Margaret Sanger, "Associated Press Interview," 13 May 1961.
Source: " Margaret Sanger, Nearing 80, Is Still Birth Control Crusader, Corsica Daily Sun, May 13, 1961, p. 5."
She sits quietly with folded hands, looking like a modern whistler's mother.
Her floor-length silk muumuu is red, but somehow it goes with her Irish red hair that needs only slight tinting as she nears 80. She's gently placid, almost frail.
But just ask Margaret Sanger if she has mellowed. The blue eyes flash with the old fire that kept her embattled birth control movement going in its early years.
"Of course I haven't mellowed," she snaps. "Back when I was actively crusading I felt everyone simply had to believe what I said. I still do. I don't see how any thinking person could feel differently about birth control."
Then, humor getting the upper hand, she recalls:
"When I started out, I had to be very careful what words I used. The whole subject was taboo. Even my father--and outspoken Irishman who brought me up to do my own thinking--said to me one day: Margaret, can't you find some other subject in the world to talk about but the bedroom?" And he whispered when he said 'bedroom'."
But times have changed. The dignified little woman who was jailed at least nine times and had her first clinic raided by police as a public nuisance is in New York this week receiving an international tribute from science and government leaders gathered for a conference on the "world population crisis."
"I take the scientists' word," she says, "when they say there's not going to be enough to take care of all the people. And birth control, if practiced on a wide scale, is the only solution. I'm not advocating any one method, but all methods."
In the past few years Mrs. Sanger has been living quietly in Tucson, Ariz., but the election of John F. Kennedy brought her into the news again. She was moving to England, she declared, unless the President showed whether he was not dominated by the Roman Catholic Church.
Now she says: "I've been told that he and his wife are sympathetic, that they understood the cause. He may not do anything about it; I don't expect him to promise anything. But if the government would come out and say it was standing behind the movement, it would be a great help to the little overpopulated countries of Asia that still admire us. It would have helped if President Eisenhower had done it."
Mrs. Sanger, one of 11 children in a poor family, later worked as a public health nurse in New York slums. It was then, unable to bear the sight of overworked mothers and their sad little children who kept coming one after another, she set out to "free the motherhood of the world."
"The most hopeful thing our work has done," she says, "is that years ago women came in to our clinics and said I'm in trouble."
Now they come in and say I'm going to have a baby. Isn't it wonderful?"
She has two sons and eight grandchildren, and reflects: "I've had a rich life and found people very understanding."
Although she's made many speeches--"for years there it was three a day"--she has never got over her fear of speaking in public.
"I like to talk to men, though, because they're thinkers. And they're up against the problem of supporting their children. But when they come up to me and say they just can't help having so many children because they just love children, I look them up and down and say: "What do you earn?"
Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project