Margaret Sanger gave this speech in London as part of the 1922 Fifth International Neo-Malthusian and Birth Control Conference. For other speeches and statements given at this meeting, see Individual and Family Aspects of Birth Control,", July 11, 1922 and "Press Statement at the Fifth International Neo-Malthusian and Birth Control Conference," July 11, 1922.
A DAY WITH MARGARET SANGER IN HER BIRTH CONTROL CLINIC
Margaret Sanger is conducting the first birth control clinic ever operated in the United States and a day in the clinic from the time you first view the scrim covered windows, about which strange to say, no curious crowd clusters, to your departure at night, after you have heard the tale of each visitor, is one surprise after another.
"It is the feministic note, again," said Mrs. Sanger to The Eagle reporter as she pointed out the eager women who were coming in groups to see her at 46 Amboy street, in the Brownsville section of this borough.
And the reporter interviewed these "feminists" and heard again the cry of the women who are craving for the things that have been denied them--only these were not pining for the privilege of expressing their individuality through the medium of a profession, neither were they asking to be relieved from the burdens of a household. The plea of these rebels was a very simple one.
"Perhaps, if I don't have any more children I can give out the washing," said one.
The reporter had talked to Mrs. Sanger of the social significance of her work and for a moment the conversation had dwelt on the possible effect on population that might be incurred by teaching the foreigners birth control.
But the women were unconscious of the fact that a problem might center around their coming, each had brought her individual burden, that was all. As one explained it in answer to a question, "It is so much easier to talk to a woman than to a man, that is why I never tell my doctor." And another whom the tired lines on her face made look like 40, although she could hardly have been more than 30, said:
"This is the kind of place that we have been wanting all the time. I have had seven children, two are dead, and my husband is a sick man. Do you know how I got bread for them? By getting down on my knees and scrubbing floors for the baker; that's what I did when we couldn't pay the bill. Seven children," she repeated, "that's enough for any woman."
And so it went on. Most of the women are foreigners. They leave their baby carriages outside, some enter timidly, not a few smilingly, and the others, well, as they themselves say, "it is easy to talk to a woman," and they certainly do.
"They tell me of hungry children of neglected and deceased ones," said Mrs. Sanger. "They, too, long to be companions to their youngsters in the way that we are always advising the American mother, they want to enjoy their sons and daughters. But how can they? They see educational ideals fostered all about them, and then see their own children cheated out of these wonderful American opportunities that we talk so much about. You have heard the foreign mother prophesy about her baby: 'He'll be a professor when he grows up,' but they see the fallacy of dreaming, as they watch them go into the factories instead of the High Schools. It is the first signs of the awakening intelligence of a woman, when she insists that she have fewer children so that she can have better ones and give them more advantages."
But let's go back to our foreigners, asked the reporter. How about reducing the number of American citizens which they give us each year?
"The quality of its citizens and not the quantity is the new keynote of civilization. Do you remember when the newspapers in France editorially pointed out the fact that the population of their country was being drained and exhausted. The European women will never again have sons just to be slaughtered."
"Women should hold motherhood in their hands," she continued, "and the women here are beginning to feel it."
Just then the postman interrupted, by poking his head in and throwing some letters on the table. "Margaret Sanger, Birth Control Clinic, Brooklyn, New York," was the way in which they were addressed. "And they got here," said the recipient with a laugh.
Side by side, with the letter in which the professor informed Mrs. Sanger that "I am interested in your clinic from a sociological point of view and I know that your pioneer movement is to be a mighty force in solving a great social problem," is the following typical little note from a woman: "I saw by the newspapers that you have a clinic. We have four children and it seems wrong for me to have any more as we can just about get along on what we have." Another which states "that we are poor as the general run," adds that "my husband is earning $11 a week and I have five children," and invites Mrs. Sanger out to a town in Ohio from which the letter was sent.
An unusual request which reads, "I am a trained nurse, most of my work is maternity cases, often the poor delicate mothers ask me for information and I do not know what to tell them."