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Margaret Sanger, "Preparation for Parenthood Speech Notes ," 29 Dec 1920.

Source: "Margaret Sanger Papers, Sophia Smith Collection Margaret Sanger Microfilm, Sophia Smith Collection S70:881."

Sanger drafted these notes for a series of speeches she gave in Harlem. No final version found. The editors have added some punctuation to clarify lists that cannot be transcribed as written.

Preparation for Parenthood

Dec 29-1920

Review previous lectures--

(a) necessity for clean adolescent life--

(b) love period for development & b.c knowledge.

(c) two functions in union--love--procreative (both sacramental)

In preparing for parenthood--two important phases to consider--the physical & the mental--should not be separated--


child should be desired=result of love life happy mental condition attract to you the kind fitted for. music, art, literature--

↑birth [marks?] .↓

physical condition previous to pregnancy}

good health--free from inherited disease free from fatigue--days fatigue Alcohol No orsets, high heel shoes--

Some women desire children--not fitted

When should a women not have children

Not before 22--man 25.

When either parent is diseased T.B. syphilis insanity--feeble minded--

When children are not healthy.

Not for two years after birth last child

Economic conditions justify

Today's conditions 5 years for working woman

Press--schools--woman's evolution

All means knowledge of birth control

Can one depend on Safe Period in month when pregnancy will not take place?

How conception takes place

Organs of generation

ovaries 50,000 womb 3 in. long 1/2 in. thick tubes breasts vagina wrinkled tube

Spermatozoa 50,000,000 meets ova size berry--lemon, 9 lbs 4 1/2 months quickening--9 months

280 days--fed by cord & placenta.

How to reckon date of birth--

Difference in abortion--3 1/2 months miscarriage to 7 premature

abortion--legal? necessary? injurious?

Most frequent causes--drugs, operations, sewing machine, lifting, ↑excessive↓ intercourse.

Conception easily takes place after abortion.

How pregnancy effects women--or signs--

cessation of menstrual flow-- breasts--nausea vomiting-- later constipation, billiousness, varicose veins kidneys, attention, puffiness in ankles convulsions danger--melancholia.

Insanity--during pregnancy & after--

kill child--hate husband.

Can sex be determined before birth? or Influenced? acids, ozarina, Dr. Schenck's theory right or left ovary--early unions or late

Sexual Science just beginning to study birth.

Intercourse during pregnancy? animals--Woman's natural desire?

Epictetus: “He only is free who can control himself.”

Care of woman after birth--remain in bed 3 weeks. Nursing baby how long--intercourse after childbirth. Effect on woman's sympathetic nervous system.

Effect on woman's sympathetic nervous system.

How many children should a normal woman have? Working woman?

Parents should be guardians & companions to direct child's life--not control or suppress their personalities.

Parenthood should be a high privilege--instead of an accident as it is today.

We gather perfect fruit from perfect trees. Motherhood has been weak, passive, resigned. Is it a wonder that we have weak, intimidated multitudes? From the parents of today come the race of tomorrow. Let us recognize our ↑the↓ responsibility as ↑of>↓ parents towards the future & say with Omar Khayyam; “Ah love! could thou & I with fate conspire to grasp this sorry scheme of things entire. Would not we shatter it to bits & then, remould it nearer to our heart's desire.”

In the two previous lectures we revealed ↑dwelt↓ in skeleton form only, it is not possible to do more on such a big subject in so short a time, upon the necessity for the adolescent boy & girl to utilize the years between fourteen and twenty-three as the principal building period or storage house for the physical and sexual force for the future.

It was shown that as the boy preserves and utilizes his sexual power or energy in creative work during this period so shall he contain or retain his sexual & creative force on into a ripe old age---

It is misuse & excess & disease which wastes the life forces. If these seeds are sown in adolescent life, the result will be disastrous.

The second lecture dwelt upon the necessity of the married or well mated pair to develop their love lives before calling a child into being.

They should be certain that each is suited for the other--and that health characteristics are such as to guarantee to a child the right vessel so that its body shall be the most perfect instrument for that soul we bring to birth to develop its own individuality.


Is marriage conducive to happiness

" Love worketh no ill to the beloved ."

4 periods of adult development}

adolescent=character [conserving?] love life=development, magnetize maternal & paternal-- [sympathy?] reflective or spiritualizing


ignorance getting rid of secretions Easiest way to get by--no character money in bank


no other business or profession marriage certificate confidences exchanged “Love worketh no ill to the beloved”

Reasons for marriage--

1. convenience cook or business partner-- 2. Wealth to be supported 3. Affinity--sex attraction--love.


Love is sex attraction plus mutual understanding;

Love act & procreative act

Factors causing failure in marriage

1. Too young-- 2. children too fast-- 3. disease-- 4. Fear of pregnancy, birth control 5. Crudeness & man's ignorance of women's nature

4 periods of adult development}

adolescent character, conserving, building love period, magnetize using & strengthening--cementing ties procreative or parenthood sympathetic reflective or spiritualizing

Wrong teaching of adolescent--getting rid of secretions--easiest way, no value of vitality


no business or profession-- marriage certificate Forel says--young people-- “Love worketh no ill to the beloved”

Reasons for marriage today

1- Convenience--cooks, business position 2- wealth--to be supported-- 3- affinity--sex attraction--love

“Love is sex attraction plus mutual understanding”

Sex union divided into} love act procreative act

1. Too young--physical development, giddy flirting play--can't cheat nature-- young girl 17 ↑Mrs. Snow↓ --Berkman must finish with adolescent expression--physical & mental balance--to enter love life; age 22-23, boy 23-25. 2. Children too fast--pregnancy; nausea--no love life--responsibilities no time to cement union & get acquainted baby 1st year--another--drudge in 10 years (Economic) 3. Fear of pregnancy--coldness--natural & pretended abortions--bad health (divorce) 4. disease--venereal--barrenness--operations--quarrelling--nervousness. 5. ↑(Widowed women initiate bridegrooms)↓ Crudeness--man's ignorance of womans sex nature--no art in love.

wave--in months--

two creative periods lasting 3 to five days each.

Explain sex curve Sanger drew a rough chart showing a cycle peaking at 3 days for men 9 days for women

Flattens out sex desire--abuse--calling on or stimulating urge bad

Women's nature affectionate-- ↑chart↓ not passionate.

Value of sleep-- Mutual adjustment to each nature. Woman's pretense & deceit a protection. She has been a passive instrument for man's use.

Two people must adjust sex problems before creative work can be done--or children--or separate--

Cannot make one love--cultivate & nourish it--plant

Outside friendships needed-- Independent work, ideas, opinions, needed full development of love life.

Jealousy does not strengthen love.

Two lives can be fused together with knowledge & reverence. Happy marriage comradeship--love & [one word illegible ]


“How intoxicating indeed, how penetrating like a most precious wine--is that love--which is the sexual transformed into the emotional & spiritual! And what a loss on the merest grounds of prudence & economy of pleasure is its unbridled waste along physical channels! So, nothing is so much to be dreaded between lovers as just this--the vulgarization of love. This is the rock upon which marriage so often splits.”

“Knowledge is power” passion is poetry

“It is the woman in you & not the body of you which is the wife.” (Parenthood) great responsibility.

The search for a mate is the quest for an understanding heart in a beautiful body of the opposite sex.

As we emerge from adolescence with all its dreams & bodily changes there comes to the man & woman the desire to unite or to mate.

Subject Terms:

Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project