Mass Meeting for Birth Control Address




New York Times, Jan. 30, 1917


Sanger gave this address, after discarding her prepared statement, at the Mass Meeting for Birth Control, held at Carnegie Hall. Attended by an audience of three thousand, mostly women, the meeting was to support Sanger during her Brownsville Clinic trial. Other speakers included Dr. Mary Hurt and Helen Todd.

For a partial draft of Sanger's prepared statement, see "Carnegie Hall Speech Notes, Jan. 29, 1917."



I come to you tonight from a crowded courtroom, from a vortex of persecution. I come not from the stake of 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 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 came 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 mother.

My purpose in life is to arouse 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 emancipation of the race.