Margaret Sanger, "Associated Press Interview," 24 May 1934.
Source: " Midstream with Modern Women: Margaret Sanger Heads the World's Largest Birth Control Clinic, Scranton Republican, May 25, 1934, p. 13 ."
The event discussed was likely the American Conference on Birth Control and National Recovery, held in Washington in January 1934, and hosted by Lelia Dryden.
The huge banquet hall in a luxurious Washington hotel was filled with persons in formal clothes. The speakers table was banked with flowers. An orchestra played softly.
Then entered the woman in whose honor the meeting was called. She was alight, with coppery-yellow hair and a half-shy smile. She wore a bright Spanish shawl over her white satin dress. There was a cheer.
"Ladies and gentlemen," said the toastmaster raising a glass of water, "I give you Margaret Sanger." Six hundred glasses were raised.
"Margaret Sanger," the speaker went on with a droll smile. "She's a bit of a martyr, a bit of a Tartar, and a bit of a darling, too."
The guests broke into laughter, and a merry, Celtic smile appeared on Mrs. Sanger's face.
Contrast that scene, year 1934, with another year, 1909.
A youthful nurse was sitting at the bedside of a young Jewish mother in New York's lower east side. The mother had tried to stop the birth of another child, whose coming she believed would have wrecked her poverty-stricken home. For days and nights Margaret Sanger sat at her side, struggling with impending death. The woman recovered, but later Mrs. Sanger was called to the same house. She arrived just in time to close the woman's eyelids, and pull the sheet over her face.
Mrs. Sanger plodded home, dazed, clutching her nurse's case. Her husband and three children were asleep. She stood at a window, thinking until dawn. She visioned hundreds of poverty-stricken mothers in New York facing more and more children--and then death. The sun rose.
"Now I know what I must do," she said aloud. "I'm through with nursing broken bodies. It's only a palliative. I'm going to strike at the root--before the bodies are broken."
That morning started perhaps the most amazing career of crusading ever conducted by an American woman.
She was called "obscene." Her work was termed a "public nuisance." She faced irate judges, rode to jail in "Black Marias," fled to Europe, spreading her message: "Mothers must have children only when health and the pocketbook permit.
Today she heads the world's largest birth control clinic in New York. She has spoken all over the world. Some church conferences, once her bitter critics, have voted approval of her crusade.
Mrs. Sanger still has that charming little Irish lilt in her voice. She laughs easily. She looks and acts like 35, instead of her 51 years.
She has established headquarters here for the birth control committee on federal legislation which seeks to make it legal to use the United States mails for sending birth control information.
She is married for the second time. Her husband is P. Y. Slee, a white-haired manufacturer who has become as popular as his wife in the circle of scientists and liberals who surround Mrs. Sanger. Her two sons are in medical school.
She dictates letters to the thousands who write to her from all over the world.
The pathetic letters of poor mothers still bring tears to her eyes.
"Look," she says, tossing over a pitiful plea from a woman in a small Texas town. "The family is starving and another baby is coming."
"The doctor in that town probably knows little about birth control," says Mrs. Sanger. "To get information he would have to take a train to the nearest large city with a clinic. Isn't it ridiculous?"
She reads the letter a second time, and a gentle look spreads across her face.
"You know, we have gone no further here than the sum total of the information I collected in Europe in 1914," she says. "Now I hear that Russia's clinicians are ahead of the rest of the world."
Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project