Margaret Sanger, "International News Service Interview," 2 Aug 1922.
Source: " Says English Women Behind Sisters of U.S., Springfield (Missouri) Republican, Aug 3, 1922, p. 3."
"The English woman is one hundred years behind the American woman in her human and scientific attitude towards sex," declared Mrs. Margaret Sanger, leader of the American Birth Control league, today. We had been listening to vigorous statements made by H. G. Wells concerning the liberty with which Birth control is regarded and discussed in England and the narrowness of America in her attitude to the entire question.
"It is true," said Mrs. Sanger, "that in America we still have laws that forbid educational propaganda concerning birth control, but American women have broken absolutely from the antiquated domination of the man over woman and are able to regard and discuss sex scientifically."
"English women are so prudish in the free expression of opinion on sex subjects that it will take at least one hundred years for them to get out from under the influence of unclean and unscientific education."
I asked her if this education came from the individual men of English homes.
"I should say that it comes from the teaching in the church of dutiful passivity on the part of women, and also from the traditional belief that woman is the accessory of man. American women will not accept such an idea. Not even the American man will stand for such an attitude of mind. And this is true no less of the working class man than of the intellectuals. The younger Americans have never even considered such an idea as the subordination of woman to man and even the foreigners who come to America quickly imbibe the American feminist attitude."
"The strange thing about this attitude is that it does not permit free public discussion of the sex question. England already permits before any mixed public audience freer discussion by specialists than we can ever hope for. This is probably because the laws of England do not forbid such discussion. Anyway it is notable that even the women who take part in an English discussion are fundamentally puritanical in their expression."
"And what about the attitude of the English men towards the free discussion of sex questions?"
"Well, one might say that the men of England are just as far ahead of the American men as the women are behind. It is true that the English birth control movement and every part of English life, is dominated by men, whereas in America the birth control movement has always been led by women and it has been most difficult to get man to take any part in it."
"In the Orient, too, it is the men who will lead the movement. Our meetings in Japan and China, where I spent three months, were attended by thousands of men--scientists, psychologists, medical men, students, intellectuals, rickshaw men, the commonest laborers--and only a handful of women. The attitude from the first has been scientific and the Oriental man is preparing to introduce the ideas of birth control as the most expedient solution of their present economic situation."
"In England the medical profession has devoted much time to the study and discussion of birth control. Such men as Lord Dawson, one of the most notable British physicians, and Sir James Barr, leader of the British Medical association, have come out frankly as supporters of the birth control movement in the face of condemnation of the majority of their profession."
"In America, the men of the medical profession, characteristically, are more sheep-like. They will follow an idea, but they have not the courage to be leaders against popular opinion."
"I have asked men like H. G. Wells and Harold Cox and other brilliant thinkers of England why their women are so puritanical--and let me say right here that I do not think Americans are ever half so puritanical as the English--and I have always been told that the expression of the women on sex questions is 'half hypocritical.' The other half is, I suppose, traditional."
"And what will you do to change the attitude of the medical profession in America?" I asked Mrs. Sanger.
"It has been a long struggle of our organization to get medical men who believe in birth control to act courageously in dealing with the question. In 1916 I opened a clinic in New York for the spread of information on the question, I was arrested and the clinic was closed on the ground of 'violating the obscenity law.' In 1918 the court declared that information could be freely given by any one of the medical profession. Ever since then we have waited for the medical men to open a clinic."
"A year ago I promised my board of directors to wait another year for some action from the medical men. That year is nearly over and if nothing happens soon I am sure the women of America will rise up and begin a new campaign for clinics."
"America does not follow passive propaganda. We are an aggressive people who like aggressive methods, most of all when they are directed against ourselves. And for that reason I am sure that unless the medical men take this matter up at once the women of America will open clinics, beginning in New York. The first woman arrested will be followed by another and another, and it will take America as long to arrest all the women who are willing to fight for birth control as it did to arrest all those who wanted suffrage."
Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project