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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.
MRS. SANGER TOLD THE WOMEN A THING OR TWO
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
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
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
abortion, frequency of
African-Americans, family size
African-Americans, MS on
birth control laws and legislation
family size, MS on
marriage, age at
mortality rates, infant, American
North Carolina, birth control laws
Sanger, Margaret, as a nurse
Sanger, Margaret, descriptions of
women and girls, freedom and rights of
women and girls, reproductive choices and decisions
women and girls, responsibilities of
Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project