Last modified on 26 July 2014, at 23:54

Margaret Sanger

The basic freedom of the world is woman's freedom. A free race cannot be born of slave mothers.

Margaret Higgins Sanger (September 14, 1879September 6, 1966) was an American birth control activist who opened the first birth control clinic in the United States and established organizations that evolved into the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

QuotesEdit

  • The ministers work is also important and also he should be trained, perhaps by the Federation as to our ideals and the goal that we hope to reach. We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.
    • Commenting on the 'Negro Project' in a letter to Dr. Clarence Gamble, December 10, 1939.[1] - Sanger manuscripts, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, North Hampton, Massachusetts. Also described in Linda Gordon's Woman's Body, Woman's Right: A Social History of Birth Control in America. New York: Grossman Publishers, 1976.
    • (Note: There is a different date circulated, e.g. Oct. 19, 1939; but Dec. 10 is the correct date of Mrs. Sanger's letter to Mr. Gamble.)
  • The third group [of society] are those irresponsible and reckless ones having little regard for the consequences of their acts, or whose religious scruples prevent their exercising control over their numbers. Many of this group are diseased, feeble-minded, and are of the pauper element dependent upon the normal and fit members of society for their support. There is no doubt in the minds of all thinking people that the procreation of this group should be stopped.
    • Speech quoted in "Birth Control: What It Is, How It Works, What It Will Do." The Proceedings of the First American Birth Control Conference. Held at the Hotel Plaza, New York City, November 11-12, 1921. Published by the Birth Control Review, Gothic Press, pages 172 and 174.
  • But during all the long years this matter has been discussed, advocated, refuted, the people themselves—poor people especially—were blindly, desperately practicing family limitation, just as they are practicing it today. To them birth control does not mean what it does to us. To them it has meant the most barbaric methods. It has meant the killing of babies—infanticide,—abortions,—in one crude way or another.
    • My Fight for Birth Control, 1931, page 133.
  • You caused this. Mother is dead from having too many children.
    • To her father at her mother's funeral.
    • Quoted in Nidhi Bhushan (2010-05-09). "The Pill turns 50". DNA. 
  • MOTHERS! / Can you afford to have a large family? / Do you want any more children? / If not, why do you have them? / DO NOT KILL, / DO NOT TAKE LIFE / BUT PREVENT / Safe, Harmless Information can be obtained of trained nurses at / 46 AMBOY STREET.
    • (Handbill advertising Sanger's first clinic, Brooklyn, New York, October 1916)
    • published in "Birthright: What's next for Planned Parenthood." Jill Lepore. The New Yorker, Nov. 14 2011 - page 48.

Birth Control Review, 1918-32Edit

  • Birth control is the first important step woman must take toward the goal of her freedom. It is the first step she must take to be man’s equal. It is the first step they must both take toward human emancipation.
    • "Morality and Birth Control", February-March, 1918, pp. 11,14.
  • ...thousands of little children occupy sleeping quarters with parents and boarders whose every act is visible to all. Morality indeed! Society is much like the ostrich with its head in the sand. It will not look at facts and face the responsibility of its own stupidity.
    • "Morality and Birth Control", February-March, 1918, pp. 11,14.
  • Our laws force women into celibacy on the one hand, or abortion on the other. [npg] Both conditions are declared by eminent medical authorities to be injurious to health.
    • "Morality and Birth Control", February-March, 1918, pp. 11,14.
  • Has knowledge of birth control, so carefully guarded and so secretly practiced by the women of the wealthy class – and so tenaciously withheld from the working women – brought them misery? Rather, has it not promoted greater happiness, greater freedom, greater prosperity and more harmony among them? The women who have this knowledge are the women who have been free to develop, free to enjoy in its best sense, and free to advance the interests of the community.
    • "Morality and Birth Control", February-March, 1918, pp. 11,14.
  • All of our problems are the result of overbreeding among the working class, and if morality is to mean anything at all to us, we must regard all the changes which tend toward the uplift and survival of the human race as moral.
    • "Morality and Birth Control", February-March, 1918, pp. 11,14.
  • Knowledge of birth control is essentially moral. Its general, though prudent, practice must lead to a higher individuality and ultimately to a cleaner race.
    • "Morality and Birth Control", February-March, 1918, pp. 11,14.
  • It is a noteworthy fact that not one of the women to whom I have spoken so far believes in abortion as a practice; but it is principle for which they are standing. They also believe that the complete abolition of the abortion law will shortly do away with abortions, as nothing else will.
    • Birth Control Review, December 1920
  • Eugenics is … the most adequate and thorough avenue to the solution of racial, political and social problems.
    • "The Eugenic Value of Birth Control Propaganda", October 1921, page 5.
  • The campaign for birth control is not merely of eugenic value, but is practically identical with the final aims of eugenics.
    • "The Eugenic Value of Birth Control Propaganda", October 1921, page 5.
  • As an advocate of birth control I wish ... to point out that the unbalance between the birth rate of the 'unfit' and the 'fit,' admittedly the greatest present menace to civilization, can never be rectified by the inauguration of a cradle competition between these two classes. In this matter, the example of the inferior classes, the fertility of the feeble-minded, the mentally defective, the poverty-stricken classes, should not be held up for emulation.... On the contrary, the most urgent problem today is how to limit and discourage the over-fertility of the mentally and physically defective.
    • "The Eugenic Value of Birth Control Propaganda", October 1921, page 5.
  • If plants, and live stock as well, require space and air, sunlight and love, chlldren need them even more. The only real wealth of our country lies in the men and women of the next generation. A farmer would rather produce a thousand thoroughbreds than a million runts.

    How are we to breed a race of human thoroughbreds unless we follow the same plan? We must make this country into a garden of children instead of a disorderly back lot overrun with human weeds.

    In a home where there are too many children in proportion to the living space, the air and sunlight, the children are usually overcrowded and underfed. They are a constant burden on their mother's overtaxed strength and the father's earning capacity. Such homes cannot be gardens in any sense of the word.

    • Radio WFAB Syracuse, 1924-02-29, transcripted in "The Meaning of Radio Birth Control", April 1924, p. 111
  • The main objects of the Population Congress would be [...] (f) to give certain dysgenic groups in our population their choice of segregation or sterilization.
    • "A Plan for Peace", April 1932, pp. 107-108, summarizing an address to the New History Society, New York City, 1932-01-17

Woman and the New Race, (1922)Edit

New York: Brentanos Publishers, 1922.[2]
  • Usually this desire [for family limitation] has been laid to economic pressure... It has asserted itself among the rich and among the poor, among the intelligent and the unintelligent. It has been manifested in such horrors as infanticide, child abandonment and abortion.
    • Chapter 2, "Women's Struggle for Freedom"
  • It is apparent that nothing short of contraceptives can put an end to the horrors of abortion and infanticide.
    • Chapter 2, "Women's Struggle for Freedom"
  • Thus we see that the second and third children have a very good chance to live through the first year. Children arriving later have less and less chance, until the twelfth has hardly any chance at all to live twelve months.

    This does not complete the case, however, for those who care to go farther into the subject will find that many of those who live for a year die before they reach the age of five.

    Many, perhaps, will think it idle to go farther in demonstrating the immorality of large families, but since there is still an abundance of proof at hand, it may be offered for the sake of those who find difficulty in adjusting old-fashioned ideas to the facts. The most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it. The same factors which create the terrible infant mortality rate, and which swell the death rate of children between the ages of one and five, operate even more extensively to lower the health rate of the surviving members.

    • Chapter 5, "The Wickedness of Creating Large Families."
  • The basic freedom of the world is woman's freedom. A free race cannot be born of slave mothers. A woman enchained cannot choose but give a measure of that bondage to her sons and daughters. No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body. No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother.
    • Chapter 8, "Birth Control; A Parents' Problem or Woman's?"
  • Woman must have her freedom; the fundamental freedom of choosing whether or not she shall be a mother and how many children she will have. Regardless of what man's attitude may be, that problem is hers; and before it can be his, it is hers alone.

    She goes through the vale of death alone, each time a babe is born. As it is the right neither of man nor the state to coerce her into this ordeal, so it is her right to decide whether she will endure it. That right to decide imposes upon her the duty of clearing the way to knowledge by which she may make and carry out the decision.

    Birth control is woman's problem. The quicker she accepts it as hers and hers alone, the quicker will society respect motherhood. The quicker, too, will the world be made a fit place for her children to live.

    • Chapter 8, "Birth Control; A Parents' Problem or Woman's?"
  • While there are cases where even the law recognizes an abortion as justifiable if recommended by a physician, I assert that the hundreds of thousands of abortions performed in America each year are a disgrace to civilization.
    • Chapter 10, "Contraceptives or Abortion?"
  • Birth control itself, often denounced as a violation of natural law, is nothing more or less than the facilitation of the process of weeding out the unfit, of preventing the birth of defectives or of those who will become defectives. So, in compliance with nature’s working plan, we must permit womanhood its full development before we can expect of it efficient motherhood. If we are to make racial progress, this development of womanhood must precede motherhood in every individual woman.
    • Chapter 18, "The Goal"

The Pivot of Civilization, 1922Edit

  • [Charity] conceals a stupid cruelty, because it is not courageous enough to face unpleasant facts. Aside from the question of the unfitness of many women to become mothers, aside from the very definite deterioration in the human stock that such programs would inevitably hasten, we may question its value even to the normal though unfortunate mother. For it is never the intention of such philanthropy to give the poor over-burdened and often undernourished mother of the slum the opportunity to make the choice herself, to decide whether she wishes time after time to bring children into the world. It merely says 'Increase and multiply: We are prepared to help you do this.' Whereas the great majority of mothers realize the grave responsibility they face in keeping alive and rearing the children they have already brought into the world, the maternity center would teach them how to have more. The poor woman is taught how to have her seventh child, when what she wants to know is how to avoid bringing into the world her eighth. ... Such philanthropy, as Dean Inge has so unanswerably pointed out, is kind only to be cruel, and unwittingly promotes precisely the results most deprecated. It encourages the healthier and more normal sections of the world to shoulder the burden of unthinking and indiscriminate fecundity of others; which brings with it, as I think the reader must agree, a dead weight of human waste. Instead of decreasing and aiming to eliminate the stocks that are most detrimental to the future of the race and the world, it tends to render them to a menacing degree dominant.
    • Chapter 5, "The Cruelty of Charity"
  • In passing, we should here recognize the difficulties presented by the idea of 'fit' and 'unfit.' Who is to decide this question? The grosser, the more obvious, the undeniably feeble-minded should, indeed, not only be discouraged but prevented from propagating their kind. But among the writings of the representative Eugenists one cannot ignore the distinct middle-class bias that prevails.
    • Chapter 8, "Dangers of Cradle Competition" (also quoted in Charles Valenza, "Was Margaret Sanger a Racist?" Family Planning Perspectives, January-February 1985, page 44.)
  • Eugenics aims to arouse the enthusiasm or the interest of the people in the welfare of the world fifteen or twenty generations in the future. On its negative side it shows us that we are paying for and even submitting to the dictates of an ever increasing, unceasingly spawning class of human beings who never should have been born at all—that the wealth of individuals and of states is being diverted from the development and the progress of human expression and civilization.
    • Chapter 8, "Dangers of Cradle Competition"
  • Our 'overhead' expense in segregating the delinquent, the defective and the dependent, in prisons, asylums and permanent homes, our failure to segregate morons who are increasing and multiplying ... demonstrate our foolhardy and extravagant sentimentalism. No industrial corporation could maintain its existence upon such a foundation. Yet hardheaded 'captains of industry,' financiers who pride themselves upon their cool-headed and keen-sighted business ability are dropping millions into rosewater philanthropies and charities that are silly at best and vicious at worst. In our dealings with such elements there is a bland maladministration and misuse of huge sums that should in all righteousness be used for the development and education of the healthy elements of the community.
    • Chapter 12, "Woman and the Future"

Margaret Sanger: An Autobiography (1938)Edit

  • Always to me any aroused group was a good group, and therefore I accepted an invitation to talk to the women's branch of the Ku Klux Klan at Silver Lake, New Jersey, one of the weirdest experiences I had in lecturing. [...] Never before had I looked into a sea of faces like these. I was sure that if I uttered one word, such as abortion, outside the usual vocabulary of these women they would go off into hysteria. And so my address that night had to be in the most elementary terms, as though I were trying to make children understand.

    In the end, through simple illustrations I believed I had accomplished my purpose. A dozen invitations to speak to similar groups were proffered. The conversation went on and on, and when we were finally through it was too late to return to New York.

    • Chapter 29, "While the Doctors Consult", p. 366.
  • ...we explained simply what contraception was; that abortion was the wrong way — no matter how early it was performed it was taking a life; that contraception was the better way, the safer way — it took a little time, a little trouble, but was well worth while in the long run, because life had not yet begun.
  • Eugenics, which had started long before my time, had once been defined as including free love and prevention of conception... Recently it had cropped up again in the form of selective breeding.
    • Chapter 30, "Now Is the Time for Converse", p. 374.
  • I accepted one branch of this philosophy, but eugenics without birth control seemed to me a house built upon sands. It could not stand against the furious winds of economic pressure which had buffeted into partial or total helplessness a tremendous proportion of the human race. The eugenists wanted to shift the birth control emphasis from less children for the poor to more children for the rich. We went back of that and sought first to stop the multiplication of the unfit. This appeared the most important and greatest step towards race betterment.
    • Chapter 30, "Now Is the Time for Converse", pp. 374-375.


MisattributedEdit

  • Eugenic sterilization is an urgent need ... We must prevent multiplication of this bad stock.
    • Ernst Rudin, Birth Control Review, April 1933. [3]
  • More children from the fit, less from the unfit — that is the chief issue in birth control.
    • Editors of American Medicine in a review of Sanger's article "Why Not Birth Control Clinics in America?" published in Birth Control Review, May 1919
  • The mass of ignorant Negroes still breed carelessly and disastrously, so that the increase among Negroes, even more than the increase among whites, is from that portion of the population least intelligent and fit, and least able to rear their children properly.
    • W.E.B. DuBois, Birth Control Review, June 1932. Quoted by Sanger in her proposal for the "Negro Project."
  • We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.
    • Misquoted by Diane S. Dew (2001)
    • Omits words from a letter to Dr. Clarence Gamble Sanger proposing the "Negro Project", where Sanger wrote: "And we do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members."
    • The quote was similarly misused in "Women, Race, & Class" (12 February 1983) by Angela Davis, where it is implied that that Sanger was organizing an etermination campaign and the minister would be the main propaganda milling machine.
  • Blacks, soldiers, and Jews are a menace to the race.
    • Unknown source. Often cited as Birth Control Review, April 1933.
  • Colored people are like human weeds and are to be exterminated.
    • Unknown source, attributed by Life Education and Resource Network (LEARN) [4] and by Roger L. Roberson, Jr, The Bible & the Black Man: Breaking the Chains of Prejudice (2007), p. 18.
    • Seems to take words from "a garden of children instead of a disorderly back lot overrun with human weeds" and "we do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea" in order to attribute a racial eliminationist position to Sanger.
  • The marriage-bed is the most degenerating influence of the social order.
    • Alice Groff, "The Marriage Bed", The Woman Rebel, V.I No. 5, p.39 (edited by Margaret Sanger)
  • Birth control appeals to the advanced radical because it is calculated to undermine the authority of the Christian churches. I look forward to seeing humanity free someday of the tyranny of Christianity no less than Capitalism.
    • Unknown source, often attributed to The Woman Rebel.
  • Throughout the 200+ pages of this book Sanger called for the elimination of "human weeds," for the cessation of charity, for the segregation of "morons, misfits, and maladjusted," and for the sterilization of "genetically inferior races."

External linksEdit

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