Margaret Sanger, "War Babies: Is This the Time for Them?," 3 Mar 1942.

Source: " Salt Lake News Mar. 3, 1942, p. 5."

Sanger debated Sidonie Gruenberg over whether the time was right to increase the size of families. The article was also published in the Hutchinson Kansas News, on Mar. 24, 1942.


War Babies: Is This the Time For Them?

Should American parents fear to have more children now because of the danger and insecurity caused by the greatest of history's wars?

From coast to coast they are raising that query.

So the question was laid before two well known authorities.

First was Mrs. Sidonie Gruenberg, head of the Child Study Association and author of "We, the Parents," which won the 1940 Parent's Magazine award for outstanding service to parents and the home.

Second was Mrs. Margaret Sanger, head of the American Federation of Birth Control, who has battled for years--and even been in jail--for her beliefs that women should have the freedom to control the size of their families.

Here's the Result

They swung to bat on the question, with answers diametrically opposed.

"There are more reasons than ever for having children now," said Mrs. Gruenberg, who is the mother of four (two sons are physicians) and the grandmother of two. "Children are going to build the future--and it must be good. The world is ill now, but that does not mean it cannot recover. Much of the recovery depends on a strong youth, which will help to build a better world."

"Hitler never could have come to power if it had not been for the restlessness and despair of the youth of Germany over the bleak outlook it faced following the last war. Hitler has taught us that the earth cannot have sick spots and remain well. If we don't have children and build up a strong youth for the future, we shall be a sick spot ourselves."

"Besides I don't believe there is a valid reason for swinging away from normal. My children were born about the time of the first World War, when we believed the world was being made safe for democracy. Twenty-five years have shown that we were wrong in that assumption. It's just as reasonable to assume that the black outlook which many people see now is not a correct calculation either. So I see no valid reason for fearing to have children now."

"I want to make it quite clear that I am not talking about breeding just to increase the race. I believe that married people who are able bodied, intelligent and resourceful should have children and I am talking to those who want to, but are afraid. Children are a fulfilment and a long range stake in the future.

Mrs. Sanger, child of a large family, the mother of two physician sons and a daughter who died at five, gave her views on the question by long distance telephone from Tucson, Arizona.

Mental Hazards

“It is a very bad time to have children,” she said. “There are three reasons. First, the administration is trying its utmost to get people worried about the future. It wants us all to have a serious attitude about the insecurity of the future. Such a feeling creates a wrong condition under which to have children. It's a known fact that many of the children born in this country after their parents' arrival from Europe as immigrants have had menial retardation because of the mental insecurity of the parents upon their arrival.

“Second, glandular upsets of the mothers during a period of worry and anxiety affect the unborn child.

“And finally, in case the children should be born healthy, we have the nutrition question, to say nothing of the mental atmosphere of deprivation in the home.”

“Every mother in this country who wants to have a healthy normal child should wait until there is assurance of security for the child and parents too.”

Dr. Gruenberg has an answer to the question of adequate nutrition for wartime babies.

“I believe that it is part of national defense,” she said, “to establish milk stations and school lunches to make sure that children born in wartime should have adequate food.”

World Outlook

Meanwhile, let's see how many babies are actually being born. Figures on the birthrate (the numbers of live births per 1,000 population) show there has been a steady decrease in the birthrate in all civilized nations since 1880 until the last few years. In the United States (after a long decline which hit a low of 16.6 in 1933) it moved up to 17.6 in 1938 and in 1941 showed a marked increase to 19.0, said to be largely due to wartime marriages and business upswing. England's birthrate has shown a very small decrease since 1938, when it was 15.1 and provisional records show still more decline- to about 14.2- for 1941.

Germany's birthrate fell like a waterfall in a record low of 14.7 in 1933, spurted upward to 18.0 in 1934 and continued the increase to 20.4 in 1940- a rise credited to Hitler's steps to encourage the birth of more children. Italy's birthrate has shown a systematic decline for many years and Mussolini's effort to arrest it have met with only slight success in the last few years. It moved from 22.4 in 1936 to 23.7 in 1938 and back to 23.4 in 1939. Japan, with the largest birthrate of all (averaging from 30.6 in 1937 to 26.7 in 1938-) an unusually long skid for so short a time. No later figures are available on Japan now.


Subject Terms:

Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project


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