Margaret Sanger, "Cleveland City Club Address," 14 Dec 1929.
Source: " City Club Stirred By Mrs. Sanger, Cleveland Plain-Dealer, Dec. 14, 1929."
Sanger's speech was not found.
Mrs. Margaret Sanger’s lecture on birth control at the City Club yesterday so moved an Episcopal minister, Rev. Franklin E. Hauck of Bellevue, O., a club member, that he submitted a motion that the club endorse Mrs. Sanger’s program for revision of the federal statutes to make legal the distribution of information on birth control.
Dr. J. J. Thomas, president of the club, said the motion would not come to a vote and went on with the question and answer session which followed the lecture. Another club member, however, shouted that those present should at least vote that “it is the sense of the club that Mrs. Sanger’s program should be adopted.”
Dr. Thomas said “No!” and banged his gavel.
Mrs. Sanger, in opening her lecture, said that, according to available statistics, 85,000,000 of the 105,000,000 people in the United States have the mentality of a fifteen-year-old child. There are 45,000,000 feeble-minded persons in the country, she said, and the upper group capable of raising and properly caring for intelligent children numbers only 30,000,000.
She argued that the feeble minded and those who compose the lower group should be compelled to practice birth control, and that in some cases an operation to prevent conception should be resorted to.
“Do you think that we have progressed far enough in the science of psychology so that the official body which would pass on who should have children and who should not, according to your theories, knows enough to say who is feeble minded and who is not?” a questioner asked.
“How do you know that there are 45,000,000 feeble minded?” Peter Witt shouted. “Is that the vote Hoover got in North Carolina?”
“I’m not sure there are 45,000,000 people in North Carolina,” Mrs. Sanger replied,” However, all my figures are contained in a report made by Prof. William Starr Myers of Princeton University. I think they’re correct, but if you have any fault to find with them, consult the professor.”
“Do you think that the 85,000,000 you spoke of should submit to an operation?” another questioner asked.
Mrs. Sanger said, “No.”
“Birth control,” Mrs. Sanger said, “means that children come into the world from choice and not by chance. She described it as “the keynote of a new social and moral awakening.”
“Population can be controlled either by increasing the death rate or decreasing the birth rate,” she said. “In the past population has been controlled by the former means. Now, with progress in surgery and the exercise of humanitarian principles, the death rate is being decreased. Yet population must be controlled-that is a necessity recognized by all students.
“In the first place, there are economic reasons. Why should the 20,000,000 who are physically and mentally capable and who compose the upper group assume the burden of supporting the oftentimes mentally deficient offspring of the lower group?
“If a mother is not physically fit to bear a child and the father is economically unable to support it, why should such a couple be permitted to have eight or ten children? Many of these children are death-doomed anyway.
“In the lower group, there is no correlation between income and children. Thus, we have slums, ignorance, disease and child labor. We spend billions yearly to care for the poor families in the lower group. Why not get at the heart of things and spend a good deal less money wisely?
“Federal law, passed 53 years ago, prohibits use of the mails to disseminate information on birth control, but federal law does not interfere with the practices of animal breeding in which only the wholesome stock is permitted to increase.
“On the other hand, federal law limits the number of aliens into the country. They must be physically and morally sound and must have a certain amount of capital so that they will not become public charges.
“Why shouldn’t the same principles apply in the rearing of families?
“We are working to disseminate knowledge to prevent families having children where they don’t want them--where the children might be mentally deficient or sub-normal or where there is no support for them.
“We believe that children should not come except at spaces of two to three years and that the young wife between 18 and 22 should not have children until she has passed the adolescent stage. Also a young couple should have at least two years to adjust themselves to each other and establish a harmonious home.”
Dissemination of knowledge, she said, would have no effect on morals. A man chooses his course of action no more wisely when he is in ignorance.
In reference to determining the feeble minded in a community, Dr. Thomas asked if Mrs. Sanger meant the City Council should be the determining group. She said, “no.”Another questioner asked if the practice of birth control in poor families might not result in “geniuses not being born” since statistics indicate that the sixth or eight child in many cases is a genius.
“Caruso was a genius--he had a freak throat, a really abnormal throat,” Mrs. Sanger replied. “Anyway, are we going to develop geniuses in that way? How do we know how many geniuses we have in any community today who have never been developed because they haven’t the economic chance?”
Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project