Margaret Sanger, "Editorial on Venereal Disease for Writer's War Board," June 1944.

Source: "Records of PPFA, Sophia Smith Collection Margaret Sanger Microfilm, Smith College Collections S72:400."

Handwritten additions were made by Margaret Sanger. For more draft versions see Margaret Sanger Microfilm, Smith College Collections S72:397 and 402.


Editorial on Venereal Disease for Writers' War Board

by Margaret Sanger

The mere words VENEREAL DISEASE so terrified the American public ↑Federal officials↓ thirty years ago that the Post Office department twice suppressed the New York Sunday Call ↑a paper circulated mainly among workers,↓ for printing two articles of mine under the title, “What Every Girl Should know,” one about ↑dealing with↓ syphilis, the other about gonorrhea. These diseases were then considered to be of no possible interest to the ↑such offensive nature (or subject) that the↓ average person, ↑could not openly be seen reading such matter↓ even though the average man or woman quite often became the one-in-ten to contract syphilis ↑or that they could not be publicly discussed.↓

Today the United States Government has a Public Health Department whose official head is valiantly trying to bring knowledge and enlightenment to the people of this nation of that same subject of venereal disease. Sound sex knowledge is increasingly recognized as one of the surest safeguards for young and old alike. The problem has to a great extent shed its chrysalis of false modesty and is recognized for what it is--a serious national health issue. ↑& hopefully one of both prevention & of cure.↓

More and more it is realized that the problem is one that affects all parents ↑adults↓ . It is no longer solely the concern of the prostitute and the philandering male, but of the mother who may give birth to stillborn or blind syphilitic babies, and most tragically of all, of our own youth, our boys and girls in their teens. ↑who may innocently contact others in work or [one word illegible] ↓

The New York Health Department recently reported there is the great increase in cases of syphilis for the first ten months of 1943. Among girls of 15 to 19 years the increase over the same period of the preceding year was 83% and for both sexes of this age the increase was 108.3%. Multiply this by figures throughout the country, in boomtown areas where conditions are very bad. Add to this the many young boys afflicted, the men being treated in the array and you have a growing picture, a tidal wave that must be stopped, that demands the full cooperation of all of us. We are fighting the terrible ↑ghastly↓ world war with stern realism; we must fight our domestic battle on the health front with the same realism.

Penicillin and sulfa drugs are making many cures possible in brief periods of time, but until the last shred of false modesty is torn from the study of venereal disease, until we give diseased women the knowledge of how to defer births of offspring until they have fully recovered from gonorrhea and syphilis, we will continue to increase our tragic toll of blind infants, of stillbirths, of human beings crippled physically and mentally, burdens to themselves and to the state.

In addition to all the government is now doing, an educational plan should be advanced preparing men and women not only to report any symptoms immediately but to realize the importance of being isolated as the Board of Health isolates diphtheria, measles or scarlet fever. This may seem to be a harsh part of the cure, but ignorance or carelessness has and is causing suffering to innocent persons and should no longer be tolerated or appeased by government squeamishness.


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