Margaret Sanger, "Family Planning," 14 Mar 1935.
Source: "Margaret Sanger Papers, Sophia Smith Collection Margaret Sanger Microfilm, Smith College Collections S71:0723."
Margaret Sanger broadcast this speech on Boston radio station WEEI. For similar broadcast from Indianapolis, on March 4, 1935, see Margaret Sanger Microfilm S71:733. The handwritten addition was by Margaret Sanger.
Friends of the Radio: I want to talk to the mothers of Massachusetts this evening about family planning. By this I do not mean the planning you already do preparing the food, clothing and comforts in your household. I mean family planning which include the spacing of births and the regulation of the number of children to the family income.
Every normal woman wants children. When she does not want them she should wait until she does; but there is a vast difference between a woman’s desire to have two, three or four children that she can adequately take care of, and the dread of having a large family of ten or twelve, knowing she cannot provide for their education or welfare.
Scientific knowledge of birth control will help her. Remember that birth control means to prevent , not to destroy. It does not mean to interfere with life after it has begun. This is not necessary.
“Prevention is better than cure” is an old adage rightly applied in family planning. Every mother should have knowledge to help her do this. The father should have a right to say how many he can support and the mother should say when they should be born. But first, every mother has a right to consider her own health and the health of her children in arranging for the number of children she plans to have. Again, they must be made in consideration of the husband’s earning powers and of the standards of living that the parents wish to maintain. If the father’s wages remain the same and babies continue to arrive year after year, the father soon gets discouraged, what with bills for nurses, hospitals, x-rays, specialists, for adenoid and tonsil operations, dentists and numerous other bills for the mother and the children, the father soon feels the burden which falls too heavily upon his already bent shoulders, even when he is fortunate enough to have an average paying job.
There are also other conditions both physical and economic where parents should postpone the arrival of the baby until these conditions are changed. 1st and most important is; wherever there is transmissible disease which affects either the man or the woman, such as insanity, feeble-mindedness, epilepsy or venereal diseases. It is unfair to children to be born of parents where these diseases can be passed on to the unborn child. 2nd. The second condition is where the mother has tuberculosis or a disease of the heart or kidneys. Her health is directly affected when pregnancy takes place, and women often die of these diseases because of the complications which pregnancy causes. She should recover from these ailments before she brings a child into the world.
3rd. The third is, that even a healthy mother should plan to space the births of children from two to three years, in order to regain her strength and vitality and plan to prepare for the birth of the next child that she may wish to have; and 4th the fourth is the economic factor. Every sensible man or woman knows the hardships endured by children when they are born into grinding poverty. Millions of parents are at present married and anxious about the welfare of their living children. 11,000,000 people are still unemployed; 4,000,000 families are depending on public relief for a mere existence. It is not fair to the children, born or unborn, or to these mothers, to keep from parents scientific information which would enable them to prevent the coming of more children until those conditions are bettered.
Federal laws were passed by Congress 62 years ago. These laws have operated to keep poor mothers of this country in absolute ignorance of such knowledge. We are fighting to change these laws. We want hospitals, clinics, public health agencies and members of the medical profession to help parents obtain clean, harmless, safe and reliable birth control information to enable them to have only the number of children they want and can bring up as a credit to the parents and the Nation.
These obsolete Federal laws have worked a tremendous hardship on the motherhood of this nation. It is the poorest mother who has paid the penalty of ignorance. She has paid for her ignorance in ill health; in infant mortality, in maternal mortality, she has paid for it in over-crowding in slums, in unemployment and in child labor. Mothers have paid the price by living in constant fear and anxiety; fear of the coming of another child that could not be fed or cared for on the husband’s wage. It is this army of mothers who are now on relief. They have paid and are still paying the price of ignorance of birth control. These are the forgotten women. They are too poor to have influence with Congressman, they are too weak to rebel against their own conditions and they cry out for us to help.
A few weeks ago a young mother came to me. She was only 21 years old. She was already the mother of five children, the youngest baby just three months. Her husband hadn’t had any work for two years. She did all her own housework and weighed only 90 pounds. They tried to live on five dollars a week, but what she wanted most was to be able to keep her family together and information by which she would not have to have more. Hers was a tragic pathetic case and there are millions like her.
The nation is paying for this ignorance in human misery and the spread of social and transmissible diseases, it is paying for it in the general lowering of the standards of living, paying for it in out differential birth rate, in national unemployment. We are paying for it in ever mounting taxes and a condition of chaos which threatens to undermine our economic, social and cultural institutions upon which our civilization has been founded. Our population has increased 22,000,000 since 1920 and we continue to increase over 1 and 1/2 millions a year.
If you are in sympathy with the work I am doing, help me change our laws of Massachusetts, write to me in care of Station WEEI. We have petitions that we wish to present to the President of the United States. We are asking him to help the mothers of the nation to free themselves from the hardships of enslaved maternity. Help the mothers of this nation to help themselves through the knowledge of birth control.
↑Delivered over Station WEEI Thurs. March 14th 1935↓
Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project