Margaret Sanger, "Birth Control for Bermuda," June-July 1937.
Source: " Journal of Contraception, June-July 1937, p. 118 Margaret Sanger Microfilm, Smith College Collections S71:947."
For typed drafts, see "Bermuda and Population Policy", May 20, 1937, Library of Congress Microfilm 11:1171 or Margaret Sanger Microfilm, Smith College Collections S71:927.
It is encouraging to find one spot on the earth where officials and the government have the vision to foresee that the adoption of certain policies at present can prevent adverse and deplorable conditions later on. Bermuda is the one place where statesmanship is really in action, and where an attempt is under way now to forestall the evil effects that eventually result from an uncontrolled population growth in a limited area.
At the invitation of the Bermuda Health Department, I went to Bermuda to confer with the leaders of its health and public activities and to discuss with them the possibilities of organizing centers for the dissemination of birth control knowledge in Bermuda. I stayed in Bermuda for two weeks and had occasion to speak before a large number of groups, both in Hamilton and in St. George. Three of the meetings took place at the House of Assembly. Among those present were members of the Assembly and of the Legislative Council, representatives of the Board of Health, and His Lordship, the Bishop of Bermuda. Col. Dill, the Attorney General, was in the chair. A special meeting for the medical profession was held at the Department of Health office in Hamilton.
The population of Bermuda is at present about 30,000 having increased some 10,000 within less than ten years. With only 19 square miles to the Island, its population density is now greater than that of Hong Kong, Malta or Gibraltar. About 60% of the population is colored. The birth rate is very much higher among the colored than among the white. In 1936, the birth rate for the white population was 16.4, and for the colored 29.2. The death rates for the same year were 8.8 for whites and 9.6 for the colored, with an infant mortality of 45.8 and 52.9 respectively.
The increase in population appears to be far too rapid for the future peace and comfort of the Island. At present the general socio-economic conditions are satisfactory. There is no unemployment and no relief; there are no income or inheritance taxes, and the average wage for unskilled workers is from $15 to $18 per week. It is a tourist place, and as long as people continue to travel, Bermuda can be prosperous and happy. But Bermuda looks to the future, and the present Governor, Lieut. Gen. R. J. T. Hildyard, an army man of strong personality, is a keen executive and anxious to see that the population of Bermuda should keep its standards high and retain the conditions of harmony, respect, peace and good will that obtain at the present time. This can be accomplished, it is felt, only if the population increases slowly, allowing for its assimilation into the system now prevailing.
Among doctors, nurses, officials and the public there was general enthusiasm for the project of disseminating more widely contraceptive information. The young clergymen, too, were behind the plan unqualifiedly, although there was some opposition from the elderly Protestant Episcopalian Bishop. As a result of these conferences and discussions, Bermuda is now planning to organize an active birth control program, and two physicians will be sent to America to observe and train at the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau and to acquaint themselves with the modern contraceptive techniques employed in this country.
Bermuda will soon take its place as one of the few countries of the world where the dissemination of birth control information is sponsored by the government. Two clinics will be opened, one for the care of white women and the other for the colored, and the expenses of the clinics will be borne by the Colonial Government.
Bermuda is fortunate in having statesmanship at its head. It will be of keen interest to watch its future development under an advanced and rational population policy.
Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project