Margaret Sanger, " [Hotel Brevoort Speech] ," 17 Jan 1916.

Typed Draft Speech. Source: Margaret Sanger Papers, Library of Congress , Library of Congress Microfilm, LCM 129:588 .

Margaret Sanger gave this speech on the evening before her Woman Rebel trial was to begin. Handwritten corrections by Margaret Sanger.


↑Hotel Brevoort↓ ↑Maiden Speech↓

It seems to me that this evening and this gathering are significant and important, not only because the idea of birth control has brought together all of us workers of such diverse outlook and temperament, but especially because of the time chosen for it--the eve of my trial. . . .and because of the dignified and representative intelligence which has supported me in this battle.

FOR I realize keenly that many of those who understand and would support the birth control propaganda if it were carried out in a safe and sane manner, cannot sympathize with nor countenance the methods I have followed in my attempt to arouse the working women to the fact that bringing a child into the world is the greatest responsibility.

They tell me that The Woman Rebel was badly written; that it was crude; that it was emotional, ↑and↓ hysterical; that it mixed issues; that is was defiant, and too radical.

WELL, to all of these indictments I plead guilty! I know that any, and perhaps all of you are better able to cope with the subject than I am. I know that physicians and scientists have a great technical fund of information--greater than I had on the subject of family limitation.

THERE is nothing new, nothing radical in birth control. Aristotle advocated it; Plato advocated it; all our great and modern thinkers have advocated it!

It is an idea that must appeal to any mature intelligence.

But ↑Yet↓ all this scientific and technical discussion has ↑only↓ had the effect of producing more technical and scientific discussion--all very necessary and very stimulating to that very small group of men and women who could understand it.

BUT, all during the long years while this matter was being ↑has been↓ discussed, advocated, refuted, the people themselves--the poor people especially--were blindly, desperately practicing family limitation--just as they are practicing it today.

BUT 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.

WOMEN, from time immemorial, have tried to avoid unwanted motherhood.

WE ALL KNOW the tribe of professional abortionists which has sprung up and profited by this terrible misfortune.

WE KNOW, TOO, that when the practice of abortion was put under the ban by the church, the`` ↑an↓ alternate evil--the foundling asylum, with its horrifying history--sprang up.

THERE IS NO NEED to go into the terrible facts concerning the recklessness, the misery, the filth, with which children have been and still are being brought into the world.

I merely want to point out the situation I found when I entered the battle.

ON THE ONE HAND, I found the wise men, the sages, the scientists, discussing birth control among themselves.

But their ideas were sterile. They did not influence nor affect the tremendous facts of life among the working classes and the disinherited!

HOW COULD I APPROACH ↑Bridge↓ THIS CHASM? How could I reach these people? How could I awaken public opinion to this tremendous problem?

I MIGHT HAVE TAKEN up the ↑a↓ policy of safety, sanity and conservatism--but would I have got a hearing?

AND AS I BECAME MORE AND MORE CONSCIOUS of the vital importance of this idea, I felt myself in the position of one who has discovered that a house is on fire; and I found that it was up to me to shout out the warning!

THE TONE OF THE VOICE may have been indelicate and unladylike, and was not at all the tone than many of us would rather hear.

BUT THIS VERY GATHERING--this honor you have thrust upon me--is ample proof that intelligent and constructive thought has been aroused.

SOME OF US may only be fit to dramatize a situation--to focus attention upon obsolete laws, like this one I must face tomorrow morning.

THEN, others, more experienced in constructive organization, can gather together all this sympathy and interest which has been aroused, and direct it.

I THANK YOU for your encouragement and support. AND MY REQUEST TO YOU TONIGHT is that all you social workers--so much better fitted to carry on this work than I--that you consider and organize this interest.

THIS IS THE MOST NEXT IMPORTANT STEP AND ONLY IN THIS WAY CAN I BE VINDICATED!!

↑Let us put U S. of A upon the map of the civilized world!↓


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Copyright 2003. Margaret Sanger Project


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