"The Call to Women"




Margaret Sanger Microfilm Edition, Smith College Collections S70:833
"The Call to Women," Birth Control Review, Feb. 1920, pp. 3-4





The Call to Women

By Margaret Sanger

No woman who has the welfare of her children and of society at heart should bear a child within the next five years. Last month we called upon women to adopt this plan in order that the world may have time to catch up with the task of caring for those people already here. Again we urge this step--and urge it with all the emphasis at our command.

We directed attention last month to the first of a series of interviews with Mr. R. C. Martens, an authority upon the world food situation. Mr. Martens informed us that Europe's food supply is on the verge of exhaustion and that there is a world food shortage. That shortage, he declared, will bring about a crash in world affairs that will result in the starvation of millions in Europe. It will also have a dire effect upon America, which effect Mr. Martens is not as yet willing to discuss in detail.

In the interview published in this number, Mr. Martens points out an industrial situation which strikingly emphasizes what he said last month. It also makes exceedingly plain the need of a cessation of births as a reconstruction measure.

The gist of the warning by this authority is just this: the world food supply is short. Millions will starve. Among those who survive, millions will suffer because of the demoralization of industry as it is now conducted. The great crash is inevitable.

Mr. Martens does not stand alone in predictions of this nature. Business men know that trouble is here and that more is coming. Financiers have again and again pointed out similar facts. Students of economics have joined their voices with conservatives and with radical propagandists, crying out that something must be done.

The world has too many people to care for under existing circumstances. Its machinery of production is demoralized. It cannot even produce enough food and distribute it. All things are in a stage of transition, and it will be years before the present state of disorganization disappears.

Moreover, the human wrecks of the Great War are to be cared for. Again, millions of children were born in Europe during the war. Most of them have been undernourished; many of them are otherwise defective, perhaps. Both the cripples of the war and these children are, to a greater or less degree, public burdens for the rest of their lives. There will be added to these the helpless individuals produced by the demoralization of our productive machinery.

In the face of these facts the nations should grapple at once with the population problem. They are not doing so. Instead, some of those madmen whose motto is "After us, the Deluge," are crying for higher birth rates. So the problem of the birth rate comes for solution to those who have always had to solve it--the women, the bearers of children. And what woman, who has thought upon the situation, is willing to bring a child into a disordered world, where lack and misery is likely to be its portion? What woman, through bringing a child to birth, is willing to make the situation worse?

It was suggested by some of our friends that last month's editorial should have called only for a cessation of births among the poor. In these days of upheaval, what condition is stable? The rich of today may be poor tomorrow. The child born in luxury today may, a few years hence, be in no better condition than the one born in poverty now.

The call goes to all women. Men have refused to apply fundamental remedies to the ills of the world. It is for women to right the situation by decreasing the pressure of populations. It is for women to exercise the sacred right of motherhood in refusing to bring a helpless child into a world that has nothing to offer it but the prospect of misery.