Margaret Sanger, " [Notes on Eugenics and Birth Control] ," [1923] .

Typed draft article. Source: Margaret Sanger Papers, Sophia Smith Collection , Margaret Sanger Microfilm, Smith College Collection, S73:0091 .

This untitled draft has paraphrases and uncredited quotes from at least three other sources: Charles Vickery Drysdale, "A Guiding Principle for Eugenic Reform," Eugenics Review, July 1922, 103-114; "Hostility to Birth Control As an Expression of Primitive Superstition," Current Opinion, Jan 1917, 40-41; and Francis Sydney Marvin, Progress and History, (New York: 1916). No final version has been found.


We must consider the needs and happiness of humanity and until the mass of humanity is able to command a reasonable level of comfort, that is a sufficiency of the necessaries and comforts of existence, the great need is to hold our population at a stand still until we are able to increase the efficiency of the productive arts so as to provide this sufficiency.

Sentimental humanitarianism has constantly interfered with natural selection. The “slave morality” which Nietzsche so eloquently denounces has been invoked in favor of the preservation and propagation of the unfit; poverty, sickness, humility have been exalted, first by theology and later by social-democratic legislation, a marked contradiction between social convention and private conviction. Well-to-do classes practice Birth Control but condemn it for the poor. The Roman Catholic Church condemns it as a public practice, while the prelates of the Church themselves practice it religiously.

The law makers read the laws and pass sentences upon those who would pass information on to poor, desperate mothers to help them--while they themselves, boast of one or two children well spaced for the convenience of the mother’s health.

Again there are those who shout out against the practice of Birth Control, proclaiming it against the laws of nature, while they recommend in its stead the practice of self control, ignoring the fact that “self control” or the denial of sex expression in a normal adult man and woman is far more of an effort and much more against the laws of nature than the use of knowledge of Birth Control can be.

If they themselves happen to have only a small family, the impression is given that it is accidental or is attained by abstention from sexual relations, but in private conversation the contrary is accepted as a mutually understood fact.

Again those who object to Birth Control on the “race suicide” grounds claim the race will die out, that it is dying out and throw out abuses upon the heads of those married couples who are trying hard to decently keep out of debt, while trying also to bring up their family as decent citizens. While the concern of this group of persons seems to be that the race shall increase, they dare not insist that men and women marry without love, even for the sake of the race. Neither do they dare to recommend illegitimate children. While the practice of polygamy--one of the surest methods of increasing our population, would be abhorrent to them.

In fact after a little consideration they are willing to compromise and agree that the sickly and diseased and poverty stricken should not have offspring and the healthy might limit their number, if it is done through self control. There are two uses to be made of the sex act: generation and regeneration, or reproduction and love.

So far as the ways of nature can be understood by us, it is both our right and our duty, as intelligent beings, to control these for our own uses and our own good. This includes both the regulation of the number of children and the methods of regulation.

The means seems to be the object of attack by our opponents.

No person can, with clear self-consciousness, choose to be born in disease, poverty and ignorance for the glory of the State or of God or of the species.

No self conscious human being can regard his sexual life as a means for the ends of others. For by the very fact of his being self conscious, this function, otherwise merely physiological, has become deeply personal and intimately his own. While for Nature and the animal kingdom the sex relation is only a means, for man and woman it is the first and most important part of the end. This attitude of men and women toward marriage is one the most distinct mark of a higher civilization.

We call it prostitution when one sacrifices personal choice and love in the sexual relation, for monetary gain; why should it be less prostitution when the end is the propogation of the species.

Among the personal relations none is more replete with significance than the sex relation, and none makes a richer contribution to the content of life.

Marriage must be regarded as an end and not merely as a means. Marriage should represent a choice unencumbered by extraneous obligation (as far as possible) while within the limits of health and safety we are justified in employing all the resources of knowledge to render marriage fertile or infertile as those individuals in question may see fit.

The control of natural forces for human ends is now generally accepted as a mark of an enlightened humanity.

We no longer allow women to suffer child-birth agonies without the use of anesthetics--we no longer leave the syphilitic to suffer because they have been “immoral”.

We have discarded these views and we must also accept birth control as a right in itself.

To a certain extent, we are each of us in touch with myriads of men past and present. We participate in a world love, and by so doing are advanced in the scale of spiritual worth and dignity as members of the human race. It is not that we must agree in ideals with each other, but the quest for an ideal is a necessary factor for the ennobling form of experience whereby we become conscious co-workers and co-helpers in the age long, world wide striving after the good.

Let us make a human experiment for one generation only. This will at least give us an intelligent surmise of what can be done through the application of Birth Control. We can then discard it or extend it.


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Copyright 2003. Margaret Sanger Project


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