Margaret Sanger, "Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau Dinner Opening Address," 26 Feb 1929.
Source: "Margaret Sanger Papers, Sophia Smith Collection Margaret Sanger Microfilm, Smith College Collections S71:153."
Margaret Sanger gave this speech at a dinner promoting the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau at New York's Plaza Hotel. Other speakers were: Owen Lovejoy, Henry Pratt Fairchild, Frank Hankins and Hannah Stone. For Sanger's introductions for Hankins, Lovejoy and Fairchild. Additions were made by hand by Margaret Sanger. For an early draft see LCM 130:479.
We are here tonight to celebrate a birthday. The Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau has just entered the seventh year of its existence. In the six years of its existence the Research Bureau commonly called the Birth Control Clinic--has demonstrated the success of a new way of solving old problems.
Just about one hundred years ago, when the possibilities of the control of population first seized the minds and the imagination of the Anglo-Saxon world, pioneers like Francis Place and John Stuart Mill, thought that all that was necessary was to scatter millions of leaflets to the masses telling them why and how they could prevent large families. A century ago men put great faith in the printed word. They scattered leaflets from the roofs of tenements and defied arrest for scattering broadcast "diabolical handbills."
Fifteen years ago, when the idea of Birth Control captured my imagination I went through the same experience and wrote, printed and disseminated leaflets and booklets. I was stopped by the Post Office Authorities and indicted for breaking a federal statute enacted under the reign of St. Anthony Comstock.
But experience is a bitter teacher. The more you go through, the less you believe in the miracle of printed words to effect the salvation of the lives of women and children.
In 1915 I visited Holland, and spent three months studying the actual technique of contraception. I became convinced that that overburdened women could be educated in Birth Control only by scientific instruction received from competent physicians and nurses in clinics established for that purpose and that purpose alone.
When I returned to this country, that idea was the central one in my mind. I did not realize the gigantic obstacles to overcome before that idea could be converted in reality. I plunged into activity, established a clinic in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn. We operated for ten days and no less than four hundred and eighty eight mothers crowded into our limited quarters. Then the police descended upon us and called us a "public nuisance."
I carried this fight to the Supreme Court. In a decision handed down by the New York Court of Appeals permitted lawfully practising physicians to give contraceptive advice "for the cure of prevention of disease." This technical victory was won in 1918. With the aid of a woman physician I ventured on my own responsibility to establish a research bureau as a preliminary toward a clinic. In the meantime a small group of pioneers was working incessantly toward converting unintelligent public opinion to the legitimacy of the idea of Birth Control.
It was not until 1923--just six years ago--that I succeeded in finding anyone with sufficient faith and courage to support the research bureau with financial backing. Now Ill tell you an interesting little secret. It was not an American, but a gentleman in England who advanced the first five thousand dollars to pay the doctor's salary. That was all I needed. I found a competent physician. The research bureau was opened.
From that small beginning, the bureau has grown slowly, steadily and surely. Today we have seven women physicians on our medical staff, five trained nurses and two social workers.
We have investigated thirteen thousand cases. From that vast number we have the full records of ten thousand women who came to the bureau for advice and instruction as permitted under the law, "for the cure of prevention of disease." Hundreds of overburdened mothers who appeal to us are turned away because despite their misery and poverty do not come under this classification.
Since my first clinic was destroyed by the New York police, the idea has gown and matured not only in this country but in Great Britain as well. There are not twenty-six similar establishments in this country and about twenty in England. Our aim here is to develop the Clinical Research Bureau as a model of all other similar agencies in the United States. In this aim we are succeeding. Physicians from all civilized countries of the world come to us to learn the techniques of scientific contraception. We are aiming to perfect the bureau so that its methods and its administrations shall be above criticism.
Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project