Margaret Sanger, "Woman and War," Jun 1917.

Source: " Birth Control Review, June 1917, p. 5 Margaret Sanger Microfilm, Smith College Collections, S70:790."


Woman and War

Margaret Sanger

Realization of the world tragedy--war--has at last been forced upon the American people. Two years ago the fiendish internecine strife of the militarists of Europe seemed remote enough. Today our women of the working class find themselves facing an outrage unparalleled in the history of this republic. Their husbands, sons and brothers are to be herded to the front as conscript fighters, in violation of every human instinct fostered in them by the great libertarians who founded this country.

America's participation in the war has been brought about by interested groups, not in response to the will of the majority. Not fifty per cent. of the men could have been induced to vote Yes in a war referendum, not five per cent. of the women. In Australia, a colony of the British Empire, where democracy was respected to the extent of submitting the question to a referendum, the votes of the women defeated conscription overwhelmingly.

Woman hates war. Her instincts are fundamentally creative, not destructive. But her sex-bondage has made her the dumb instrument of the monster she detests. For centuries she has populated the earth in ignorance and without restraint, in vast numbers and with staggering rapidity. She has become not the mother of a nobler race, but a mere breeding machine grinding out a humanity which fills insane asylums, almshouses and sweat shops, and provides cannon fodder that tyrants may rise to power on the sacrifice of her offspring.

Too long has she been called the gentler and weaker half of humankind; too long has she silently borne the brunt of unwilling motherhood; too long has she been the stepping-stone of oligarchies, kingdoms and so-called democracies; too long have they thrived on her enslavement. Had she not been so submissive and inarticulate, the present war could not have been imposed upon the workers; for there would not have been the big battalions of superfluous humanity to be moved about like pawns on a chessboard.

The great horde of the unwanted has proved to be a spineless mass, which did not have the courage to control its own destiny. Had woman had knowledge of birth control and brought into the world only such offspring as she desired and was physically and spiritually prepared to receive, society would have been far too individualistic to tolerate wholesale massacre for the benefit of money kings. Under such an order, the child would have been considered a priceless gift to the community. Manhood would have been too valuable to be sacrificed on battlefields. Motherhood would have been revered, and the mother's voice raised to forbid the slaughter of her offspring would have been heeded.

But unfortunately the forces of oppression have cared nothing for the poignant grief of exploited motherhood. They have turned in callous indifference from her tears, while her flesh and blood have reddened every battlefield in history. There are statues in plenty to kings, statesmen and generals who have driven her sons to the universal shambles of slaughter. But where are the statues to Motherhood?

In the present soul-trying crisis, the flower of European manhood has been sacrificed on the altar of Tyranny. The rulers of Europe are begging, imploring, crying to woman, using every subterfuge to induce her to breed again, in the old-time submission to man-made laws. Soon the war lords of America will be echoing the same plea.

To all these entreaties the working woman must answer No! She must deny the right of the State or Kingdom hereafter to make her a victim of unwilling motherhood, and the handmaiden of militarism.

Mothers of the working class, if your love for offspring, husband, sweetheart or brother stirs within you as deeply as the love that fired the mothers of France and Spain who strove to halt unjust wars by throwing their bodies across the railroad tracks to prevent troop trains from leaving, you too will rouse yourselves to action. You will make it necessary for this democracy, which has set out to conscript your men for foreign warfare, to take them over the dead bodies of the protesting womanhood of the United States.


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