Margaret Sanger, "American Women's Association Testimonial Dinner Address," 20 April 1932.
Typed speech. Source: Margaret Sanger Papers, Library of Congress , LCM 128:0237B-243A .
The following speech was given at the American Women's Association Testimonial Dinner on April 20, 1932 after a medal was awarded to Sanger for her achievements. For draft version see Medal Speech. Other versions can also be found at LCM 128:0251-025, 237B-243, and 0235-023.
You must know that my heart is too full to express my gratitude in words.
I have been sitting here listening to these beautiful tributes by such distinguished men and women that I ask myself is it true? Am I really awake? Or is it all a dream?
For after nearly twenty years of indictments suppressions, courts, jails, patrol wagons and police raids, it is simply wonderful to live to receive something besides a warrant!
Miss Morgan, I shall always prize this medal far more than a reward for my humble efforts. To me it symbolizes public recognition by a representative group of enlightened women of the basic importance of birth control as a necessary instrument in the making of our civilization.
In conferring upon me this great honor, I feel that you are joining in the battle for a new civilization and that is why this medal means so much to me. The memory of it will go with me into the thick of the fight. In moments of weariness, discouragement, it will reassure me that we are no longer alone in this battle for knowledge. That intelligent, courageous groups of women are not only standing behind us but standing with us shoulder to shoulder in spirit!
I want to take this opportunity to tell you something of the work in Washinton, where I have been for the past five months. In the Congressional trenches, you might say. Our little group of workers, valiant and undaunted, were veritable shock troops in trying to get our bill through Congress. A bill which dares to ask that women have free access to scientific knowledge of their own bodies through the medium of the medical profession.
We arrived there to find the very air surcharged with the present and immediate problems of the day.
War debts, Reparations, Moratoriums, Unemployment Relief, Sales’ Tax, War in Manchuria, Peace Conference, Tariffs, Budget Balancing; Light Wines and Beers, Prohibition, Bonuses. No basic plan for their solution.
The mind of each Representative, each Senator was like a busy telephone switchboard; with the Secretary as the operator, all the wires were busy. How could one plug in with a subject like birth control!
To the busy, frantic, hectic driven Congressman, the announcement of the subject was like a message from Mars, less interesting, or some planet even more remote.
Some days as many as forty calls were made and if we succeeded in getting two interviews it was a good day’s work.
The great difficulty was in getting to see any of them before the bill had been introduced–“busy”, “in conference”, “committee meetings”, delegations arriving, desks heaped with letters–come back tomorrow–come back next week. Anything to put you off and get you out. We always came back promptly on the hour!
When we finally had the opportunity of an interview we found the great majority of men un-informed. They believed in birth control for themselves; but the right of another to have knowledge? Well? He’d have to think that over!
Those who were informed were full of fears–fear of public opinion, fear of the opponents mainly
These opponents are skilled in the art of tactics. They know how to operate and block progress through psychology of fear.
They are known to be in the minority but by group activity they give the impression of being twice as strong as they actually are. Our supporters give single occasional aid, but the opponents spring into double and intense activity at every step or plan. The opponents use the negative weapons of fear. We must use the constructive positive inspiring instrument of courage.
We have persuaded two Congressmen in to activity for constructive legislation. We have worked to make them birth control conscious.
The result has been achieved because of persistent, determined activity expressed in letters, telegrams, telephones, visitors, constituents, who would not be turned away or silenced by the conventional polite routine letters or dismissal. Southern constituents demanded point blank will you introduce this bill? Knowing their earnestness he replied that he would and he did.
Being of a trusting and believing nature.
House–Bill referred to Ways and Means.
And now that our bill has been introduced in Congress-–one in the House of Representatives and one in the Senate. Date for Hearings has been set. This meeting tonight! This award! This recognition by representative progressive women–-FIGHTING GIBRALTAR–ALL MEANS THAT
WE ARE ON OUR WAY!
Who can compute the tremendous sufferings saved the human race when this bill shall be passed? I verily believe when fear shall be removed from women’s lives that heaven will be millions of miles nearer the earth.
The Social and economic chaos of today stems back to the prolific reckless breeding of our forebears. Countless men and women are today entangled and enmeshed in the ignorance and prejudice of the past.
We must disentangle their lives:
We must release them from ignorance and fear:
We must free them from archaic laws:
We must direct our best efforts to settling questions we know in order to explore and enlarge the sphere of the unknown. The sphere of real life.
All around us in every city and town are women living tortured troubled lives. Many of them come to us appealing for help, but millions of them are helplessly inarticulate who like doomed souls are crushed beneath the weight of a cruelly prolific nature.
IT IS THESE WOMEN WHO WE ARE DEDICATED TO FREE.
This medal, this award shall be the pledge to bind us together and spur us on in the continuation of our fight for the liberation of WOMANKIND.
Copyright 2003. Margaret Sanger Project