Margaret Sanger, "Birth Control," Feb 1918.
Published article. Source: Western Comrade, Feb. 1918, 9 .
Birth Control is a new philosophy of social relations which has recently arisen in this country, the basis of which is prevention of conception. It differs from other social philosophies in that it goes at once to the heart of the social problems of our times and applies to nearly every individual.
In my work in the nursing field I came in daily contact with various aspects of social conditions, as they exist today. I was confronted with two classes of society. In the first class, where wealth, leisure, education are enjoyed, prevention of conception is known and practiced. The problems of the day do not come from this class. While on the other side, where prevention of conception is not known, we have poverty, disease, prostitution, drunkenness, vagrancy, unemployment, infant and maternal mortality, and the alarming increase in abortions.
I found that the mothers of this class are kept in ignorance, but are anxious and desirous of the knowledge which will prevent their bringing children into world to die of poverty. I found that they would face death through abortions rather than bring children into the world and compel them to spend their childhood days toiling in mills and factories. I found that the great average woman, living on the average workingman's wage of $12 a week, does not want a large family, but is forced to endure the pains of childbirth because of her ignorance to prevent conception. The United States is forcing undesired motherhood upon millions of its women victims.
And I claim that the state has no more right to ravish a woman against her will by keeping her in ignorance than a man has through brute force.
The women of today do not desire to spend the whole of their adult lives in bringing children into the world, and refuse to be mere child-bearing machines. The state has not accorded women the dignity of freedom so long as her body remains the slave of ignorance, for no woman can call herself free who cannot choose the time to be a mother or not, as she sees fit. Out of this desire for voluntary motherhood has arisen this great struggle for woman's liberty, for the freedom of her own body, for its release from the domination of ignorance enforced by church and state. Out of this rebellion has risen the birth control movement in the United States.
The astounding fact is, and statistics bear out the facts, that though there is a larger expenditure yearly in this country on charities, philanthropies and decadent institutions, such as penitentiaries, feeble-minded institutions, insane asylums, poor houses, reform schools, and the like, that these great funds do nothing but alleviate, that they do not touch the root of the cause, which is as agreed by all social workers and prominent medical and sociological authorities of the day throughout the world, the over-production of the poor, diseased and unfit population.
Our social problems increase on all sides and can never be solved until those who are working for racial social betterment are free to discuss and to provide these victims of ignorance with knowledge and means to prevent conception.
Our problems of war will never be solved until the birth rate is controlled by the people themselves. Birth control is practiced among the advanced and educated people of all countries. In Holland, France, and New Zealand it is quite generally practiced by the common people. The results of 30 years work in Holland should be known to all. The fact that during these years, with the fall of the birth rate, the death rate has fallen so perceptibly that the population has accelerated, is proof against the loud-mouthed orators who say that birth control means race suicide.
Birth control means race improvement: it means fewer babies, but it also means less sickly and dead babies. It means fewer children to toil in factories and mills, but it means more babies playing in the open sunshine in the fields and playgrounds. It also means early marriage, free from the diseases which late marriage and promiscuous living bring. It means a wanted children born in love, reared in comfort. It means a freer womanhood: a healthier manhood. It means ultimately an emancipated race.
Copyright 2003. Margaret Sanger Project