Margaret Sanger, "California Civic League Address," June 14, 1916.
Source: " Eager Hundreds 'Hitch' Chairs to Hear MessageOakland Tribune, June 15, 1916, p. 1 Birth Control Lectures End, San Francisco Examiner, June 14, 1916, p. 7."
Sanger spoke to the Califorina Civic League in Oakland on June 14, 1916. She may have given the “Woman and Birth Control," Apr-July 1916, but must have altered it given the fact that California women had the vote in 1916. Summaries from two newspapers have been included below. Descriptions about the audience at the meeting have been omitted.
Whatever might be found amusing about the audience's first arrival and its first attitude, there was nothing absurd about Mrs. Sanger. Her audience was entirely for her and with her. The president of the Oakland Center, Mrs. A. C. Carter, expressed the Center's "sympathy and admiration and support of her." Emma Goldman, it would seem, is the only one of the brilliant birth control advocates who hasn't become popular.
But Mrs. Sanger is not like Emma Goldman. She is slight and feminine to look at. Though she spoke with intensity of the injustice of undesired motherhood and the misery of unfortunate working women with dozens of children, she gives an impression of personal warmth. Her attitude is scientific--cold. She is a nurse and a teacher who knows how to reach crowds with her high ringing voice, her earnestness, her knowledge of conditions.
She spoke of the success of clinics in Holland where family limitation is taught, of how the Hollanders height had increased, the health of women had increased, and how infant mortality had dropped to the lowest in the world, and she drew contrasts.
She spoke of the heavy infant mortality, of children born to families that could not care for them, of child labor and of the social evil. And she blamed it all upon ignorance of the measure she advocates.
"The principle objection in the minds of most people against such knowledge," she commented rather acidly, "is the idea that women's morals might suffer. Solicitude over women's morals has always been a cloak to cover the age-long consipiracy to keep her in bondage. In Spain, where I visited last year, the greater portion of the 11,000,000 illiterates are women. Why? Because if they learned to read, they might learn something.
"One travels on donkeys over bridle paths in Spain--because roads and railroads would make communication easy. They would bring women and girls into the city where they would become immoral."
"Do we think our railroads have more immoral than the Spanish women?"
Later in her speech, Mrs. Sanger in her soft blue gown leaned forward to tell women that the only way they might develop their individualities was to "learn to conquer nature's laws that have kept her in bondage," just as man has learned to conquer the sea with ships and the land with trains and such things.
In order to accomplish a general conquest, however, they were urged to bring about a repeal of the law still existing in this country alone--making her sort of instruction a crime punishable by imprisonment.
Throughout the speech she was continuously applauded and especially when she arrainged the censorship of the post office and Roosevelt's ideas of morality.
"It was never indended that the post office should pass political, religious and moral judgement. It was supposed to be a mechanical and not an ethical institution," she added. This was in explaining why she had defied the law and how she had been arrested as a result. Also how thousands of telegrams--including many from English celebrities such as H. G. Wells, Olive Schreiner, and other free thinkers had helped.
For she is not unconscious of her courage. Mrs. Sanger let them know she had started knowing the consequence, perhaps of her mission. As in San Francisco, she compared herself with Roosevelt, asking who was more moral--she who urged small families, or he, who wished upon the working men and woman many children.
So much applause followed that it was evident that the Rooseveltian theory would never win him many of the women's votes.
Moreover, when all the evil effects of large undesired families had been related--from poverty to prostitution, and all the excellent results of "better and fewer" children--the meeting ended with one onslaught toward the back of the room where various pamphlets written by Mrs. Sanger were piled high between the ivory pillars.
It was a long time before the sale of the pamphlets ended. They were sold, by the way, by men.
"This is my last appearance here," said Mrs. Sanger. "I leave to-morrow for Portland, on my way to the East again. I shall return in October and I hope that by that time you women will have made decided progress toward getting the laws repealed that now forbid your physician to tell you the vital facts of life.
"When I return to California and find that California women have accomplished this I shall immediately begin the installation of scientifically conducted clinics, where this information can be given to the working women--in other words, to those who need it most and who find it hardest to obtain."
Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project