Margaret Sanger, "Introduction to Proceedings of the Sixth International Neo-Malthusian and Birth Control Conference," Sep 1925.
Published article. Source: International Aspects of Birth Control; the Proceedings of the Neo-Malthusian and Birth Control Conference New York, 1925, v-xi , Margaret Sanger Papers Microfilm S71:34 .
The Sixth International Neo-Malthusian and birth control Conference,convened at the Hotel McAlpin, New York,from March 25 to March 31, 1925, marked the culmination of a quarter of century's progress in the idea of contraception. In its correlation of the researches and investigations of scientists, scholars and specialists, this gathering of students of the population and biological problems of the human race has, it is our firm conviction triumphantly vindicated the efforts of all pioneers of Malthusian science who for more than a century have staunchly advocated individual and racial salvation through the instrument of procreative discipline.
In undertaking the publication of the various papers contributed to the conference, it is our hope that this fecund re-orientation of thought and social endeavor may be studied by all serious students of contemporary social problems. The present volumes, moreover, constitute in our opinion a permanent contribution to social science and an invaluable record of the twentieth century's restatement and re-application of inexorable Malthusian laws.
Fully to appreciate the unprecedented development in the last twenty-five years of the doctrine of Birth Control in all its complex ramifications, readers of the present record must know something of the five previous international conferences. An outline of these gatherings demonstrates that the doctrine of scientific contraception is no mere faddish panacea thrust forward as a cureall of the troubles of humanity, but that it is deeply rooted in the enlightened social consciousness, and developed logically and steadily into a world movement. I shall attempt in this preface briefly to indicate the progress of the conferences and suggest sources of information to those interested in a more detailed study of the movement.
TheFirst International Neo-Malthusian Conference was convened in Paris in August, 1900, by the late Paul Robin, a courageous and indefatigable pioneer in France of the idea of conscious procreation. The first meeting was held in the offices of the Ligue de la régéneration humaine. Four leagues then in existence dedicated to Neo-Malthusian propaganda participated. These leagues were the Malthusian League of Great Britain, founded in 1877 following the widespread interest aroused by the Bradlaugh-Besant trial; that of Holland, founded in 1879; and those of France and Germany. Upon the proposal of M. Robin that "a free and friendly federation of all existing leagues and any future leagues be established," the international organization was born, of humble, honest and serious parents. It is of interest that M. G. Hardy, a son-in-law of M. Robin, represented France at the sixth conference.
Five years later, in September 1905, the Second International was called together in Liege by Dr. Mascaux, president of the newly-formed Belgian league. The attendance at the second gathering indicated a steady and increasing growth of interest in the Neo-Malthusian idea. The large number of letters from advocates unable to be present in person was evidence of its spread in many countries not represented by official delegates. At the opening public meeting the insoluble conflict between Marxians and Malthusians was saliently dramatized. A deputy of Liege had been accorded the privilege of acting as chairman, and took advantage of the opportunity to explain to the auditors that "he was a disciple of Marx and in favor of a rapid increase of the people in order to put a stop to the unfair division of property now existing, by means of a social revolution". At the end of the meeting, this chairman with ill-concealed anger "washed his hands of the whole affair." But the listeners, a well-behaved gathering of citizens and delegates vociferously expressed its adherence to the doctrines of Malthus as opposed to those of Karl Marx.
The Third International Conference was convened five years later, in July 1910, in the Hague, Holland. It was held under the presidency of Dr. Alice Drydale Vickery –her husband Dr. C. R. Drysdale having died in 1907. The honorary president was Dr. Juris Van Houten, former Minister of the Interior for the Netherlands. The organization and direction of the third conference was skillfully and effectually carried through by the late Dr. J. Rutgers, to whose efforts and renowned success of Neo-Malthusian education in Holland was attained. Representatives attended not only from Great Britain, Holland, France, Germany and Belgium, but also from Sweden, Spain, Hungary and Switzerland, and reports were sent from Italy and Portugal. Provocative and stimulating papers were contributed by Doctors Aletta Jacobs, Helene Stoecker and C. W. Saleeby, while Professor Knut Wicksell, the eminent Swedish economist and August Forel, the Swiss psychologist, expressed enthusiastic adherences in their papers. A large number of charts conclusively establishing the correlation between death rates and birth rates in the majority of European countries were presented by Dr. C. V. Drysdale, a son of the English pioneers, and who has in 1925 honored us by presiding over the sixth conference. It is an interesting fact to note in passing that while America was not represented, the late Dr. E. B. Foote of New York contributed generously in defraying the expenses of the gathering.
This success and sincerity of this third international conference resulted in an invitation to the Malthusians, from the Administration of the International Hygiene Exhibition, suggesting an international conference in connection with the exhibition in Dresden in September, 1911. The invitation was accepted. No less than thirteen countries were represented at this brilliant gathering, the success of organizing which was due to no small extent to the indefatigable efforts and energy of Dr. Helene Stoecker of Berlin and Frau Marie Stritt of Dresden. Two Americans attended; and to Drs. William J. Robinson and T. Belfield belongs the honor of first representing the United States in Neo-Malthusian international conferences. The fourth gathering closed with the passage of the following resolution: "The Fourth International Neo-Malthusian Conference in Dresden desires to call the attention of all governments to the evil results arising from the great pressure of population in all civilized countries as regards poverty, unemployment, over-crowding and race deterioration, and hopes they will give the most earnest attention to the matter with a view to reducing the birth rate especially among the poorer and less spable classes."
It is not necessary to recount here the catastrophes encountered by the Occidental would between the time of the passage of this resolution in September, 1912 and the calling of the fifth conference in London, in July 1922. As all know, it was a decade of disaster, socially, nationally and racially. Suffice to note here merely that almost at the very moment of the inauguration of the World War, and quite independently of any Neo-Malthusian background or theory, the campaign for Birth Control was commenced, and despite the distracting hysteria of wartime, progressed by leaps and bounds. Advanced on purely individual, feministic and profoundly eugenic bases, emphasizing the desiderata of Quality as opposed to Quantity in the procreation of humans, serenely indifferent to historical backgrounds, academic discussions and polemics, the new battle for human emancipation focused attention upon the problem of hygienic contraception as a personal problem, and essentially as the problem of womankind.
The Neo-Malthusians were among the very first to recognize the significance of the militant methods of the American Birth Control advocates, who aimed by "four steps to our goal--agitation, education, organization and legislation,"to effect the liberation of mothers and children. It was therefore inevitable that the older Malthusian forces should join hand with the battlers for Birth Control. This union of fighting forces was more or less permanently cemented at the Fifth International Neo-Malthusian and Birth control Conference* held in London, from July 11 to 14, 1922. At this conference the Orient, including Japan and India, were represented, as well as practically every civilized country of the Occident. The generous adherence and participation of such distinguished representatives of the newer school of economic thought like John Maynard Keynes indicated that Neo-Malthusian thought had survived the attacks of its opponents. No less significant was the fact that hygienic methods of contraception were urged not merely on grounds of economic and social expediency, but as logically and morally necessary from the medical, psychological and biological points of view. Of special interest, as President Drysdale has pointed out, was the resolution proposed at the contraceptive session, which was attended by 164 members of the medical profession (few of whom had any previous connection with the movement. This resolution passed with only three dissentients and indicated the changed attitude concerning contraception which is gradually sweeping over the medical profession.
Such, in brief, is the background of international conferences and he alignment of forces which contributed to the success of the first international conference devoted to Birth Control and Neo-Malthusianism ever held in America. A glance at the complete programe, reprinted as an index to the present volume, should suggest that varied and colorful nature of the various sessions of this conference, which attracted folk from all walks of life, and interested the public at large no less than specialists and social workers. All of its sessions were given generous space int eh daily press and stimulated editorial expression, for the most part of amazing tolerance and fairness. No less than sixteen important countries were represented, and the attendance at some of the sessions was approximately 1,000 persons.
The task of editing the large number of papers submitted to the Sixth International Conference involves problems of selection and economy. Not only economy of space, but economy of the reader's attention. Naturally, every paper presented aroused discussion and comment, often of highly stimulating and provocative nature. Highly desirable as a record of such discussion is, as well as that provoked by the various resolutions submitted, it is so uneven a value, often so prolix in perusal, that we have determined that the stenotyped record of these discussions is not of equal value with the papers and must therefore be sacrificed.
It has seemed feasible to group the papers submitted into a number of general groups and to publish these groups in separate volumes. The first volume contains the general international reports, messages from distinguished and enlightened minds of the various countries, and indicates the awakened consciousness in support of voluntary disciplined parenthood as opposed to the procreation by chance and accident of the children of the next generation.
In subsequent volumes of the proceedings, the fundamental economic and statistical aspects, in relation to overpopulation , war and poverty, will be treated in a special volume (Vol. II). The eugenic racial and public health aspect, will follow; in other sections the sex, psychological, hygienic and medial papers will be correlated; and in still another group the ethical and religious contributions to the conference will be gathered together.
The American Birth Control League announces four steps to our desired goal--agitation, education, organization and legislation. The reports from foreign countries, which make up so large a proportion of the present volume, indicate the uncrystallized and , in certain countries, unorganized nature of the interest in Birth Control. In some reports the interest would seem purely academic; in others purely agitational. We have deemed it of documentary importance to include all of these reports, thus permitting the reader or student, by co-ordination, to derive his own conclusions concerning the status quo.
We present the papers contributed to the Sixth International Neo-Malthusian and Birth Control Conference in the hope not only that they represent the results of a quarter century's active interest and endeavour in behalf of conscious procreation, but in the deeper hope that hey may increase and intensify interest in this challenge to contemporary civilisation, and may stimulate the younger generation of scientists and thinkers to deeper study and beneficent discoveries.
It is impossible here to express full thanks to all those who by the preparation of papers and the courage of their expression helped to make the conference a success. The present task of presenting to a larger public the papers has been undertaken with the generous co-operation of our President, C. V. Drysdale, D. Sc., A. B. E., F. R. S. E., President of the New Generation Leagueof London, Mary Sumner Boyd, managing editor of the Birth Control Review, Mr. R. A. Parker, Mr. Marc Epstein of the Marstin Press, and others. It has not in every case been possible to submit proofs to distant contributors in far-away countries, but wherever possible the authors have read proofs of their contributions. The reader is asked forgiveness for the unavoidable errata he may discover in so varied a work.
*The report of the Fifth International Neo-Malthusian and Birth Control Conference (London: William Heineman, 1922) may be obtained through the American Birth Control League, Inc.
Copyright 2003. Margaret Sanger Project