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08 Apr 1923
[New York World Interview]
Mrs. Sanger's Birth Control War Carried Around the
Globe, New York World, Apr. 8, 1923
Margaret Sanger Microfilm, Collected Documents
New York World
Sanger gave this interview in the office of the American Birth Control League in New York
birth control clinics and leagues, in US
children, rights of
birth control, distribution of information about
birth control, civilization and
birth control, access to
birth control, morality of
birth control, propaganda and publicity
birth control, suppression of
MRS. SANGER'S BIRTH CONTROL WAR CARRIED AROUND GLOBE
WHEN Margaret Sanger attempted to
establish the first Birth Control clinic in
America a few years ago, the New York police came down on her
with a heavy hand. Mrs. Sanger and her assistants were arrested and lengthy legal
battles ensued. Undaunted and undiscouraged, Margaret Sanger set out to change
current opinion. From the Brownsville district in Brooklyn she has carried her message of fewer but better babies
completely around the world, and finally into the legislative halls of Albany.
Next week, April 10, there will be a hearing in the Assembly Chamber of a bill to amend the laws
of the State so that Mrs. Sanger may be enabled to open as many Birth Control
clinics as she pleases. It will surely be a triumphant moment for her should this
bill be enacted. For Margaret Sanger has challenged Federal and State governments. Her books
have been burned in London, barred from the
United States mail. The Imperial Japanese
Government refused her a passport to the land of the cherry blossoms. The
Japanese people protested, and Margaret Sanger made a triumphant entry into Tokyo.
Name Household Word.
Her name is a household word in Japan and China, as
it is in England and the United States. Sentenced a few years ago
to a month's term for distributing Birth Control information, she has eventually
won the support of such wealthy and prominent society folks as Mrs. Thomas Lamont, Mr. and Mrs.
Thomas L. Chadbourne,
Mrs. Otto H. Kahn and others prominent
in the social and financial world.
"When we started our educational campaign ten years ago, advocating fewer but better
children," declared Margaret Sanger the other day in the offices of the
American Birth Control League, No. 104 Fifth Avenue, "we were
almost childishly naive. We didn't know there were laws which practically
conscripted the poor mothers of the State of New York
to the unceasing toll of compulsory maternity.
"Our efforts were all to aid the poor, overburdened mothers of the East Side and the
congested districts. To my surprise I discovered that there was the blindest and
most unreasoning prejudice of officialdom against the theory or the practice of
Birth Control. Thousands and thousands of women appealed to me for help. Twenty-five
thousand women were dying every year because this knowledge had been refused them.
Yet every effort to break down the bars of prejudice and ignorance was hampered.
Birth Control was immoral; it would break up the home. Such were the arguments used
"I found out that I could not reach the poor women who were crying to me for Birth
Control information, until the whole current of public opinion had been
Since then, says Margaret Sanger, all her efforts have been to awaken
public opinion, not only at home but in Europe and in the Orient as well, to the benefits and the morality of Birth
Control. The first step in this gigantic task has been to educate the educators,
to mobilize the moulders of public opinion.
"We have discovered that there were four steps to our goal: agitation, education,
organization and legislation. In view of the enormity of the work confronting us, a
small band of earnest and disinterested women, our progress has been rapid. Whatever
the outcome of the bill that has been introduced at Albany, which comes up for a
hearing early this month, its educational value cannot be underestimated.
"Great and discouraging as the obstacles have been, we have succeeded in enlisting
the whole-hearted support of the finest intellects of the English-speaking world.
With such eminent English thinkers as H. G.
Wells, and Havelock Ellis,
Dean Inge of St. Paul's
Cathedral, London, Lord Dawson,
the King's physician; John Maynard Keynes, the distinguished
economist, and Bertrand Russell, throwing
the weight of their authority into our cause, enlightened public opinion in
Great Britain is with us. England leads the world in hospitality
and fairness to new ideas. I say this despite the fact that an early pamphlet of
mine has been ordered burnt by a London Police Magistrate.
Suppression a Boomerang.
"Such efforts at suppression are, however, boomerangs; they are invaluable to our
cause as propaganda. Instead of suppressing, they arouse widespread interest and
It was a study of the Birth Control clinics of Holland, which have been functioning for many years, that convinced
Margaret Sanger that personal, hygienic instruction should be given by
physicians to women applying for Birth Control information instead of attempting
to teach through the printed word. This conviction led to an investigation of
the State laws concerning contraceptives. Mrs. Sanger discovered that even duly
registered physicians were forbidden by law to offer contraceptive advice, even
parents with inheritable diseases were refused such advice in hospitals and
Asked if it was her intention to open clinics if the law were changed,
Mrs. Sanger replied in the affirmative.
"It may be wrong to speak of these as clinics. We would like to establish free and
friendly bureaus where the overburdened mothers of the poorer classes might come for
advice and sympathy. Licensed physicians alone would be permitted to take charge of
the technical and medical part of the work.
Care of Babies.
"But that would be but one aspect of the many benefits to be derived from such
motherhood centres. We would give these mothers not merely contraceptive advice; we
would show them in terms all could understand that they must take care of the babies
they have already brought into the world, so that each child might have a fine
opportunity of developing into a strong, sturdy man or woman, vigorous enough to
carry on the torch of our civilization.
"There is a good deal of chatter nowadays about Americanization. We cannot develop a
fine race on this great Continent of ours unless we look into the future. We must
think not only of our own children but the children and the grandchildren of our
boys and girls.
"As long as we willfully, as a Nation, waste the most precious resources we have--our
child life--let us hold our tongues about the dangers of Birth Control. The
advocates of Birth Control place a higher value on the life of a child than do its
opponents. We want every child born in this country to bring with it the heritage of
health and a fine vitality. There is the true wealth of our country.
"Let us breed a race of thoroughbreds! You cannot measure the greatness of a country
by its industrial resources, in dollars and cents, or financial power. You can
measure it only in the fine types of manhood and womanhood you produce, in the
beauty and happiness of your children, in the talent and genius of poets,
philosophers and artists."
"Let us Americans give up that lamentable habit of counting our greatness only by the
dollar sign, only in the number of billions of dollars, or millions of inhabitants
The objection was made by the interviewer that perhaps the classes most
in need of Birth Control could not be taught to exercise it, due to mental
defect, irresponsibility or recklessness.
"Until we have responded to the piteous appeals of thousands upon thousands of
normal, intelligent wives who already realize their responsibility and their duty
toward their children born and unborn," replied Margaret Sanger, "such an objection
is, neither immediate nor important. We believe that the feeble-minded and the
incurable mental defective should not be permitted to increase and multiply. Every
new instrument invented to further civilization has been opposed as dangerous and
inimical to mortality. There are all sorts of automobile accidents every day-but we
do not look upon motor cars as immoral. Airplanes have caused the death of hundreds
yet we do not condemn them as unnatural."
Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project