Margaret Sanger, "Memphis Birth Control Committee Speech," 20 Oct 1938.

Source: " Birth Control Seen As Benefit To Nation , Memphis Commercial Appeal, Oct. 21, 1938."

Sangerspoke at The Memphis Fairgrounds Casino, a meeting sponsored by the Memphis Birth Control Committee. For notes for this speech that includes data on "Blighted Areas of City in Tenn," see Margaret Sanger Microfilm, Smith College Collections S71:1043.


By John Hutchison

Birth control is the logical, fundamental treatment for the ills of slums, crime, illiteracy and child labor, Mrs. Margaret Sanger, internationally famous lecturer, told the audience at the Fairgrounds Casino.

A crowd estimated at 900, preponderantly feminine, heard her call on government to attack what she called the root of those evils--too many children in families unable to support them and educate them.

“We are spending billions annually because of slums, crime and truancy,” she said, “But we are not attacking the fundamental problem. Crime alone costs every person in the United States $125 a year.” Most of the criminals come from “blighted areas” where parents are unable to limit their families to a size they can care for, she declared.

Knowledge Should Be Spread

Dissemination of birth control knowledge by public health agencies, reaching poor families, is a necessary governmental function, she said. Normal persons whose offspring would be a valuable asset to the Nation are unable to rear families because they must bear the burden of sustaining millions of poor, feeble-minded and unfit children of parents who should practice birth control, she asserted.

“The normal family cannot rear children because it must pay for this vast army by taxation,” she said. “If mothers were not enslaved by child-bearing and fathers were not burdened with supporting large families, the general level of intellect would rise, taking a burden off the entire group.”

Definition Given

Mrs. Sanger’s address opened with a definition of birth control as the conscious control of the birth rate by prevention of, not interference with, conception. She said there was no intent to interfere with or destroy life.

“When anyone says birth control is murder he shows colossal ignorance of biology,” she said. “Birth control does not allow life to begin. There is no moral difference between birth control and continence in that respect.”

Everywhere today there is control, she pointed out, in traffic, currency, agriculture. Man differs from the animal in that he is conscious of actions and consequences and man will begin a new civilization when he learns to apply that consciousness to reproduction.

Reasons Outlined

The slight, red-haired woman who has given 25 years of her life to her cause, outlined seven reasons for contraception: 1. The man or woman capable of transmitting a mental disease must practice birth control or be sterilized. She said if she were dictator she would offer an old-age pension to any mentally unfit person who would submit to sterilization. 2. A temporary disease in a woman may be so disturbed by child birth that pregnancy causes her death. 3. Normal parents sometimes give birth to abnormal children. 4. Every woman should have the right to “space” her babies three or four years apart, for her own health and that of children. 5. Although early marriage is desirable, children should be postponed by young parents until the parents have outgrown adolescence. 6. Parents shouldn’t have children they can’t support. They shouldn’t have children who will have no other field of employment but the unskilled work, now overcrowded. 7. Proper regulation of family size will raise the intellectual level of the Nation, because in the small family there is opportunity for parents to train their children, and to have time to improve themselves.

Memphians Speak

Mrs. Sanger was introduced by Dr. W. T. Pride, who said he hoped the time is not far off when contraceptives will be afforded only through medical prescription, insuring proper methods. Also on the platform were Dr. Alfred Loaring-Clark of St. John's Episcopal Church and Dr. Josiah Sibley, pastor of Lindsay Memorial Presbyterian Church.

" People must be dragged into new eras of thought," Dr. Loaring-Clark said. "How stupid to shudder at the thoguht of contraception." Dr. Sibley said he was convinced that the "truth of birth control is good for humanity."

Mrs. Sanger will address a negro audience at 8:30 o'clock tonight at the Metropolitan Baptist Church. She will return to her New York home tomorrow. Her lecture was sponsored by the Birth Control Committee in Memphis.

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Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project