Margaret Sanger, "First American Birth Control Conference Second Session Summary," 12 Nov 1921.
Source: " Birth Control: What It Is, How it Works, What it Will Do: Proceedings of the American Birth Control Conference Held at the Hotel Plaza, New York, November 11, 12, 1921 (New York: 1921), pp. 90-92."
Sanger was asked to summarize papers given during the second session of the First American Birth Control Conference, including papers by Aaron J. Rosanoff, Roswell H. Johnson, Clarence Cook Little, Virginia C. Young, Eduard C. Lindeman, Harriette M. Dilla, and John O. P. Bland, on topics ranging from psychiatry and birth control, eugenics, delinquency, birth control and rural social progress, and the population in Asia. A general discussion of the papers preceded Sanger's comments. For other speeches and comments made at this conference, see "Opening Address," "The Use of the Pessary," "Comments," "Introduction for Harold Cox," "The Morality of Birth Control," and "Closing Remarks"
Madam Chairman, and friends. It seems to me in listening to the papers, that I thoroughly agree with the last speaker, Dr. Flanagan from Virginia, that the papers have been excellent, in a very splendid key. It seems to me that they have been of sufficient variety to bring in and to show all of us today how wide the subject of Birth Control is, and how important it is to include it into practically every program that we have for racial betterment and for national health.
There is one thing that I feel has perhaps not been understood. One of the speakers in one of the very able papers spoke of the emotional, and told us to take principles out from the emotional, and I just want to call attention, whenever anybody says "emotional" in Birth Control, I know they mean me. I want to say this. That when you realize that six or ten years back the same conditions were there as are here today, the same kinds of people, the same abortions, the same working conditions, the same overcrowding conditions, and yet it would have been impossible to have gathered together a group such as is here today to discuss the subject. Everywhere you looked people said "Yes, that is important. But don't talk about it." And it was necessary for some one to come out and waken an inert people. You could not do it at that time by reasoned or logical discussion. I always said that when the house is on fire you don't criticize the voice that calls your attention to it. It may not be ladylike, and just the tone and quality of voice we would like to hear, nevertheless we are glad that that voice has aroused our attention to the fact that the house is on fire. Now, in planning to awaken an inert people to the importance of Birth Control, I felt that it was first necessary to agitate and to awaken their interest in the question. There had to be various means and methods. The first thing was the challenging of these laws that have been for more than one hundred years upon our statute books. We hold the law as a rather sacred thing, and the only way you can awaken people to the question that was here before us, was to challenge that thing which all of us held sacred. That arouses attention, and when this is done, then we come to plan the means of giving the message and of educating. So the process goes, agitate, educate, organize and legislate. We are now up to our third stage, of organization.
Now, all of us know, as I do, having been a nurse for many years among all kinds of people, that while some people had knowledge to prevent conception, thousands of others did not have it, that the reason was not only the ignorance of the people themselves, but also the lack of attention or the lack of knowledge of the medical profession. I found that most physicians who were honest with me said "Well, there is very little that I know about it." So we had to arouse their interest as well, and I think that the victory of this agitation, of this education, is in the meeting that we are holding tonight, I suppose this is the first meeting of the kind that has been held in the United States, where we are to discuss the ways and means to prevent conception. We have been overwhelmed with requests for these tickets. I assure you it is most pleasing. We have also had a great many requests from nurses and social workers to attend that session, and we regret to say that we are unable to accommodate them tonight because so many physicians have applied for admission. Now out of this conference tonight I believe we will begin to get somewhere, and if, as Dr. Konikow stated, there has been nothing new at this meeting, she must speak for herself, because I think there are many of us who have found new suggestions, new ideas. And even if they have not been new, we have been convinced once more of the strength of our own ideas. So I feel that all of us must feel today a strengthening of our conviction that Birth Control is absolutely an essential part of the program from every angle and from every platform that we have put into operation to make this a better country and a better race.
Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project