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26 Jan 1923
[Hagerstown Woman's Club Speech (Excerpts)]
Mrs. Sanger Makes Plea For Birth Control Before A Large
Audience Here , Morning Herald
(Hagerstown, Jan. 27, 1923, pp. 1 and 3.
Hagerstown Morning Herald
Sanger spoke at Stouffer's Dance Academy on behalf of the Woman's Club of
Halfway after the YWCA
refused to allow her. For a a statement likely drawn from this speech see "Statement on Flappers," Jan. 27, 1923.
population size, and birth control
population size, and birth rate
family size, and poverty
family size, class-based
family size, MS on
birth control, and natural law
birth control, morality of
mortality rates, infant
birth control laws and legislation, Comstock Laws
Mrs. Sanger Makes Plea For Birth Control Before A Large Audience Here
"Don't let prejudice and ignorance wipe out civilization," was the plea made
by Margaret Sanger, New York, President of the
American Birth Control League, speaking to one thousand and 68 men
and women who packed Stouffer's Academy last night to hear her speak.
The "special officers" who Mayor
Bowman said he would have placed in the audience to safeguard the
morals of the community by what Mrs. Sanger might say on rational parenthood, hid
themselves well. If any special officers "chaperones" as Mrs. Sanger laughingly
referred to them, were present they were in plain clothes, and as no one in the
audience was sufficiently offended to start a riot, the officers did not make
Only one disturbance occurred during the lecture. Shortly after Mrs. Sanger
started speaking a young lady was overcome by the closeness of the air and fainted.
She was quickly revived however and there was no excitement.
"Countries having highest birth rates are those which have not increased in population
while those having low birth rates--such as Australia--have increased in
population. Control of the birth rate is an aid to increased population because higher
death rates always accompany large birth rates, the speaker explained. Prejudice and
ignorance are the two factors fighting the movement to allow control of the birth rate,
and eventually will lead back to a degenerate civilization."
"The world is divided into two groups--not the rich and the poor--but the small family
group and the large family group. In small families is found self-reliance,
self-respect, happiness, leisure, comfort: the children in small families attend school
and college and usually fill the highest positions in church and state."
"On the other hand is the large family group where is found misery, ignorance, poverty,
sickness, child labor--this misery perpetuating itself in increasing numbers."
"For the alleviating of this suffering a whole social system has been erected, with
thousands of social service workers employed devoting their lives to trying to ease the
misery brought about by the unwise and endless reproduction."
"More than 90% of children who die in infancy are of poverty or neglect, and yet there
are no steps taken to prevent the parents of those children from bringing into the world
300,000 more children to die of poverty and neglect the next year."
"The trouble is," said Mrs. Sanger, "we don't get at the real cause of
human misery. We are like an ostrich who sticks his head in the sand and refuses to face
"I would like to see a civilization where parenthood is a privilege," she
"Birth control is the keynote of a new social awakening. It is a principle interlocked
with the spiritual progress of the race. Nature has always been a most ruthless advocate
of birth control. Nature's methods are famine and pestilence and scourge and wars."
"No wonder the world is in this state of chaos. We have got to put a check upon the
growing population of the feeble minded, insane and diseased, until the world catches
Answering the arguments put forth by opponents of the move, Mrs. Sanger
"They say it is 'against the laws of nature.' So is shaving against the laws of
nature." (much laughter from the audience.) "So is walking on two
feet instead of all fours against the laws of nature. So is sailing in boats, and
flying in the air, against the laws of nature."
"But, if self-preservation is the first law of nature, then birth control is within
nature's laws, for self-preservation depends on birth control."
Answering the argument that birth control would increase immorality,
Mrs. Sanger said that of all the thousands of woman who have come to her for
advice, there has never been an unmarried girl ask for information.
Morality From Character, Not Fear.
"It is an insult to women, and an insult to Christianity to say that, if women are
not capable of standing on their own inner strength of character, the generations of
Christian teachings have failed. It is a weak morality that is moral because of fear
of the consequences. People have to be taught the proper use of knowledge. They can
be safeguarded only by the firmness, the intelligence, the strength within
Mrs. Sanger was introduced by Mrs.
Morningstar, president of the Woman's Club of Halfway,
under whose auspices she spoke. The lecturer carried a corsage of violets and
roses presented by the Club of Halfway.
During the speech there was strict attention and hearty applause.
People sat in the benches which line the walls of the Stouffer's Academy, they
crowded into the tiny balcony where Prof. Stouffer keeps pianos and old records and victrolas, they stood in
the back of the hall and sat on the steps. Prof. Stouffer, who offered his
dancing academy after the Y.W.C.A. had refused to allow Mrs. Sanger to speak, said that there
had been exactly 1068 admission. The crowd lined the street before the First
Hose Company building long before the doors were open, and in the audience were
representative men and women of the cultured, intelligent type.
"Are people interested in the subject," Mrs. Sanger was asked.
In reply, she told of letters received by her from women all over the
country, averaging more than 1000 a day.
"These letters, coming for the most part from poor mothers of the tenements, the
factories and the workshops--have to go unanswered because a Federal statute forbids
the giving of such information through the mails."
Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project