Margaret Sanger, "Motherhood--Or Destruction," May 1914.
Published article. Source: Woman Rebel, The, Vol. 1, No. 3, May 1914, 22 , Margaret Sanger Microfilm C16:0536 .
"The attainment of high intellectual culture in the academies, normal schools and colleges is very commonly found to be at the expense of reproductive energy," says Webster, John Clarence, M. D., Professor in the University of Edinburgh. He points out that the New England States furnish us with the most striking proof of these facts. Further he states that when women are sure that they will not be mothers, then allow them to achieve all greatness, "throw open all doors to them and let them destroy themselves in the service of mankind."
There is no doubt that Dr. Webster has struck a very true note in the progress of mankind. But why he isolates the woman in this regard I cannot see, for it is a well recognized fact that the sexual impulse can be guided, directed and used in various ways, in men as well as in women.
It is said that when a certain amount of energy is used in brain development, there will be less of this energy for the sexual function during that particular period. Certainly the reproductive energy is used in self development, but that does not signify that the reproductive function or ability is destroyed. The energy is transferred to other creative processes, perhaps even to a greater extent in men than in women.
It may be that the sexual desire is not so frequent among women of intellectual attainments and pursuits but there is a possibility that there exists a finer and greater intensity in the fulfilment of the desire. Is this, then, Dr. Webster's meaning of her destruction?
Perhaps out of woman's contact with the advance movements of the world there will in time arise a more honest and courageous womanhood, devoid of petty shames, which shall be able and willing to contribute to science intelligently the deepest complexities of woman's emotional nature. Then can there be some conclusion arrived at of the antagonism between the sexual and intellectual functions. The book of the woman is yet to be written and it remains for the woman to do it who is able and brave enough to strip herself clean to the soul; to know herself and let herself be known.
Dr. Webster has yet to learn that motherhood is not the sole agent in woman's salvation. Woman's experiences must be many and varied, but above all she must assume control over her own body that she alone shall decide her needs and if motherhood is among them--let her accept it, but if not--then let her reject it at any cost. If this be "destroying themselves in the service of mankind" then Dr. Webster must make the most of it.
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