Margaret Sanger, " [Tucson Speech on Population] ," [21 Feb 1938] .

Typed Speech. Source: Margaret Sanger Papers, Sophia Smith Collection , MSMS72:0137 .

Sanger gave this speech in Tucson, Arizona, likely on February 21, 1938. For a related speech see "Pressure of Population as a Cause of War," 1938. For an earlier draft version see S71:1056.


Many of you must feel like I do each morning as I read the daily paper, and ask yourselves, “Will we ever again have Peace in Europe or the World?”

As we have witnessed during the past few years nation after nation become subdued and humiliated, controlled and dominated, by aggressor nations while friendly nations of the democracies stand by helpless and afraid.

What has happened that these conditions exist and can continue to exist? My own answer to this question is that the men and women now living who took part in the World War have lost faith in the promises of the democracies. We are all bewildered, confused and skeptical.

The one consolation for this position is that people are at last seriously trying to find out the cause of wars and if this can be discovered we can look hopefully to an end of wars.

There is one fundamental cause of present wars. The pressure of population in a given country to its means of existence. Germany and Italy and Japan are overcrowded countries. They need room for expansion. They need more land for food. They need tillable productive land. They need natural resources with iron, oil, minerals and other necessities for manufacturing and they need markets in which they can sell and exchange their goods for food which they cannot grow but must purchase to exist.

Briefly, this is one of the chief causes of the present conflict in Europe and Asia today. Population problems are various and increasingly complex. But unless statesmen tackle and solve these problems they will continue to increase beyond solution.

Germany and Italy are calling for colonies and more land while at the same time they offer prizes to their people to bring more children into the already overcrowded country to increase their numbers.

“Our babies are starving. Give us more babies,” is the absurd cry of the militaristic nations.

There has been a general belief in this and other countries that a large population is the sign of prosperity and advanced civilization. Because of this opinion we are told that small families will mean extinction of the race.

Never has there been greater need of careful accurate thinking than today concerning this question of population, the birth rate and birth control.

We are witnessing today in Europe and Asia a condition of war and expansion for territory, colonies and markets which means that the population of Italy, Germany and Japan have outgrown the territory upon which their numbers can subsist.

There are three conditions in which nations find themselves when its populations gets beyond its capacity to support itself -

1st They can colonize like England, France and other countries did in the early 18th century before new countries were crowded.

2nd They can lower their standards of living, like India, China and Islands like Puerto Rico.

3rd They can control their birth rate like the Scandinavian countries and adjust their increasing numbers to their ability to feed, clothe and educate their population. These small nations, Sweden, Norway and Denmark do not colonize, do not own land outside their own border, yet have a high civilization, with health and educational facilities which have become models for the rest of the world. These are peaceful nations whose people prefer culture, intelligence and peace to disorder.

The almost universal custom in discussing population decrease is to deplore a decreasing birth rate. This is a sad commentary on sound thinking.

There may be fewer children born in a family or city or country while the numbers as a whole ↑may↓ increase. This is caused by a decreasing death rate and longer lives of more people. In other words, to keep those babies now born alive, to keep the mothers alive and healthy, to give the father a chance and opportunity to keep his head above water and ↑to↓ provide for his family means not only a growing population, but a healthier and happier people who will want Peace and Education and Happiness.

If each nation will keep its birth rate under control, fears and needs for wars will become extinct relics of a barbarous age.

You have here in Tucson a Birth Control Clinic where mothers may go for safe harmless information as to the way to space the babies and avoid conditions of pregnancy. Every child has the right to be wanted and every mother has the right to safeguard her health and life to enjoy motherhood and live to see them grow into manhood and womanhood.

No subject is closer to the hearts of men and women, especially parents, than that of Peace. Just what can be done by us to see that Peace in the world can be maintained, not only for ourselves but for our children, should be the greatest question before us today.

Since the end of the World War twenty years ago there has been applied various known theories of the political and social sciences to keep peace in Europe, but all have failed. Wars may not be caused by any particular one factor, but no one can deny that too many people crowded into territory too small for maintenance either leads to a depleted inert condition of the people, such as in Puerto Rico under our own forty year rule -- or in China and India.


Subject Terms:

Copyright 2003. Margaret Sanger Project


valid