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Margaret Sanger, "Speech at the Alkrama Theatre," Nov. 7, 1919.

Source: "Mrs. Sanger Told The Women A Thing or Two, Independent Nov. 7, 1919, p. 1."

For another version of the speech, see "Breaking into the South," Dec. 1919.


When laws prohibiting the dissemination of scientific birth control information are swept away and women are free to control the size of their families, prostitution will cease to be a cancer upon the social body; the race will be stronger, healthier, happier and longer lived. This was one of the arguments for family limitation or scientific birth control advanced by Mrs. Margaret Sanger, of New York City, in an address to a mixed audience of 800 or more persons at the Alkrama Theatre in this city Sunday afternoon. It was the first public meeting for the discussion of the subject of birth control ever held in the south. The audience that greeted Mrs. Sanger was recruited from every walk of life and many came from miles away, braving inclement weather to hear the message. It was a timid audience at first, an audience that seemed to fear being shocked. But Mrs. Sanger's charming personality put the audience at ease at once and she carried it with her for an hour and a half. At the conclusion of her lecture about 200 women remained and crowded around her to ask questions. She had told them that the time had come for women to assert themselves and refuse to wreck their healtha nd happiness by being mere child-breeding machines. And the women wanted to know just how they could do this. Out of her practical experience of fourteen years as a trained nurse, supplemented by her researches in the clinics of several European countries, Mrs. Sanger told the women what they wanted to know. A more astounding, a more revolutionary thing probably never occurred in the staid, conservative old state of North Carolina. No, the police did not interfere with Mrs. Sanger. They couldn't. There is no law on the statute books of North Carolina to prevent the dissemination of birth control information by word of mouth. Doctors and lawyers have made the people believe that such laws existed in this state, but North Carolina is one of five states in the union in which the old time law makers forgot to enact a law to prohibit the giving of such information. Probably no speaker, excepting speakers for the Red Cross and kindred philanthropies, ever had a more sympathetic audience than that which heard Mrs. Sanger. Mrs. Sanger is an unusual woman, a feminist who has endured years of misunderstanding without getting soured. Thru all of her harsh experiences she has emerged still fresh, sweet, modest and radiant with human kindness and genuine good will. Only such a personality could have discussed the delicate subject of birth control before a mixed audience in a small southern town. Mrs. Sanger told her audience that 300,000 babies died in the first year of their infancy in this country each year. She told them that 1,000,000 cases of abortion were reported annually by the medical profession; thousands of mothers braving death itself rather than go thru the agony of bearing unwanted children. She gave the audience out of her experience as a trained nurse many stories of wretched and quarrelsome wives and motehrs, husbands and children unloved and knowing none of the beauties of home life and mother love because the mother was sick and worried and fretted eternally with too many children. Mrs. Sanger declared that when information was available to all women, there would be more marriages and earlier marriages with a consequent disappearence of the social evil; that millions of young men and women who wanted to marry were evading the responsibility and resorting to immoral meanas of satisfying their sex life, only because they could not see their way clear to enter into a contract that meant children for which they were not able to provide. She said that in this new era of civilization women are taking places side by side with men in every occupation and department of life and women can not accept this new responsibility without being permitted to say when they should or should not become mothers. Mrs. Sanger made a strong plea for the small family of two, three or four children. She declared that any able bodies man could support a wife and two children, whereas many were broken in the struggle to feed the mouths of five or six or nine.

Spoke to Negroes

Speaking to a colored audience at Corner Stone Baptist Church on Martin Street Sunday evening, Mrs. Sanger told the Negroes that they especially should limit the size of their families if they would better their own economic condition. She said the Negro cheapened his own labor and his own productive power by overbreeding. "You make anything cheap by making it plentiful," declared the speaker. "And human life is not an exception."

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