different man--a different human being, as we look at the men in battle in the Pacific--one whose nerves may be shattered, whose outlook on and attitudes toward life may be shaken, cynical, perhaps bitter and disillusioned. What are we doing to prepare ourselves to know this man, to understand this boy whom we sent over to a war for which he was never trained, a war he did not desire? Doctors are reporting the lack in medical psychiatric training to deal with the conditions now manifesting themselves in our men which is called war neurosis. Women should be given courses of study through the Red Cross, or other agencies, in understanding and treating these men when they return to their cities, homes, and families. It will not be broken homes or maimed bodies that will need our care but rather the knowledge of what they have gone through in nervous and emotional stress and strain. Many of them are not going to be able temporarily to fit into the life they left without this understanding, therefore it is essential that we have some knowledge of what is recently called “psychosomatic” medicine. Our men have been and now are going through emotional hell, a kind of life unparalleled in our history and we as women--wives and mothers--should set ourselves the task of learning how to meet the situation and help them adjust to the life that awaits them. It will not be doctors or drugs that can meet this need; it will be courage, vision, gentleness, patients, knowledge, and understanding on the part of women. The need will be great, the task is ours now.

Margaret Sanger

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