This I Believe




Margaret Sanger Papers Microfilm Edition, Collected Documents Series, C16:0443


Sanger gave this radio address on the radio program, This I Believe, presented by Edward R. Murrow on November 1953. The address was also published in This I Believe, 2, (New York:1954), pp. 130-131 and as "When Children Are Wanted," in This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women,(New York: 2007), pp. 210-213.

For other versions of the speech, see Margaret Sanger Papers Microfilm Edition, Smith College Collection, S72:0860, 0865, 0868, 0870, 0873, 0876, 0879; Margaret Sanger Papers Microfilm Edition, Collected Documents Series, C16:0444 and C18:0205 and Margaret Sanger Papers Microfilm, Library of Congress, LCM 130:0620.







This I believe, first of all: that all our basic convictions must be tested and transmuted in the crucible of experience-–and sometimes, the more bitter the experience, the more valid the purified belief.

As a child, one of a large family, I learned that the thing I did best was the thing I liked to do. This realization of doing and getting results was what I have later called an awakening consciousness.

There is an old Indian proverb which has inspired me in the work of my adult life. “Build thou beyond thyself, but first be sure that thou, thyself, be strong and healthy in body and mind.” To build, to work, to plan to do something, not for yourself, not for your own benefit, but “beyond thyself”–and when this idea penetrates the mind, you begin to think in terms of a future. I began to think of a world beyond myself when I first took an interest in nursing the sick.

As a nurse, I was in contact with the ill and the infirm. I knew something about the health and disease of bodies, but for a long time, I was baffled at the tremendous personal problems of life, or marriage, of living, and of being. Here indeed was a challenge to “build beyond thyself.” Where was I to begin? I found the answer at every door. For I began to believe there was something I could do toward increasing an understanding of these basic human problems. To build beyond myself, I must tap all inner resources of stamina and courage, of resolution within myself. I was prepared to face opposition, ridicule, even denunciation. I had also to prepare myself, in defense of these unpopular beliefs, to face courts and even prisons. I resolved to stand up, alone if necessary, against all the entrenched forces which opposed me.

I started my battle some forty years ago. The women, mothers whom I wanted to help, also wanted to help me; they, too, wanted to build beyond the self, in creating healthy children and bringing them up in life to be happy and useful citizens. I believed it was my duty to place motherhood on a higher level than enslavement and accident.

For these beliefs I was denounced, arrested, I was in and out of police courts and higher courts, indictments hung over my life for several years. But nothing could alter my beliefs. Because I saw these as truths, I stubbornly stuck to my convictions.

No matter what it may cost in health, in misunderstanding, in sacrifice, something had to be done, and I felt that I was called by the force of circumstances to do it. Because of my philosophy and my work, my life has been enriched and full. My interests have expanded from local conditions and needs, to a world horizon, where peace on earth may be achieved when children are wanted before they are conceived. A new conciousness will take place, a new race will be born to bring peace on earth. This belief has withstood the crucible of my life’s joyous struggle. It remains my basic belief today.

This I believe – at the end, as at the beginning of my long crusade for the future of the human race.