Margaret Sanger, "How to Avoid Post War Divorces," 19 Jul 1944.
Source: "Margaret Sanger Papers, Sophia Smith Collection Margaret Sanger Microfilm, Smith College Collections S72:405."
Sanger delivered this speech on radio station WMCA on July 19, 1944 at 9:00 AM. For an earlier draft version see Library of Congress Microfilm 116:666B.
Announcer: Good morning. Can anything be done to head off the wave of divorce that many expect will sweep this country when peace returns? That is one of the questions of the hour and during her absence to attend the Chicago Convention, Alice Hughes has arranged to have the subject of post war divorces discussed by one of the most famous, one of the most widely known women of our day. . . Mrs. Margaret Sanger. Mrs. Sanger, whose work in the cause of better family health and happier home relationships has made her name known throughout the civilized world, is the Honorary Chairman of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, lecturer and author of numerous books and magazine articles. With her own sons serving as physicians with the Army and Navy, Mrs. Sanger is devoting much of her interest to the cause of sound marriage counselling for servicemen and their wives. She speaks from a lifetime of experience in the field of human relations. Mrs. Sanger.
Sanger: Good morning. ↑Friends↓ do you know that some experts are ↑now↓ saying that seven out of every ten of our wartime marriages are headed for trouble? Seems like rather a lot, doesn't it, until you remember the way our divorce rate soared after the last war and realize that this war has seen an even greater number of hasty war marriages. The pity of unhappy, ruined marriages is that with a little scientific advice and the use of common sense so many of them could be saved.
Riding in on the train yesterday from my home in Fishkill ↑up the Hudson↓ I happened to sit next to a young girl whose war marriage could easily be one of those doomed to a tragic finish. She held her sturdy little year old son on her lap and soon after I admired him and offered to hold him, she told me the whole story. Although she was extremely young, her's had not been one of those spur of the moment affairs. She and her husband had planned to be married as far back as their high school days and they had had six months together before he was shipped overseas. That's a better start than many of them get. They hadn't wanted to have a baby until he came back, but the baby had come along ↑just the same↓ and now the wife.. who was really just a girl.. was feeling trapped and rebellious. She loved her baby ↑of course↓ , and well she might, because he was a beautiful child, but she was beginning to feel very bitter toward her husband because she said that she could tell from his letters that he was actually enjoying the ↑excitement of↓ war! Already he had been to Iceland, England, Africa, and Italy! Oh, she was willing to admit there were plenty of hardships connected with it. . . but what had she been doing all this long while? Just staying home day after day minding the baby! "When he gets home," she told me, "he can just sit with the baby for a while and she what it's like. I'm going out and have some fun!"
I could see her point of view. . . what woman couldn't. You don't have to be a war bride to feel trapped. . . many a house-wife gets that feeling just watching her husband go off to the office every morning while she stays home facing the same meals, dishes, and children. How many divorces have their beginnings in just this very feeling of imprisoned futility. As I talked with the girl I never wished more that there could be a simple set of rules to hand out on ways to protect a marriage, and keep it fresh and warm and interesting. ↑While↓ there are no such simple rules, of course, hub there are some basic truths which everyone should know. More than that, there are now some scientific treatments which have proven as successful in curing marriage casualties, as our new medical treatments have been in saving battle casualties.
Announcer: I'll be back in a moment but now a word from Bill A. Cornwall.
Sanger: In treating marriage casualties scientifically, it has been found that one of the most effective cures is a completely frank discussion of all factors involved, with a person who is prepared to offer factual advice and not just kind words and nebulous nothings. My little friend on the train, for instance, who was building up such a fine resentment toward her husband, because he was having an exciting time, while she was stuck at home, needed someone to point out that the very fact that he was enjoying the war, ↑(↓ in spite of the horror and hardship ↑)↓ showed that he would come home a more interesting, entertaining companion than he had ever been before. It meant that he was getting something from his new experiences, adding to his knowledge, enriching his philosophy. Instead of resenting it, that young wife should have been trying to keep pace with him... she should have been broadening her own horizons, acquiring new knowledge and accomplishments if possible, so that ↑on his return↓ he too would find her a more stimulating ↑& entertaining↓ companion
It is so important that wives whose husbands have been gone for long periods in camps or overseas, realize that they will come home changed in many ways. They must not expect them to settle back into the same old patterns and routines. They must be ready to change with them if their marriage is to grow and flourish ↑strengthen↓ .
A second important safeguard for wartime marriages is that there be no misunderstood emotional barriers between you. Because so many of these marriages have been hasty affairs, keyed to an intensely dramatic pitch, there have been limitless opportunities for emotional maladjustments and misunderstandings. It is ↑just↓ in this field that expert marriage counselling can accomplish so much. Fortunately the day is fast passing when parents will permit their children to take the most important step of their lives with little or no knowledge of what this new relationship implies. How much misery and anguish could be avoided if our young people could be taught that marriage and the creation of a family is the most essential, the most beautiful and ↑really↓ the most satisfying experience of their lives and be instructed accordingly.
Right now the Red Cross, USO, YMCA, and YWCA are giving increased attention to sound ↑selective↓ marriage counselling and more and more ministers and private physicians are making it a point to discus the marriage relationship fully and clearly so young people may give their marriage a foundation of knowledge and truth, and plan their families with love and intelligence.
Here in New York the Planned Parenthood centers can provide information on family planning and refer inquiries to experienced marriage counselors with whom any marriage problem may be discussed. Here young couples may learn from physicians how to have their children when the parents are well and able to provide for a new child. One of the growing services of planned parenthood is for ↑to help↓ couples who earnestly want a child but find they cannot have one. New medical treatments are now proving successful in almost two out of every three cases of childlessness including many cases which would have been considered hopeless even a few years ago.
Of course marriage counselling and family planning alone cannot solve our post war divorce problem. Many wartime marriages have been made by couples who are quite unsuited for life partnership. But many of the shaky ones can be saved if they are given the knowledge they so desperately need. It has long be possible to call in experts on central heating, the care and feeding of spaniels, and how to grow vegetable gardens. Thank fortune, we are at last entering an era when trained counsellors are available to help our young people with the most essential and complex problems of all; the problem of happpy, successful marriages, and healthy, well planned families. War brides and their husbands should avail themselves of these services not only for their own security and happiness, but for the sake of our wonderful war babies ↑those darling youngsters↓ , many of whom may otherwise become the victims of broken homes.
Announcer: Thank you, Mrs. Sanger. This morning in place of Alice Hughes, who will return on ______ you have heard Mrs. Margaret Sanger, author, lecturer and Honorary Chairman of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which together with the New York State Federation for Planned Parenthood and the Planned Parenthood Committee of Greater New York, made this broadcast possible. For copies of Mrs. Sanger's talk or further information regarding planned parenthood and marriage counselling, address Mrs. Sanger at the Federation's offices, 501 Madison Avenue, New York 22, N.Y.
Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project