Margaret Sanger, "The Population Problem," 1929.

Source: "Margaret Sanger Papers, Sophia Smith Collection Margaret Sanger Microfilm, Smith College Collections S71:195."

Sanger likely gave this speech at the beginning of 1929. For another draft version of this speech see Margaret Sanger Microfilm S71:192.


↑A number of↓ The intelligent thinkers in Europe, many of with whom I had ↑have↓ conversed, believe that the empty spaces on the globe are becoming rare; that populations are so increasing in every country that governments are at a loss to know how to deal with the problems arising therefrom; that Europe is today faced with a problem of having more men than bread, and this problem has become acute, because of the attitude of United States, Australia and Canada ↑as experienced↓ in their recent immigration legislation.

It is now recognized that each ↑European↓ country needs its own available food supply. Each country is guarding its own labor market, fearing unrest, unemployment and revolution. Soon every nation will reserve its potential resources for its own people, and already most of the European countries have overdrawn on their margin of self-sufficiency. Germany, Italy Poland and all the central European countries should be encouraged to limit their population to their natural resources, but theyare all dreaming of colonization ↑colonies↓ , for colonization over seas was the solution of overpopulated Europe since the conquest of the Atlantic.

There is no doubt that this has made civilization almost world-wide, and yet, there are doubts that this solution was of permanent value, for we now see that economic greed caused nations to overlook fundamental principles, and the future potentialities of peoples nations have been sacrificed for ↑personal↓ immediate gain.

Colonial expansion is still the dream of those militarists who clamor for big battalions of babies, and we see from the past that colonization has aroused a hatred of peaceful nations against the white race, and every where in Asia is the growing determination to free themselves from their ↑the↓ political dominations ↑of the white race.↓

It has ↑had↓ long been hoped by some of us ↑,↓ that ↑at sometime↓ a sound international population program might be advanced. We have ↑had↓ seen that a broad broader bird's eye view of the problem was necessary if it was to fit international and modern conditions. It was ↑is↓ quite natural that the militarist should look upon the subject only with a view of armies; the demographer with the number of births, deaths, marriages in a given city, country over a given period.

The anthropologist is concerned with the division into race ↑,↓ within a population, especially in respect to their adaptability and the effect of social selection and colonization ↑;↓ while the economist, biologist and statistician--each an expert in his own line--was bound ↑view the sufficient↓ to propose measures according to the limits of his inquiries; consequently, formidable errors were bound to arise when it came to practical issues.

It was with this in mind that I went to Europe for ↑two years ago with↓ the object of bringing together scientists from various countries of different departments to correlate their views, experiments and programs, and to establish, if possible, a permanent organization for further studies and research along population lines.

This ↑A↓ Population Union has now been launched and it is hoped that there will be a recognition through their studies ↑,↓ of the fact ↑,↓ that there can be no solution to the population problem without the ↑recognition↓ of the human factors which make this problem. I refer to the parents who produce populations--and especially the mothers who bear and rear the children.

Immigration legislation in the United States has caused much bitterness in Europe, for there is current a feeling that various ↑these↓ nations ↑countries↓ have expended through generations much of their most valuable human material ↑,↓ in order to furnish America with ready-made workmen--skilled in the arts and crafts--thereby impoverishing herself of valuable stocks, with the obvious results of creating a rival, today more powerful than all of Europe combined.

America, on the other hand, considers that she has been overstocked with undesirable elements; that her dream of the melting-pot of assimilating the various races, colors, grades of mentalities through education by ↑to↓ an American type of intelligence, has not succeeded. She now regrets her mistake, and has established a rigid system of immigration barriers for her own national and racial protections; and one can assume charge--even five years after entry--are liable to deportation at any time. ↑Why not apply these same restrictions to a reproductive policy?↓

In no other immigration country is the restrictive policy carried out so far as in U.S.A. This rigid policy of the U.S. Government is the result of its short-sightedness in the past, for while this government never openly encouraged immigration, she took up a neutral attitude toward the question until 1914>. She was much like the parents who - not really knowing what shall happen if their family continues to grow - nevertheless ↑,↓ do nothing to prevent it. She now has had to adopt a negative, selective quota ↑policy↓ where she might have in the past adopted a positive, selective quota, and this country would today have been in a position to deal intelligently with some of the intricate problems that she is today unable to face. ↑14 year intelligence ↓ .

Our immigration laws have ↑nevertheless↓ made the European countries think. ↑They↓ ↑have↓ especially been responsible for speeding up ↑the↓ Birth Control ↑Movement.↓ Particularly is this true in countries like England and Germany.

↑8 years-6 million↓

↑1928-1936 it is 126 millions↓ This morning's press gave an estimate that the population of this country is now 120 millions. In the glory of increasing populations we must recognize that numbers are not the only thing to consider. Individuals are not mere statistical units who are ↑merely↓ born, marry and die, and while these functions cannot be entirely ignored, there is, however, a personal value depending upon the quality of the material with which they are endowed through inheritance. This is of infinitely greater value to society and to the progress of the race than mere statistical numbers. The greatest assets of a nation are the human values and resources upon which the conservation and utilization of its future depend, for it is to these innate values, to the quality of posterity, that attention must now be directed, if civilization is to endure.

Science is now bordering on the infinite and the most powerful brain seems feeble in front of the tasks which are glimpsed. If one is to judge by the predicament of the world situation, we are right to assume that there is not an individual born nor a group whose intelligence is up to the tasks that the international situation demands. It seems almost as if the kind of knowledge required exceeds out ↑mental↓ capacity for understanding ↑to cope with it.↓

It is to the science of population that we must now look for future guidance. It must point the way for ↑a↓ population legislation ↑policy & plan↓ which in this country in particular could soon deliver society from more than half of its terrific burdens. It could soon help us to eliminate the possibility of increasing dysgenic stock, such as those with inherited or transmissible diseases. It could soon lessen the burden or philanthropic needs are fast ↑have↓ grown beyond the cultural needs of this generation ↑individual ability to carry them.↓ Sane legislation would indirectly direct reproduction with a sense of adaption toward future conditions by raising the mean level of brain power ↑ raising the general average of intelligence of our population↓ , for the importance of numbers--mere statistical units like that of muscular brute force, belongs to the past rather than to the future.

The needs of manual labor ↑are already supplied by machines↓ in the future will be greatly reduced by the progress off chemistry, physics and the possession of unlimited source of heat and force at a minimum of expenditure. On the other hand, we shall need brains highly resistant to work and capable of a degree of instruction which surpasses that of the most intelligent skilled artisan today. Vaster memories must be forged, shaper insight must be gained, and with the discovery of the laws of inheritance man can choose whether we shall evolve to the expression of highest within us, or if we shall revert to the state of barbarian. It is for man to decide.

With all the knowledge that we today possess, it is obvious that it is a crime for ↑against↓ generations to come, it is a crime against out civilization to encourage the reproduction of mediocre, diseased or inferior types of groups. Such offspring can only be a burden to the future and retard the progress of the present generation.

It has become clear that the population of the earth is fast arriving at its possible maximum; that its density is badly distributed; that redistribution of space can only be rectified by displacements; and that Birth Control in overpopulated countries is the first and surest method whereby the balance may be peacefully restored.


Subject Terms:

Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project


valid