Margaret Sanger, "Santa Rita Hotel Speech," 23 Nov 1934.
Source: " Margaret Sanger Addresses Women, Tucson Daily Citizen, Nov. 23, 1934."
The full text of this speech was not found; press coverage has been used instead. For partial drafts see Margaret Sanger Microfilm, Smith College Collections S77:77 and 79.
Speaking before a group of women whose numbers taxed the catering resources of the Santa Rita hotel to the limit and whose personnel represented every woman’s organization of Tucson, Mrs. Margaret Sanger urged her hearers to forward the cause of birth control in America. Mrs. Iva M. Keddington, president of the Tucson Business and Professional Women's Club, introduced the guest speaker.
Stating that no question has so large a practical significance and at the same time cuts so deeply into the foundation of social evolution as birth control. she told of a law passed by Congress in 1873, forbidding any one to send books, pamphlets, letters or articles relating to the prevention of contraception through the United States mail or by common carriers.
She said, “That law is still on the statute books. Our committee on federal legislation for birth control is trying to amend it, so that doctors and hospitals and public health clinics shall be able to instruct poor women, coming to these institutions for the medical care, in methods of scientific birth control.
“Every day in the United States approximately 82 women die as a result of pregnancy, 560 infants die or are born dead, and 3,000 pregnancies end in abortion-daily."
“Every year in the United States there are 800,000 to 1,000,000 abortions and one pregnancy in every three ends in abortion; 200,000 infants are born dead.
“The population of this country is approximately 125,000,000 and according to the census, January, 1934, federal report, our population has increased 17 million from 1920 to 1930. We have a birth rate of 17.3 per 1,000 population, or 2,544,450 births a year, and our death rate is 10.9 per thousand, or 1,308,397 deaths in the same year. This is exclusive of Texas. But we lose more out of these deaths, for 120,000 of these are children, infants under one year of age.”
Going into another phase, the speaker said that 12,500,000 persons were receiving relief in the United States in January, 1934, according to federal reports, and 42 per cent of these were children under 16 years of age, and that large families, having six or more children, were bearing a large proportion of the hardships that come with unemployment distress.
Mrs. Sanger chided women who have advanced themselves, many of them obtaining contraceptive information and applying it in their own lives, who have developed their own personalities and have controlled the size of their families, and have condoned the practice in public and have not raised a voice or lifted a hand to help the millions of other women to receive the same advice.
She continued: “One normal couple can, from the age of puberty and during their lifetime, be responsible for approximately 100 other lives. Every normal woman, during the period of child-bearing, can have from ten to fifteen children."
“According to William Starr Myers, professor of history of Princeton University, who made a cross-section study of our population a few years ago, 85 per cent can be classed as intellectuals. This, in my opinion, is why we have such a chaotic condition in legislative enactment today, and why there is such confusion and inability on the part of our congressmen and legislators to really advance the public good and the cause of civilization."
“Within 20 years we could wipe out the increase of these defective criminal classes if we would have public birth control clinics established, open our hospitals and dispensaries and maternity wards to the free access of women to the scientific knowledge as to how to prevent the birth of undesirable children. This would within 20 years relieve the taxpayer and the overburdened mother, and establish a foundation for a new civilization and a great nation.”
Mrs. Sanger quoted Bernard Shaw as saying that this is the most revolutionary discovery of the twentieth century.
“There are 34 million women of child-bearing age in the United States,” she continued. “Twenty-six million of these women are married and these women are facing the helplessness of the future, many of them unemployed and handicapped physically or mentally to bear the burdens of child-bearing or to have a large family."
“Less than one-third of our population has a controlled birth rate and that one-third is spending most of its energy and its efforts and giving its very life to help solve the problems that the unrestricted fertility of the other group is causing,” she asserted. “By that, I mean social workers, nurses, doctors, relief agencies and allied forces. They are dealing with the results and not with the causes, and we have got to get down to the facts and the causes, to the sources of our social problems, if we are going to really cure these social diseases.”
She spoke of the fact that the majority of delinquent children come from large families, from overcrowded homes, with no place for them to play, with no direction to their activities. She said, “They soon find themselves in courts, with truant officers trying to keep them in schools, and they eventually end up as juvenile criminals. The institutions for the feebleminded and the insane are overcrowded, and too many of our legislators and governors are priding themselves, about election time, with the millions they have spent for such institutions, wasting the taxpayers’ money in these palatial buildings, while none of us has challenged these statements and asked them what they are doing to relieve the taxpayer or diminishing the need for such useless expenditures.”
Mrs. Sanger agrees with Bernard Shaw, she says, “that nothing that is admittedly horrible really matters any more, because if it is only horrible enough it frightens people into seeking a remedy to prevent its happening again."
“If an automobile falls over a cliff, if a building caves in and kills hundreds of people, all horrible catastrophes, we admit, but if these horrors arouse communities and nations out of their lethargy and indifference, if they bring improvements, if they bring groups together into closer realization and form that collective mind of humanity which adds to the community of world wisdom, then these have ennobled and advanced the spiritual progress of mankind."
“But the real horrors and tragedies of our civilization are these, which happen every day, needles, useless, senseless, ceaseless, futile sufferings, which some good religious folks call 'natural,' which take place all around us, day after day, year after year, and are perpetuated from generation to generation."
“I mean the suffering and the fear of undesired pregnancy of innocent women, too poor to defend themselves, too weak to rebel, too inarticulate to cry out."
“These are the sufferings we are organized to eliminate--these are the woman we are dedicated to defend.”
Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project