Margaret Sanger, "Closing Remarks at First American Birth Control Conference," 18 Nov 1921.
Source: " Proceedings of the First American Birth Control Conference, Margaret Sanger Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College Margaret Sanger Microfilm, Sophia Smith Collection S67:916."
After a police raid broke up the November 13 closing session of the First American Birth Control Conference, Sanger rescheduled the meeting at New York's Park Theater a few days later. After the keynote speech by Harold Cox, a discussion followed. Sanger closed the discussion and meeting with the following speech. For Sanger's other statements at this conference see "Opening Remarks," and "The Use of the Pessary," both on Nov. 11, 1921. For a transcript of the entire session see Margaret Sanger Microfilm, Smith College Collections S67:881.
Friends. I feel that it is much more difficult to answer the questions of those who are neither with us nor against us, much harder than it is to have to answer the question of a thorough going opponent. None of those who have spoken tonight have been entirely against us. Most of them have agreed, or both of them have agreed with us on principle, but have disagreed with us on methods. If only we could have more discussion along this line, we would get somewhere.
Now, the assumption of both the last speakers has been that there is some other method of birth control than the mechanical use of contraceptives. They infer that it would be higher and better to perhaps remain continent or to use what is some times termed self control, although those words were not used I presume that that is what they were trying to get at. Now, we want to say that we have no objection to any individuals using self control. (applause) We leave that entirely to your individual freedom. But what we do contend is this. That in the first place, the laws of these various states are so construed that unless a woman gives of herself to her husband, she does not have his support. (applause) A woman cannot attain to any kind of freedom when she is forced into pregnancy every year or year and a half. Women must have leisure. Leisure to think. She must have control over her own body. She must have time to evolve and to develop her own soul development. So must man. And certainly a man who finds that he is the father of a child every year or two soon finds that this home is not the home of his honeymoon dreams, and we find them running out to secure their entertainment in the evening elsewhere than by the fireside.
Now, if we do believe in self-control, what do you mean by that? Do you mean absolute continence in marriage? Then why marry? If you believe in the marriage relationship only for the procreation of children, then that would mean such a union and relationship but once or twice perhaps in a life time.
Now, I contend that that argument is perfectly absurd because it places man upon the same level as animals. In other words, you use the procreative act only for procreation, and I contend that there is another side, and another use of this relationship. (applause) I contend that it is just as sacred and just as beautiful for two people to express their love when they have no intention whatsoever of being parents. (applause) And I contend that they can go into that relationship with the same beauty and the same holiness with which they go into music or to prayer. I believe that it is the right understanding of our sexual power and of its creative energy that gives us spiritual illumination. I say that there is more than one use to make of it, and that is the higher use, the development of our soul development and soul growth.
I find that there is practically no argument against birth control. I have gone far across this country, and almost around the world, and I have never yet met a real argument against birth control. (applause) And why? Because it is the one need of the people, because this subject belongs mainly to women. It is the first step that woman must take to have her real emancipation. It is the first step that we must take to free our children. It is the first, last and final step that we all are to take to have real human emancipation. (applause)
Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project