Margaret Sanger, "Birth Control," Jul 1916.
We in the United States are entering upon a fight for moral liberty, much as our parents entered the fight for political and religious liberty in the past.
Freedom in political, religious and moral thought are absolutely essential to the progress of every civilized country. We have fought for freedom for the first and second, but the third has been slumbering and we have not awakened it. Now we find our moral censors forbidding any discussions of the subject of small families for the working woman.
We are allowed to discuss matters like "preparedness," submarines, liquid fire and life destroying gasses, but are forbidden to break the conventional silence of how to prevent bringing children into the world we cannot feed, clothe and care for.
Our statesmen, clergymen, medical men (and militants, of course), have a wide license to demand that women supply the race with more babies, and try to frighten us about race suicide unless they do so. All of these are either themselves interested parties or under the influence of interested parties who profit by the big battalions of working women's babies. Take the clergy, (Catholics especially). They are the beneficiaries of the church that has made breeding its main source of revenue. They preach from a "sacred book" to "multiply and replenish the earth," knowing that large families among working people tend to preserve their influence and authority. They tell us that every baby is a new soul presented to God, and for his glory and honor women must produce as many souls as possible.
Just as the Church has the market on souls, so has the medical profession the vested interest in bodies. Birth is a direct and indirect source of revenue, through maternity fees, abortions, infantile diseases, and finally death bed attendance.
The politician is usually a representative of the great trusts whose demand for more babies is made for an economic purpose. He desires to provide abundant labor for the employing classes and thus keep down wages, and also to swell the ranks for military duty. He wants "hands" to compete in the labor market, or soldiers in the fighting line. These are what "more babies" mean to him and the priests.
Is a creature owned by the big moneyed interests which depends for their profits upon cheap labor to be our instructor in the matter of birth?
With all these powerful forces against us, is it any wonder that we have given more time to discuss the making of warships and other instruments for murder than to the saving of infant lives and the control of their creation?
We find the real reason that 300,000 babies died last year in the United States was that their fathers could not make enough to keep them alive. The more mothers must work in factories and sweat shops, the larger the number of deaths among their babies. To the father who makes $25.00 a week the death rate of infants is less than 84 per 1000. If he makes less than $10.00 a week, they die at the rate of over 256 per 1000. Every 300,000 babies that die from poverty and neglect has 600,000 parents who remain in ignorance of the means to prevent 300,000 more babies from coming into the world the next year to die of poverty and neglect.
Every woman who tries to exist on her husband's wage of $10.00 or $12.00 a week knows she cannot decently care for a large family. She does not want more than two or three children and is made to become a child bearing machine because of her ignorance of how to prevent it. She dreads the coming of another baby and lives in constant terror of unwanted pregnancies. The husband on the other hand is also unable to cope with the burden of a large family. It is this which keeps him compelled to accept any wage. It is the cries of the little ones which compel him to be the last one out on strike and the first one back. It makes it impossible for him to save a cent for a "rainy day" or for sickness, which in turn compels him to remain in one place, while his brother with one or two children can seek better conditions elsewhere.
Everything is against the working man with a large family. Factories and mills are hungry for his children. Juvenile Courts and dens of prostitution, jails or the trenches of war are waiting for his growing sons and daughters. The facts are that the working class produce too many children, too many for their own personal comfort, too many for the health and development of the mothers, too many for the good of their class. It is they themselves who are the sinners, in thus making worse their own wretched conditions by perpetuating poverty for generations to come. We have the statistics regarding unemployment, emigration, maternal and infantile mortality, and they all prove that there are too many babies born from the working class parents.
All down the ages the working people have produced themselves too rapidly for their economic welfare. The history of labor has been of an ever unsuccessful attempt of the man to make his labor power bring enough to supply his unlimited offspring with the necessities of life. It has ever been a losing battle. The argument is so simple that I can never see how anyone can oppose it. Give a man a wage of $12.00 a week; is it not better to support upon it a family of four than a family of eight? When he attempts to support eight upon this wage it means abject poverty, distress, charity, loss of independence and humiliation. It all seems so simple, and yet millions, through their own ignorance, are incapable of bettering their conditions in this way.
When a man applies for a position in any given trade or occupation do you find the man with ten children receiving a higher wage for the same work than the man with two children? Assuredly not.
Wage slavery, even in its worse aspect, is largely the consequence of the careless breeding of wage slaves, and it will continue so long as wage slaves continue to reproduce new beings necessarily condemned to lives of poverty and ignorance. Such offspring are bound to be the victims of priestcraft and cunning politicians.
And the woman! She has spent her whole adult life in bringing children into the world, not because of her desire for them, but because of her ignorance of how to prevent it. Many of these do so because they do not know that conception can be avoided, or knowing it fear the miserable threats of priests and preachers.
The laws have been made strong and barbarous in their cruelty for violating this particular section. Unjust laws keep women in bondage, and men in slavery. Shall we who love mankind be content to obey them? I for one shall never lend myself to a wrong which I condemn. Has the United States only prisons and jails for us who dare speak and act for liberty? One thing is certain; knowledge to control birth is the most important immediate step the working class must take to reach the goal of its emancipation.
Copyright 2003. Margaret Sanger Project