Margaret Sanger, "Wesleyan University Speech Notes and Excerpts," 9 Dec 1932.

Source: "Margaret Sanger Papers, Sophia Smith Collection Margaret Sanger Papers Microfilm, Smith College Collections S71:432."

Margaret Sanger gave an address as part of a Wesleyan University undergraduate conference on marriage, held in Middletown, Connecticut. Other speakers included Erdman Harris, Father John M. Cooper, Dr. William B. Terhune, Rev. Roy B. Chamberlain, and Dr. Clarence G. Campbell. A complete version of Sanger's talk has not been located, but additional quotes reported in "Mrs. Sanger Says State Law 'Stupid'," Hartford Courant, Dec. 10, 1932, p. 2, have been added at the bottom of Sanger's draft notes. For reports of a similar speech, also not found, see "Speech to the Hartford Branch of the Connecticut Birth Control League ," Dec. 10, 1932.


Westleyan Dec 12/32

Victor Hugo–- No force in the world so great as that of an idea whose hour has struck. I believe that the hour for birth control has struck, because there is no subject that has so large a practical significance which at the same time cuts so deeply into the foundations of social evolution as birth control.

There is probably no other subject of equal importance, left so long in equal obscurity & yet none which can show so unequalled a rise on our National horizon as this question has done within the past few years.

G B Shaw says it’s the most revolutionary idea of the present century HG. Wells says it’s the most momentous fact of modern life.

The most intelligent English opinion of Church & the professions have claimed it to be of ↑immediate ↓ importance in solving the Social & Economic problems of the world.

Birth Control is the signal of a new Social & Moral awakening. It is not only a health & economic expedient it’s a great Social principle, interlocked with the ↑future↓ development of women & the spiritual progress of the race. Birth Control is the conscious control of the birth rate, by means that prevent the conception of life. The emphasis is placed on prevention & not on interference or destruction of life.

The emphasis is placed on Control & not on limitation.

It is also placed on conscious control instead of the reckless abandon to the moment with children the result. (haphazard, accidental conceptions) A generation ago it cost $10 to bring a baby into the world–-today because we have limited the output & placed a higher value on child life, we have increased its value & prepared the way for its higher development.

Birth Control will prevent children from being born to become buffers between two discordant parents, or become victims of marriage, of immature persons who make chattels of them for their own personal satisfaction or exploit them as wage earners to support an increasingly large family.

There are seven ↑obvious↓ reasons to practice birth control

1st When ever either man or woman has a transmissible disease. Insanity, feeblemindedness, epilepsy etc.

2nd. When the woman has any disease in which pregnancy complicates the cure such as tuberculosis, heart or kidney diseases.

3rd- When parents tho apparently normal have already produced subnormal or defective children, deaf mutes, cleft palates, mental [defectives?] .

4 To allow two or three years between births in order to space the children to give the mother a chance to recuperate & prepare for the next child.

5th. Birth control should be practiced until often the adolescent period is passed– even tho’ early marriage is advised or counselled.

6th BC should be practiced for economic reasons– parents should not have more children than they can decently provide for.

7th. BC should be practiced for two or three years after marriage in order to make a better adjustment & to strengthen & cement the marriage bond, through understanding & knowledge of each other & through the development of mutual interests play & cultural interests.

There are Three ways to control the birth rate or the size of the family.

1 Continence

2 Sterilization

3 Chemical or mechanical means of preventing conception.

None of these should be advised by laymen– not even the clergy.– all methods to be safe, reliable & harmless must be individually considered by qualified persons with knowledge of psychology anatomy & physiology.

The Medical Profession

Conn. State law Sec 6246 makes it a crime for any one to use any drug ↑chemical or mechanical↓ for the purpose of preventing conception.

Fed law Sec 211. Prevents Physicians or anyone from using the US mails or Common carriers to in purchasing books, literature, supplies Conn State law is unique in its that it stands alone in the 48 States as an example of bad law which can not be enforced– & insults the intelligence of its citizens by classing this law as “offences against Humanity and Morality.”

Additional quotes taken from "Mrs. Sanger Says State's Law 'Stupid':

"It is high time to take the question of birth control out of the gutter where Congress placed it 60 years ago, and to put it on a scientific plane where it belongs. . ."

Defining birth control, a term she declared to have been her privilege to coin, as "the conscious control of the birth rate by means that prevent the conception of human life," Mrs. Sanger vehemently denied that advocates of the movement desire to interfere with life, or to destroy it. "Where there is no life there can be no destruction or interference. . . Those who claim that birth control interferes with potential life forget that all who remain single are, in a sense, interfering with potential life... "

Mrs. Sanger expressed amazement over the fact that Connecticut, "with more colleges and universities than any other state," and therefore the most intelligent, should have the "stupidist" laws concerning the dissemination of birth control information. "How can a law that says it is a crime for anyone to use contraceptive devices be enforced? she asked. Mrs. Sanger said that while New York State Law is almost as "stupid," many states do allow the proper spread of birth control information and she deplored the law making it illegal to use the mails to notify people as to where they may secure the necessary information. She cited cases to show that New York's law, which allows information to be given to women to who childbirth would mean death, operates unjustly in many instances when no definite proof can be given of actual danger. She listed seven reasons for birth control, which included the elimination of insanity, the proper spacing of children, the protection of health in adolescent marriages, the protection of women when they have such ailments as consumption, the development of companionship in marriage and economic factors.

"No person," Mrs. Sanger declared, "has a right to bring children into the world when he cannot provide for them." She concluded with a brief discussion of the three ways of limiting the size of families, continence, sterilization, and contraception.


Subject Terms:

Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project


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