Margaret Sanger, "Carnegie Hall Address," 29 Jan 1917.
Sanger spoke before three thousand at Carnegie Hall on the eve of her sentencing for opening the Brownsville Clinic. The only version of the speech located comes from newspaper reports. The New York Times reported that, "Mrs. Sanger departed from the prepared copy of her speech in that she was not so severe on the judiciary as she had intended to be. She had evidently prepared her speech in the conviction that she was to be found guilty yesterday afternoon." Only portions quoting Sanger have been transcribed.
"I come to you tonight," she said, "from a crowded courtroom, from a vortex of persecution. I come not from the stake at Salem, where women were burned for blasphemy, but from the shadow of Blackwell's Island, where women are tortured for 'obscenity.'
"Birth control is the one means by which the working man shall find emancipation. I was one of eleven children. My mother died when I was 17 because she had had too many children and had worked herself to death. I became a nurse to help support my family, and I soon discovered that 75 per cent of the diseases of men and women are due to sex ignorance. I determined that when I was able I would do what I could to solve that problem. I found that the average person was as ignorant of sex matters as our most primitive ancestors. There has been progress in every department of our lives except in the most important--creation. So I cam to the conclusion that the greatest good I could do was to help poor women to have fewer children to be brought up in want and poverty. I threw my nurse's bag away and swore I would take it up no more. I went to Europe and studied the birth control clinics there and came back to America to do what I could.
Colonel Roosevelt goes all about the country telling people to have large families and he is neither arrested nor molested. But can he tell me why I got sixty-three letters in one week from poor mothers in Oyster Bay asking me for birth control information? No woman can call herself free until she can choose the time she will become a monther.
My purpose in life is to arounse sentiment for the repeal of the law, State and Federal. It is we women who have paid for the folly of this law, and it is up to us to repeal it. It is only by birth control that woman can prepare with man, her brother, for the emanicipation of the race.
Copyright 2003. Margaret Sanger Project