Margaret Sanger, "The Responsibility of an Idea," Jul 1923.

Source: " Birth Control Review, Jul. 1923, p. 171 Margaret Sanger Microfilm, Smith College Collections S70:1007."

The Responsibility of an Idea

Remember this: there can be no progress in this old world of ours unless there is loyal allegiance to ideas. Men and women differ from one another, because the things they believe in are different. But sincerely to believe in an idea is to support it. Only when an idea is supported–-supported generously and whole-heartedly–-only when it is put into action can it make its mark on the world in general and on men and women in particular. Passive belief–-will-nilly, weak-kneed, faint-hearted acceptance of an idea is not enough. It is worse than cynicism; it is a harmful disease of the will. We must put our impulses into action. We must take sides. We must be battlers for Light and Liberty, or for the Powers of Darkness. Suppose that Edison or Westinghouse or Henry Ford, having conceived some idea that would advance civilization, had been content to sit back and indulge in day-dreams about it! Personally we may not wish to engage in the battle for an idea. But life becomes infinitely more exciting, more full of zest, of enjoyment, when we support, at least spiritually and morally, those who are actually on the battle front. The success of an idea, the triumph of a movement, depend, in the final analysis, on those who possess the courage of their convictions, a courage upstanding and direct enough to inspire them to stand behind their belief and to put it into action. The Birth Control movement in this country is constantly making friends. But the only way to assure us of your friendship and your adherence to the ideal of Birth Control is to express your belief in it openly, both in public and in private, and for each one to support the movement to the utmost of one's moral and financial ability. A dollar contributed to charities and philanthropies means a dollar spent to perpetuate these social efforts. Every penny contributed to Birth Control means a blow at the root of the social diseases which call into existence our organized charities and philanthropies. The campaigners for Birth Control are in the trenches in this war against poverty, mental defect, and maternal slavery. We are cheerfully willing to work, to fight, to sacrifice and to endure abuse and misunderstanding. But we need the support and allegiance of those who accept our ideals. If those who believe in Birth Control would support the movement generously and whole-heartedly the struggle would be of short duration. There is a serious responsibility resting on all those who accept an idea. If the mind has become illuminated and the principle is seen and accepted, action must follow. He who is convinced of new, dynamic truth must assume the spiritual responsibility for carrying the idea into action and for following it up to completion and success.


Subject Terms:

Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project