Margaret Sanger, "Spreading Birth Control: A Woman's Activity," Nov 1926.
Source: " Birth Control Review, Nov. 1926, pp. 343 and 353."
This unsigned article may have been written by Margaret Sanger.
For the third time the American Birth Control League has had its booth at the Woman's Activities Exhibit in New York, which was held this year in the ballroom of the Hotel Astor September 27th-October 1st. Exhibitors from many other booths came to congratulate the League on its advantageous position near one of the main entrances, and to get information about its work. As for visitors to the exhibit, though the faces of those who stopped or passed the booth by were new, the interest was the same as last year. Many of those who passed by turned as though arrested by something of great interest and looked back as if they fain would stop. Some did come back later, to find that interest in Birth Control was nothing to be ashamed of or afraid of.
Of those who stopped, some were critics, others friends and still others people who wanted to know what Birth Control was or who wanted to have their doubts laid to rest by learning what it was not. With the latter Mrs. Cartere and Mrs. Vandever, who, with a changing group of helpers, had charge of the booth throughout the exhibit, were especially successful. After a talk with them it was a common thing to hear a visitor say "I did not know that was what Birth Control meant. That is very different. I certainly am for it." Visitors who came to enquire were of all classes.
Among those who were most eager to learn all there was to know about Birth Control were the people at the exhibit who represented the very poor, the doormen, the colored porters, the cleaning women-already parents of larger families than either health or pocketbook could properly support. A special effort was made to reach these and the effort was amply repaid by the close attention with which they listened and the look of relief and hope with which they accepted a card to the Clinical Research Department.
The Continuation School girls who came through in groups-girls forced through poverty to work so young that they must carry a certain amount of school work while employed-were also fertile soil.
Among our critics were some Roman Catholics, but Roman Catholics were among our friends and supporters also. This was even more noticeable than at last year's exhibit, women stated they belonged to this church came up, some in groups and some singly, to express appreciation of the work of the League. One of these was an Irishwoman, a house to house saleswoman of stockings, whose work took her to the doors of many crowded homes in city and country. "I believe our priests don't approve, but that does not influence me," she said. "I never had no children so I don't need it myself, but I know many that does and I will do my bit to help the work along as I go from house to house."
A group of three Catholic women-one of them a teacher of feeble-minded children who held it a sin and a shame that these poor little souls should be thrust into a world they were not equipped to cope with-told many stories of the intolerances of their pastors and masters. One of these ladies had been a regular customer of Kitty Marion ever since a priest told her of "a bold and brazen woman" who sold the BIRTH CONTROL REVIEW on New York streets. Another owed her keen interest in the movement in large part to the intolerant and cruel reaction of her physician-a woman and a Catholic like herself-to the subject.
What, she had asked her, of babies born only to die? "Let them be born to die," answered the physician. But if the woman has heart disease? "Let her go through with it." Behind this modern doctor whose thought is still medieval one can almost see the shadow of Martin Luther and hear his reverberating voice dictate the words that will, in the minds of women at least, eternally stain his fame. "Let her only die in bearing. She is there to do it." The Protestant church he founded has outgrown this point of view and the testimony of some of these Catholics show that the laity in that church also is fast outgrowing it.
These were the new types at the Birth Control booth this year. Besides this there were all the old Social workers, nurses, doctors, college students and other broadminded men and women expressed hearty approval. On the other side were those who had "outgrown the need of Birth Control" and who didn't see that others had not, those who were too squeamish to touch such a subject, those who, offhand on the basis of their own individual experience of spinsterhood or motherhood, condemned it.
One of these brought a quick answer from Mrs. Vandever. Said she, as she looked back disdainfully in passing, "I am a mother " "And some of us are grandmothers and great-grandmothers," answered Mrs. Vandever, picking up the photograph of the presiding genius of the booth. This was the Birth Control great-grandchild-Birth Control because born when its mother wanted it and not by accident-of one of the strongest members of the board of directors of the American Birth Control League.
These are stories of individual visitors. As to numbers, some idea of how many were reached at the Woman's Activities Exhibit can be gained by the fact that 5,000 pieces of literature were given, though an effort was made to give only to those who manifested a real interest.
Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project