Margaret Sanger, "Editorial," July 1926.
Source: " Birth Control Review, July 1926, pp. 217-18."
Centuries long mankind has used the little child, the tender new-born baby, as a scourge to punish guilty parents-parents who have infringed the sex-code of the churches. It is amazing that in this century of the child such a method of punishment should be allowed to persist, and it is only because we have been hardened to the idea by long familiarity that we do not universally recognize now how terribly shocking it is. With half of our minds we try to exalt motherhood, and to reverence the relation between mother and child. Pictures, statues and images embody this sentiment of adoration. With the other half we think of a child as retribution for unholy sex relations-a consequence of evil-doing by which the woman who has "sinned" is shamed. Even married people, whose union the Church has blessed, are only permitted the fullest expression of their love for each other, on condition that they take the "consequences" in the shape of a perhaps unwanted baby, who is thus condemned to come into the family regardless of its mother's health, the comfort and welfare of its sisters and brothers and the peace of mind of its father. For it there may be no proper provision, no room in the home, insufficient food, no happy loving mother to care for it.
The old Hebrews got rid of their sins by laying them on the head of a goat, which was then driven into the wilderness "bearing upon him all their iniquities." Christians have taken, instead of an animal peculiarly well fitted to take care of itself, a little helpless child, as the scape-goat for its parents' iniquities. The figure of the scape-goat has stood always for loneliness, desolation, but the fate of the illegitimate child, divided from its fellows by the brand of its shameful birth, has been made a thousand times more painful than that which befell the goat in the desert. The figures as to the comparative mortality of legitimate and illegitimate children tell part of the story. More of it is revealed in the records of our prisons and our institutions for dependent and defective children. Even for the unwanted child in the family the fate is not much better. Underfed, underclothed, dwelling in a shamefully congested home, deprived of its right to joyous childhood and the loving care of a happy mother, it is not only the instrument of punishment to its parents, but it also inflicts suffering on its brothers and sisters, who as members of large families run greater risks of filling the ranks of child laborers and becoming inmates of institutions for the defective, the delinquent, the dependent. What could be more immoral than that these little innocents should be tormented. In an effort to check the morality of a few adults, we have been committing offences against little children. Surely those who call themselves Christians need to beware lest they earn the fate pronounced by Christ on "whosoever shall offend one of these little ones."
Fortunately out of the darkness of this medieval morality we are coming into the sunshine of a new ideal. Through Birth Control the baby may be assured of welcome and opportunity, of life worth having. The sacredness of motherhood takes on a new meaning, when motherhood is chosen freely and is a crown of happiness, not a brand of infamy, nor the shadow of an Indulgence. The century of the child dawns only when the child is wanted, welcomed, given all that is necessary to its development and happiness, and when the coming of the child is completely and for ever separated from all thought of retribution and punishment. Only thus can we build up to the new morality, which must characterize the Century of the Child.
Over eighty million dollars a year are spent in New York City for welfare work. Such is the estimate of the Welfare Council, as described in the New York Times for June 6th. Of this amount $30,000,000 comes from taxation, and the other $50,000,000 from private donors. Every kind of agency for the relief of suffering is included under the survey of the Welfare Council. There are 247 organizations in the field of Child Welfare, 342 agencies are concerned with family welfare, 234 agencies provide hospital care, medical preventive work and mental hygiene, and there are 262 societies devoted to educational and neighborhood activities. The work has been carefully organized to do away with the great amount of duplication which formerly characterized charitable work in the great city. But the pity of it is that there is no attempt being made, by any organization under the Welfare Council, to end the need for all this charity and dependence and to place the families in a position where they may be self-supporting and free from the necessity of appealing to any of these numerous organizations and agencies.
The work of the Welfare Council is endless. The Social Workers in the various agencies look forward to ever-increasing needs and ever greater demands for money from generous givers and from larger city taxes. The work of one year does nothing to end misery and want permanently, and the writer of the article in the Times foresees that "in the future it will be increasingly difficult to maintain the present volume of contributions to charitable endeavors." "Financial support," he adds, "does not grow in proportion to the increasing needs of social welfare institutions. Competition for gifts is becoming keener. The era of diminishing returns, the Social Workers say, is not far off." Perhaps this is a good omen for the Birth Control movement. If the donors, large and small, of these fifty millions of voluntary contributions are tiring of their fruitless giving, they may come to realize that there is one cause to which they could give hopefully, knowing that their gifts would go to end social misery and not to perpetuate it. Surely then instead of finding it difficult to raise an income of less than $60,000-a mere drop compared to the amount spent by any single one of the larger welfare agencies, the American Birth Control League would be importuned to accept, and expend in its mission of salvation, hundreds of thousands of dollars, each giver feeling that he or she was giving for the ending of misery, pain, poverty, and dependency, not merely for its alleviation and continuance.
The Sesqui-Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia will have a very special significance in the Birth Control movement. For the first time in a great national and international exposition, Birth Control has been allotted a due place. The booth of the American Birth Control League is in the Educational Building, between that of the National Council of Women and that of the Mental Hygiene Society of Pennsylvania. There it will stand with its display of literature and exhibits from now on until December. Special weeks have been allotted to states where there are active Birth Control groups, and prominent women have undertaken to act as hostesses during these weeks. The staff in the booth will consist largely of volunteers, who will attend to answer questions and distribute literature. Fifteen minute talks on Birth Control will be given daily in the auditorium and efforts are being made to recruit our speakers from among the very best that the states have to offer. The exhibits will be of peculiar interest. Months have been spent in research work for the charts, and material has been gathered from international authorities on questions of food, population and health. It is our hope that every one of the readers of the BIRTH CONTROL REVIEW who visits the Exposition will report at the booth, and will spread the news of its existence and position among their friends. If there are any who can volunteer as helpers, we beg them to communicate with Mrs. Anne Kennedy at Headquarters in New York.
IN preparing to bind the recent issues of the BIRTH CONTROL REVIEW, we find that we are short of the number for January 1924. If any of our subscribers have extra copies of this issue, we shall be very grateful, if they will send them to "The Birth Control Review," 104 Fifth Avenue, New York City. Another request we wish to make of our readers if for clippings of any items of interest in regard to Birth Control that they may see in their local newspapers. We are discontinuing our Clipping service for the present in the hope that our loyal friends will more than make good the deficiency.
Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project