Margaret Sanger, "Motherhood Enslaved in Italy," [1929] .

Typed draft article. Source: Margaret Sanger Papers, Library of Congress , Library of Congress Microfilm 130:0166. .

No published version was found.

Margaret Sanger

↑Either title may be used↓ Motherhood Enslaved in Italy or "Mussolini's Insult to Womankind"

The conscription of motherhood appears to be the inevitable next step in the Fascist policy of Mussolini. Benito’s Napoleonic complex and folie de grandeur have not as yet reached the point at which he compels by force every Italian woman to undergo the ordeal of periodic pregnancy, but he is not lacking sycophants ready and willing to give expression to expressed thoughts that lurk uncrystallized behind his noble brow. Signor Mario Carli, Time (January 21, 1929) Mario Carli has been making a passionate demand for the immediate conscription of Italian motherhood. He is directly quoted by Time: “Every Italian woman must give to her country at least one son every two years. A refusal on this point will be equivalent to pushing men on the road to polygamy–-which, however, is contrary to Fascist principles. Flight in the face of maternity-–that divine maternity which together with some brief physical suffering, gives the loftiest and deepest joys of life (sic!)-–is as culpable as the desertion of soldiers in the face of the enemy, as the attempt of the taxpayer to escape the payment of taxes.....” Furthermore: “Voluntary barrenness and reducing cures to rid her miserable body of superfluous fat are the greatest crimes a woman can commit under the Fascist regime.”

This tyrannical threat is scracely veiled. It indicates the extent to which the impudent dictatorship of Mussolini has gone in Italy. Indifferent or easy-going people in this country may retort that this idea is not to be taken seriously. We wish that such were the case. But history of the world demonstrates that conscription of womanhood has been enforced innumerable times in the past, and that it is not outside the bounds of possibility that it can be enforced in the future. Every ambitious militarist in the history of the world has called upon women to undertake the rapid multiplication of cannon-fodder. History from the forgotten potentates of the East to Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte to the rulers who brought about the Great War, is crowded with such instances.

The conscription of motherhood, and the advocacy of “cradle competition", is a policy which every dictator ambitious for his own glory, almost automatically advocated. Thus he attempts to assert his own godlike superiority over the rest of humanity. Thus he makes of all men soldiers and of all women slaves and breeding-machines. Even if there is no immediate danger of Mussolini’s enforcing the dictum already expressed by his editorial sycophant, the very expression of this idea, and the reiterated call for an even higher birth-rate in Italy, become of the most sinister significance in European politics. Mussolini is demanding of his subjects a greater and greater over-population. He is aiming at the production in the Italian peninsula of an expanding and therefore an explosive population.

Increased population-pressure, and eventually over-population, bring with them a lowered standard of living, and also a search for new territories, inevitably to be acquired by conquest, and therefore by war. Mussolini and his cohorts are therefore progressively undermining the instability of Europe and the entire Mediterranean zone. The alternatives appear to be: either Birth Control or War. Only a decade has passed since the signing of the Armistice and all of us are still paying, in one way or another, for the last international debauch of blood.

Seemingly remote as we may be from the scene of Benito Mussolini’s strutting theatricals, all of us are thus involved in this last insult cast in the face of Occidental civilization. While the material prosperity of Italy continues-–a prosperity dependent to no slight extent upon the millions of dollars annualy expended in Italy by American travellers and visitors-–the Fascist regime will continue to take credit for the country’s good fortune.

The insult to Italian womanhood uttered by Mario Carli is an insult to all womankind. American women to whom the ancient glories of Italy have made an esthetic appeal, would do well to consider these implications. If they would courageously decide to postpone all travel in Italy until that country again demonstrates its right to a place in Occidental civilization, an invaluable lesson in discipline and international courtesy would not be long in demonstrating its value. Those who respect women will stay out of Italy until the last act of her present tragedy has been played.

M.S. Margaret Sanger

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Copyright 2003. Margaret Sanger Project