Margaret Sanger, "National Conference of Charities and Correction Address," 16 May 1926.
Source: " Birth Control Expounded Here, Indianapolis Star, May 16, 1916, p. 5.."
Sanger delivered this speech during the National Conference of Charities and Correction, held at the Claypool Hotel in Indianapolis.
It would seem that many Indianapolis women are in favor of birth control, as advocated by Mrs. Margaret Sanger, of New York, judging from the way they hooted, hissed and ridiculed with penetrating feminine giggles the efforts of a few scattered "antis" who endeavored to make themselves heard at the close of Mrs. Sanger's lecture yesterday afternoon.
It was a vast crowd of women, with a few men scattered here and there, that thronged into the assembly room at the Claypool Hotel to hear Mrs. Sanger. They filled every seat and all the aisles; they rested on window sills and on tables and sat on the floor. Some of them may have been there merely out of curiosity to hear Mrs. Sanger, who has been arrested for spreading her propaganda of advocating that the ban of medical secrecy shall be lifted in regard to disseminating information that will enable a woman to determine the number of children she shall bear. Every woman in the audience, however, listened with breathless interest while Mrs. Sanger told of the history of the movement, and of what it would mean to the working women, especially if the law would consent to their becoming possessed of necessary information.
The address of Mrs. Sanger was not under the auspices of the National Conference of Charities and Correction, and was not on the official program of meetings or papers of the conference, but a large number of the delegates and visitors to the big meetings head the talk.
"There is all this talk about race suicide." said Mrs. Sanger. "I say the race ought to commit suicide unless it can take care of its children better. We know that Theodore Roosevelt goes up and down the country urging women to have large families and he is neither arrested nor molested--yet I am persecuted for urging small families for people of the poorest class who can not afford to have a great number of children. If it is wrong to tell young women how they may have small families, how much worse it would seem to be to urge them to have large families.
"Every year there are 250,000 illegal operations performed in this country, with the deaths of 50,000 mothers as a result; every year 300,000 babies die of poverty and neglect--yet we prevent the parents from gaining that knowledge of how to prevent 300,000 more babies, who can not be taken care of to come into the world only to die of poverty and neglect.
"The working women want this knowledge as well as the wealthier women, who already are possessed of it to a certain extent, for while the physicians are most religious in obeying the law in forbidding them to impart this knowledge in the case of the poor women, they seem willing to give it to women of a higher class. One of the arguments against birth control is that it would tend to lower the standards of women's morals--but the guarding of women's morals is nothing but an age-old cloak to keep her in bondage. The time has come to stop quibbling. When education for women was first begun it had this same opposition and on the same grounds--but education has not impaired women's moral standards and we would find that a knowledge of birth control would not impair them.
"The insane asylums and feeble-minded institutes are huge monuments to reckless breeding. It is a fact that a great percentage of prostitutes come from families of eight or nine children, who were unable to care for the children once they had brought them into the world In the large cities the birth rate of the wealthy districts is about one-third of that of the poorer districts, and my experience has been that a women living on a wage of $10 a week does not desire a large family; when she has three or four children, she is in constant terror that another may come, and when the laws forbid her to be given knowledge on how to prevent this, she is forced into the hands of quacks and midwives. When the practice of performing certain operations was put under the ban of the law and the church its alternate evil, the foundling asylum, immediately sprang up.
"In New Zealand and Holland, where they have clinics where women may obtain information regarding birth control, prostitution is practically unknown. There, when a new baby comes, it is like an automobile or a grand piano, something that families do not have unless they want it, and can afford to have it and take care of it. In America we have the best of foundations for establishing these clinics, especially in the industrial and agricultural districts, where women could come for instruction from nurses. Where the poor continue to breed it invariably leads to greatly increased mortality, and is 'up to' the scientists and doctors to direct the great wave in favor of teaching birth controlWhen the lecture was ended and a general discussion was announced by Frederick A. Blossom of Cleveland who managed the meeting and presided over it. Dr. Hannah M. Graham was the first one to speak. Dr. Graham wished to know, first, where the country would have been had Abraham Lincoln's mother been an advocate of birth control, and, secondly, how the advocates of birth control reconciled their beliefs with the line in the Bible that says "Suffer the little children to come to us."
There was a wild chorus of hisses and laughs, and when the tumult was stilled, the answer was made that "The kingdom of heaven today is full of little children that have suffered to come unto you, and as for Abraham Lincoln--there was only one of him."
Up rose another opponent and asked how about the passage in the Bible where the Lord told Adam to go forth and replenish, the reply to this was that Adam had the whole earth to himself.
Each answer in favor of the birth control brought forth loud and prolonged applause and each question that indicated that the questioner in any way was opposed to it brought forth a storm of hisses and laughs. In the midst of this excitement, slips were passed about the audience requesting that all women interested in forming a league for the furthering of the movement should sign, and hundreds of women busily affixed their names to the little slips of paper.
Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project