Margaret Sanger, "How Six Little Children Were Taught the Truth, Part I," 29 Oct 1911.
Source: " New York Call, Oct. 29, 1911."
This is Part I of an eight-part series of the same title. For Part 2, see Nov. 5, 1911, for Part 3 see Nov. 12, 1911, for Part 4 see Nov. 19, 1911, for Part 5 see Nov. 26, 1911 and Dec. 3, 1911, for Part 6 see Dec. 10, 1911., and for Part 7, see Dec. 17, 1911. This series was compiled and published as What Every Mother Should Know, (New York, 1912).
There is scarcely any subject which is of greater importance or of greater interest to parents than this subject of teaching children the truth about life and birth.
Every parent knows that at one day their little boy or girl will have matured into the possessor of the powers of procreating yet they fail to teach the child how to care for, or how to regard these powers they possess.
Biologically speaking, these creative powers are the most important functions of the body, but they are the only functions of the human body which are utterly ignored by both parents and teachers.
In order to perpetuate the species, nature has endowed all animals with sexual instinct, and man is the only animal who is ashamed of this instinct. Man is the only animal who voluntarily limits his offspring, though he continues in his sexual relation. Man, and man alone, is the only animal who is subject to disease directly inimical to the integrity of the organs of reproduction.
So, with this last assertion before our eyes, we parents cannot help but see that the danger signal is out. It is there and shows itself in the death list, in statistics, in the hospitals, where thousands of innocent girls and women are being operated upon. In fact, the danger signal is everywhere about us, if we could but understand what it is really is.
In the public schools all over this country there is a general cry for help. Teachers are calling out for assistance to help them check the degrading and immoral atmosphere which is pervading the school rooms today. The words and language of the children (of all ages) found whispering together, the writings in the notes and on the walls of the buildings, all tend to show childrens' thoughts. And in these actions the teacher sees the danger signal. She realizes this in the first awful step, and not knowing how to cope with these conditions, she calls for help.
The time comes to every mother when she first hears her child say, "When I get big and have a little girl I'll, etc."--showing that the natural average child takes it as a matter of course that at some future time he or she will have children, too. Shortly after this, questions are likely to begin, as when the parents speak of things they did, or places they went to either before marriage or early after, and the child asks:
"What did I do, father?" "Was I there, too, mother?"
Then begins the mystery. And the lies told by the parents in answer to these simple questions are shameful to hear. Father and mother smile slyly at each other and reply:
"Oh, no, dearie, you were not there."
"Where was I, then?" the child insists.
Another sly look passes between the parents and the lies begin.
"You were in heaven," or "among the flowers, etc."
"How did I get HERE, then?" continues the small questioner, who is in quest of information concerning THE most important subject in the child world, the "I."
Then of course, the reply comes that the stork or the angels, or oftimes the doctor brought him. However, any answer will do which will delude the child's mind and keep him, as the parents say, "innocent."
Now let us see what happens. This little child is beginning to think. He has received brand new information, something fully as wonderful and mysterious as Santa Claus, and he loves to think about it and talk about it, too.
He goes again to mother (father is not always around) and besieges her with questions, and she all in ignorance of the harm she is doing him, becomes so entangled in this mesh of lies that she becomes cross, or impatient, and stops his eager questions by sending him out to play to divert his attention to some other subject. But his attention is not long diverted before he returns to this subject, and if his walk is taken with an aunt or nurse he continues to ask questions, and to his even greater surprise, the aunt or nurse, not knowing what the parent has told him tells him what she thinks. This will very likely be an entirely different story from that his parents told him, and so he begins to realize that there is some secrecy, which no one will explain, and he becomes determined to find out the meaning of it all.
By the time this little fellow is one year in school he knows all about who brought him from "heaven" and how the stork came, etc. He may have been most carefully reared in the little things which help to make him thoughtful and considerate of others; he may have been trained in every way to make him upright, honest and truthful, but the vile words with which this information thus received by him is clothed, the base and foul idea of love and marriage, the distorted view of the creative power which he received, cannot help but stunt and deform his mind and leave his conception of the beauty of birth, love and marriage forever scarred.
If, on the other hand, the child had been told the truth by his parents and had the reasons explained to him for not talking to other children on this subject; if he had had impressed on him what a trust was his and how beautiful a gift to take care of, he would have been satisfied and his curiosity would have ceased.
There are excellent parents who pride themselves and boast of never promising their child anything from a toy to a spanking without keeping the promise, but who find themselves most embarrassed and confused when it comes to speaking about the mysteries of birth.
This attitude of mind comes from several reasons. One is that there are parents, good, faithful and loving, who do not know the dangers and results of street instruction, who think they are keeping the child "pure and innocent" and prefer to give the child the impression of "spiritual" birth, as implied in the answer "The angels brought you from heaven."
Again, there are parents who know the value of home instruction, but know not how to tell the children or just what to tell them, and it is for these mothers that the following articles are written.
The best method is to begin to teach the little child when it is very young. At 4 years of age the first lessons of the flowers could be begun. Keep it up, Then a little later, say six months, teach about the fish or frogs. Then, the next year the life of the birds should be taught, and by the sixth year the child will be ready for the mammals and humans. In case he asks questions before he has learned of the mammals, refer him back to the flowers and you will find an answer.
Most children are safe from being polluted in thought after the study of the flowers, but as the child's mind keeps growing and developing, his questions in order to be answered truthfully demand that he be taught the higher stages of development.
Mothers, keep in mind, the beauty and wonder of it all, and as you proceed in the study of the mechanism of the reproductive organs of human beings you cannot but impress upon the child the beauty and wonder of love. Help the child to realize the sacred trust of his organs, the danger in misusing them. Help him to realize the physical and moral development which awaits him in parenthood, but above all keep him close to you in confidence THROUGH THE TRUTH.
My object is to help all mothers who wish to give their children the right conception of the beautiful truths of reproduction, and we shall begin next week our first lesson: "The Flowers--Mr. and Mrs. Buttercup, their home and their family."
Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project