Margaret Sanger, "Arizona Daily Star Interview," 10 Nov 1934.

Source: " Country of Contradiction, Mrs. Sanger Brands Russia, Arizona Daily Star, Nov. 11, 1934, p. 1."

At the top of her copy of this article, Sanger wrote "a very bad interpretation of my words." No other versions were found. Sanger may have given a similar talk to the Technocracy Group in Tucson on Nov. 16, 1934.


Country of Contradictions, Mrs. Sanger Brands Russia

Russia hoping to make greater scientific strides than any nation, yet with fly paper hanging over operating tables. Brutal annihilation of intelligentsia and aristocrats, yet creating a new aristocracy of communists and developing minds solely for state use, new aristocracy of communists and developing minds solely for state use. Breeding thousands of children yet unable to care properly for the overwhelming population of today; stridently preaching health, good care of the race, yet never checking procreation in diseased, criminal or insane.

A country in which every man and woman has shoulder to the wheel pushing toward the most immense, distant, dream a country ever conceived.

Ruthlessly experimenting with human lives as no vivisectionist would, yet changing human nature, actually cancelling desire for personal possessions, permanency, success and distinction if only the state may survive and triumph.

That is the Russia Mrs. Margaret Sanger saw on her recent trip. The country becomes less an enigma as one listens to this internationally known woman, whose pioneer work in birth and population control have brought her fame. She told of Russia’s contradictions and ideals yesterday in the first interview she has given in the United States since her U.S.S.R. visit. Mrs. Sanger Is spending the winter in Tucson, having brought her son, Grant, here for sunshine and recovery of health.

With aconfused mindin regard to the communistic country, Mrs. Sanger set off for six weeks of personal investigation with a group of Harvard and Northwestern professors, all decidedly representing the intelligentsia.She returned somewhat clarified as to many points, disapproving and yet wonderingly approving of what is transpiring there. Whatever the personal reaction, there cannot help but be wondered at the burning fervency of the people, she said.

Must Change Ideas

"One needs to overthrow all his ideas and conceptions when entering Russia, for it is a new mind and a new world,"she declared. "I had deliberately read little of what was happening, hoping I might find out for myself. True, I had chanced upon articles, been in conversations where Russia was discussed. I had talked with Will Durant, who is opposed to it, and had been told by others I would see only what Russia wished me to see. Yet with that proclivity for sticking my nose in where perhaps not wanted, I saw not only the prepared, especially decorated show cases Russia has on display, but I saw the flies in the soup, the lack of sanitation, the absence of what we consider necessities, the shortage of food and all the other behind-the-scene details. But in all honesty, I also saw and felt the surging inner or deep lying purpose of Russia in her people. Whether she or they can achieve their goal, I cannot say, but it will not be through lack of effort."

"Naturally, my interests were those concerning mothers, children, birth control, population balance to economic resources and all the facets of those. Yet to pursue a study of those, I had to see the factories, the schools, the playgrounds, parks and places of amusement, the homes, kitchens, hospitals and nurseries. I believe I saw a representative cross-section of Russian life, though I concerned myself with my own specialty. Entering by way of Leningrad, from Sweden and Norway, my first impressions were shocking. I thought what a disagreeable country Russia was, how uncomfortable to travel in, how depressing. The faces of the people were sad, their shoulders drooped, their spirits sagged. Yet when I went on to Moscow, to Odessa, to Maxim Gorki, I saw the laughter, the happiness and the zeal with which the people pursue their ideals."

Woman Liberated

"Russia is today the country of the liberated woman," continued Mrs. Sanger."She is unshackled, on true equality with man--except when pregnant when she becomes almost a ward, a charge of the state and is given special preference, care and food. She carries a hod of brick on a new construction, lob smudged while controlling factory machinery, she tills the soil, reaps and threshes."

"All women in Russia work their five days and have one to rest. By the way, there is no such thing as our week, the calendar being kept only numerically with no Tuesdays or Sundays. All that went out with religion. The free day when one does not work is the pivot of the short week."

"Forty per cent of the machines in factories are operated by women. There is no type of work they do not do, for they share their equality, bitter and sweet, with men. It was Leninwho declared, ‘women have been the most exploited of all creatures, especially by the family, in the home and by the church. They have been exploited more than man by industry. The first thing Russia will do is take the chains of women. She will be liberated from housework drudgery, be freed from her no pay or recognition tasks.’"

"His first move was to get them out of homes, into work on equal terms with men. He organized thousands upon thousands of ‘creches’ or nurseries. These are strewn over the nation, are in very industry, on every farm, at railroads stations, factories, parks. The community kitchen came next. Children were taken to the ‘creches’ in the morning, gotten at night. If the parents wished, and the expenses shared alike by the two workers."

Marriage Differs

"Russia’s definition of marriage is interesting. Cohabitation is marriage. Cohabitation with another when married to one, bigamy. Divorce is simply mutual agreement to separate and a card is mailed in to the officials. Should the two not agree, the court decides. After separation, the government demands the father give one-third his salary to the family. If he separates again, another third goes to the children by the second marriage. Thus, on an economic basis, divorce cannot go on and is gradually dying out in Russia."

"There are no illegitimate children in the country, as can be seen by the definition of marriage. I talked with a woman in Moscow about marriages and asked her what happened when men lived with young girls. There was puzzlement on her face. She asked again and again, through the interpreter, what I meant by ‘living together,’ ‘being promiscuous.’ She counseled with some nurses. They could not understand me. If I meant cohabitation, then there was no ‘living together,’ but it was marriage. Prostitution, which was most prevalent under the old regime, there having been some 40,000 prostitutes in Moscow alone, is stamped out under the new system and I was told that less than 100 such persons could be found in all Russia."

"But returning to children of Russia, it is staggering to learn that [one number missing] 000,000 have been born since [one year missing] At that rate of production, Russia's population will be her undoing [one word missing] may overthrow here one entire [one word missing] . Her entire population of 164,000,000 is divided into three classes; Pioneers, or those to the age of 9; Comosols, from 9 to 17, and the Communists, from 17 years on. But of her entire adult population there are only 2,500,000 Communists, which represents the highest achievement and honor as a citizen and must be worked from the pioneer group forward."

Noble Communists

"It is these Communists that represent the new nobility of Russia. But it is a nobility based on morality, integrity, honesty, loyalty, unselfishness, and proletariat love. Control of temper, absence of pettiness, what we call ‘cattishness,’ and selfishness are all achieved through branding these as bourgeois. Nothing is so degrading as to be bourgeois. There is no swearing- to say damn, hell, God or anything of that sort is to show utter lack of nicety, command of vocabulary. In other words, it is bourgeois, and the Russians to shudder to be called that."

Vividly did Mrs. Sanger picture her experiences with her penetrating mind, which is at once so unusually intelligent, yet so human and sees the humorous, made one re-see her travels. Questioned again as to whether she saw the show cases with window displays by the government, she commented on five great Russian displays.

"There are in Leningrad the institute for motherhood and childhood; the abortitorium; the phophylactorium; the night sanatoria and the museum of motherhood and infancy.

The first of these is a scientific institute for the study and training of women and children as biological creatures. They are studied in their physical, mental and environmental aspects."

"They are taken up from the ‘ideology’ standpoint, which we might term spiritual. They are studied in relation to their home, work, sex, life, and attitude toward the state. How woman works these ideals out within herself is the ‘ideology.’ Children in this institute are studied under somewhat the same program."

"Russia is carefully studying her children. There may be flies in the nurseries and swarming about the eyes of the babies, but Russia will have screens and sanitation, she says; and meantime she expects to know more about motherhood and childhood than any other nation of the world."

Explains Divorce

"I may pause here,"Mrs. Sanger said, "to tell what grounds may be considered justifiable for divorce. One man sued because of his wife’s hysteria. This was on the basis that the constant tempers, pushing, slapping, shoving and reprimanding of child was bad environmentally, and she was not a fit mother. The court granted the divorce. What we consider immorality for a mother is not important there. She may go away and be with a lover, but the child does not know or comprehend what happens. But she is unfit when given to hysterics. I wonder if that is such unsound reasoning? It seems rather civilized to me. Dr. Lebidova, who is in charge of the great institute and is now taking over Russia’s sanitary problems, assured me environment for children is more important than the morals, on our basis, of the parents.

The second show place is the abortorium. To this thousands of women go, and the surgeons have become expert in this type of surgery. If a woman desires not to go on with her pregnancy, the situation is remedied. True, the officials try to dissuade first mothers from abortions, but if she insists, her wish is granted. The man and the woman must share the expense. The woman’s pay goes on, and she remains in the hospital three days and at home seven. This freedom comes under the heading of ‘individual liberty.’"

"The third show place is the prophylactorium, the most unusual institution, I am sure, in the world. It has been the means of doing away with the old order of women selling their bodies to foreigners--they dare not to Russian men, for the man will be exiled to Siberia, or at the least, put in jail."

Women Reformed

"At this institute devoted solely to the cause, women are reformed, taught the crime against their own bodies, the debasement to themselves and their sex life, which they teach should be the finest thing of life, a gift to those with whom they share it. They teach that selling the body is a left-over of the bourgeoise times. The women are given work, trained for positions and an endeavor made to make them Communists-- this on the basis that she is dejected, an outcast and so should have the highest honor. In many instances the women are trained as social investigators. No, I would not say spies. They know the field and the temptations, so they really become missionaries to aid in the reformation of others. The night sanitoria," continued Mrs. Sanger, "are also interesting. They are for children and adults. One continues with either school or work and in the evening goes to the sanitoria. There baths are given, cots provided on open air porches, sunlight lamp treatments given and proper food provided. At bedtime, after soothing music, they sleep the night in the sanitoria. Breakfasting, they go to work or school. This is all preventive work, the doctors in all factories and schools keep close check on every man, woman and child. The slightest lessening of energy, development of a cough and away the persons are sent to the night sanitoria. Should a person not respond to this treatment, then they are sent to the Russian Rivers or the Black Sea where old palaces of the aristocrats have been turned into workers’ rest homes. All expenses paid, the workers rest there a month, or as long as is necessary."

"The last of Russia’s show cases is the museum. In this are housed visual education facilities to teach the peasants and all others every phase of human and animal life from the embryo throughout life. There are trays showing just what diets should be had for every child of whatever age; models of clothes, cribs and toys. The inventiveness and correlation of children is developed through the making of toys. There is no such thing as manufactured ones. These exhibits compel everyone to learn to read. Russia had 85 per cent of her population illiterate, but now they are ‘liquidating illiteracy’ and great stress is being placed on learning to read."

Fears Brains

By no means all that Mrs. Sanger saw or heard or experienced in Russia could be contained in one newspaper article. For over two hours she spoke of that trip. She held no brief for the destruction of Russia’s great scientists and intellectually superior people, condemning the policy heartily, yet seeing that the mass that came into power feels apprehensive of any mental abilities not developed under the control of the U.S.S.R. ideal. She commented on the nation’s realization that the people must be happy, providing theaters, games, parks and other amusements free. Yet here she commented on Einstein’s discovery of an actress with great talent who was relegated to a farm when her personality became too dominant in the theatre. She told of trying to give her Russian interpreter two pairs of silk stockings and a wrist watch because of the girl’s splendid service and impending marriage. These the girl declined because “I would not be happy having them while the others have none. We shall all have them someday. Now I could not take them.”

Mrs. Sanger said that it is astonishing the admiration the Russians have for Americans. You feel the surge of their admiration toward you,she said, but at once recalled another incident. She and her son, Stuart, and the interpreter were passing a group of children, who pointed at the party and remarked: “Ah, there go some of the dying race.” They referred, Mrs. Sanger said, to the dying race of capitalism. It is to America that the Russians look because of our constant travel, our richness, our commerce, our leadership in the world and our learning.

She spoke of the tremendous building-home program going on now, saying that Russia had gone through her great industrial period and is now emerging into consideration of housing, sanitation and happiness of the people. Later they will move into the art period, so now throw up only temporary tenements not expected to last or be attractive. Special emphasis is being placed on the training of young minds, especially in languages that will give Russia intercourse with the world in matters of business and governmental relations. The entire trip, she said, was an experience never to be forgotten.


Subject Terms:

Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project


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