Margaret Sanger, "Individual and Family Aspects of Birth Control," 11 Jul 1922.
Source: " Report of the Fifth International Neo-Malthusian and Birth Control Conference, Kingsway Hall, London, July 11-14, 1922, 30-32 Margaret Sanger Microfilm, Smith College Collections S70:937."
Margaret Sanger gave this speech in London as part of the Fifth International Neo-Malthusian and Birth Control Conference. For other speeches and statements given at this meeting, see Individual and Family Aspects of Birth Control, July 11, 1922 and "Press Statement at the Fifth International Neo-Malthusian and Birth Control Conference," July 11, 1922.
We will now begin the process of work for this afternoon. I believe that the power of this Conference and part of the interest of it is in discussion of the various papers at the end of the session, and so I believe it would be of advantage to make my address as brief as possible, and to put aside some of our time this afternoon for open and free discussion from the floor.
Therefore, I am going to be a model chairman. According to the rules of chairmen in America, a good chairman must get up, sit down, and shut up. My rules for chairmanship are going to be based on that rule this afternoon.
It seems to me very fitting indeed that this Conference should open with a session on the subject of the individual, for I believe that in the rapid evolution which has been in progress during the past fifty years we have spent most of our energies, time, and thought upon the creation and construction of material things, such as roads, railroads, bridges, and steamships, to say nothing of prisons, insane asylums, and various other institutions. We realise that consideration for the individual and for the quality of human life itself has almost been neglected and overlooked. The old saying that "a chain is only as strong as its weakest link" has become quite evident to-day, for the civilisation of the future depends, and will depend, upon the quality of the individual to-day.
In our programme for the welfare and happiness of humanity we must modify our ideals. To-day the average reliance of civilisation is based upon iron and steel, bricks and mortar, and we must change this to the construction and evolution of humanity itself.
From the dawn of humanity, and even the dawn of civilisation, we have recognised that there are two fundamental urges which have prodded mankind forward. These have been hunger and sex. While they have both been neglected factors to a great extent in our recognition of them, the French Revolution aroused the whole civilised world to realisation of the fact that the urge of hunger cannot be ignored without dire consequences to all.
The other urge, of sex, however, has been almost entirely ignored, and it is now time for us to awaken the conscience of the present generation to a realisation of the consequences to civilization unless we accept this instinct, and recognise it as fully fundamental and equally dynamic and fateful in its consequences as hunger. In the building of a new world, we cannot ignore either of these primary instincts. They must go hand in hand in solving the problems of the present and immediate future.
It seems to me that the subject of Birth Control is particularly an individual issue. In my own work in America and other countries, I have found that it is the most extraordinary movement because of that factor. It interests every adult, matured individual. It makes no difference, whatever may be the race, colour of the skin, economic principles, theories or religious creeds, Birth Control is of interest to every individual, and it seems to me that is the thing we must work upon. Recognising that, we have in a way an easier avenue of approach than other movements, which are divided by class, creeds, and dogmas.
Again, I have found that while in some countries there is special antagonism by the official Church, and even by official Labour, it has been my experience that the various members of the Church are desirous of having the information by which they may limit their numbers. I have found the same with Labour. While official Labour may object to the theories of the advocates of Birth Control, and particularly their economic theories, as far as the individual is concerned, they agree to the right of the individual to have this particular knowledge.
So it is my hope that out of this Conference will come a great awakening of all people, of all creeds and all nations, and that after that we will recognise that we must get to work on the two fundamental urges of humanity--sex and hunger. They must go hand in hand if we are to bring about the great international goal of peace.
Now, it seems to me that the thing to do to-day is to leave our discussion and expression of the various opinions that we all have until after the papers have been read, and inasmuch as some of the writers of the addresses on this afternoon's programme have indicated their desire to read their papers at another section--I think at the medical section--that leaves us more time for discussion, and also, perhaps, for an extra paper.
Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project