Margaret Sanger, "Statement on Ethel Byrne's Hunger Strike," 27 Jan 1917.

Source: " Stirring Appeal Written by Birth Control Advocates, Wilkes Barre Times-Leader, Jan. 27, 1917, p. 13."

Sanger's statement, distributed by the United Press, was also published in the San Jose Evening News, Jan. 27, 1917.


Stirring Appeal Written by Birth Control Advocates

By Mrs. Margaret H. Sanger

New York, Jan. 27.-- "Discussing the hunger strike of her sister, Mrs. Ethel Byrne, Mrs. Margaret Sanger, originator of the birth control campaign, to-day gave the United Press the following statement:"

To the people in the United States who would like to know why my sister was convicted and why she has gone on a hunger strike:

She has gone on a strike, refusing all food, drink and work, because she was thrust into prison by a court which denied her the inherent right to test the constitutionality of a law which is the most outrageous piece of legislation on the statue books today.

I mean the law forbidding the dissemination of birth control information. This archaic law which has been untested on the statute books since 1878, causes the death of more than 8,000 working mothers in New York every year. Similar laws in other states being the annual total to the terrible figure of mothers dead through law-imposed ignorance of nearly a quarter of a million.

These unfortunate women go to their graves unnoticed and their agonies and deaths unknown. Mrs. Byrne feels that one more death laid at the door of the government of this state is of little consequence as a life.

But if such should be her lot, and if her strike should end in her death, as well it may, it will, at least, be known that she died because of this same law.

Women of the State of New York and of the nation:

To let Mrs. Byrne die, will be the beginning of the end of your freedom for another generation. Already the hand of tyranny has throttled our every effort to obtain Justice. With you rests the power to voice your feelings.

Birth control is practically a new subject in the United States. Birth control is not an attack on the birth-rate as such. It is a scientifically just and human effort to prevent the birth of more children than parents can endow with strong bodies and in the battle of life. Nothing more.

Birth control is a social principal with a message to woman kind, especially to working women, already entrapped as she is in the meshes of ignorance.

This ignorance is the lot of the working woman alone. It is the working man, his wife and his family that present the problems of this generation.

The women of wealth can and have obtained this knowledge and put it into practice, have been relieved of overburdened maternity and are free to experience the joy of life which only welcome children and voluntary motherhood can bring.


Subject Terms:

Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project


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