From Woman's Standpoint




Margaret Sanger Microfilm Edition, Collected Documents Series C16:142
Birth Control Review, Jan. 1920, p. 12



From Woman's Standpoint

By Margaret Sanger

From the woman's standpoint, the steel strike, like all strikes, is a struggle within a struggle. When the men quit work to force higher wages, shorter hours, and better working conditions, the women must go through that battle with them. But they go through it in loyalty to their husbands rather than in any well-founded hope of materially bettering their own situations. Whether the men win or lose the contest with the employers, woman's battle to obtain necessities and comforts for her children and herself must go on unceasingly.

It will always be so while she brings unlimited families into the world.

Labor's deepest problem today is not the result, primarily, of lack of organization nor of exploitation. It is true that labor must organize more closely; it is true that it suffers from exploitation; it is true that the modern industrial system is breaking labor upon a merciless wheel. But it is also true that the unwanted battalions of babies, springing from the wombs of workers' wives, make all these hard conditions possible. Without these children, who constitute the burdens and the real danger of the workers, the workers would be a compact body, they could not be exploited, and the task of producing the world's necessities and comforts would not--could not--be the cruel ordeal that it is today.

Had the workers applied the principle of limitation, exemplified in their labor organizations, to their families, they would have long ago solved labor's problems and solved them in a way that would have made the earth a much happier place in which to live. Labor has won all that it has attained through the principle of limitation; but because it has gone on bringing huge families into existence, it has produced its own competitors, its own strike-breakers, its own chains. While it continues to produce these, it will not be able to cope with organized capital--it will not be able to bring about any great permanent betterment of its situation.

So far as the woman is concerned, if another baby arrives every year or two, strike victories mean very little advantage to her or her children. Rising prices quickly eat up the increase of wages won by the husband, or if he has a small margin left, he spends it outside the home for his own pleasure or comfort. This is inevitable under the present conditions.

Tired out by the monotonous strain of labor, a human being wants some place in which to relax and rest. Home, to the breadwinner, is not such a place. There are too many children there--he can have neither quiet nor the society of his wife. He, himself, can escape--and he does. A strike victory means a little something to him--particularly if he has won shorter hours. Then he can have time to think--and, thinking, will ultimately solve his problem.

But the woman cannot escape. There are no shorter hours for her. She is on guard, under unceasing strain, twenty-four hours in the day. Each additional baby intensifies that strain. Whether the husband has bettered his individual lot or not, there is never enough margin for the mother of a large brood to make ends meet. She has still to keep the best food for the wage-earner, in order that he may continue to earn. She still has to save the next-best food for the children. To clothe the children, she must still go without decent clothing for herself.

She has no time to think--she has no time to grapple with her own larger problems. And as long as she continues to bring forth a child every year or so, neither she nor her husband will solve their problems.

Let it be repeated--labor has been and still is short-sighted. Had it, when it began a generation ago to strive toward abolishing wage slavery, taken precautions against a future crop of wage slaves, its problem would now have been solved and its victory secure. Had labor made Birth Control a conscious part of its propaganda, had it limited its births as it has striven to limit the numbers in its organizations, there would be no strike-breakers, no idle men, no women or children at killing toil, and the workman's home would be a home indeed. And labor will go on pretty much in its present way until it learns this lesson.