Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow




Margaret Sanger Microfilm Edition, Smith College Collections, S71:655


No final version was found. This speech may have been written for the American Conference on Birth Control and National Recovery, held in Washington, DC on Jan. 15-17, 1934.




Standing here before you tonight, my mind is filled with the differences between YESTERDAY, TODAY–-and TOMORROW!

Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow!

These three words stand as symbols for all the changes and all the progress we have made.


To me Yesterday stands for the reign of spooks–-the rule of fear, superstitions and the powers of darkness.

Just twenty years ago, our great offensive for birth control began. It was Offensive, indeed it was!! Offensive to the Conspiracy of Silence concerning the most important of all human functions. For me yesterday stands for the great great smoky battle against those spooks. Yesterday every one said to me:

“You can't say that. . . You can't print that. . . You can't tell them that. . . you can't teach them that! You’ll be arrested. . . you’ll be indicted. . . You’ll be thrown into prison!”

Yesterday meant patrol wagons, indictments, police courts, prison bars. But that was the only way to fight the spooks--to drag them out into the pitiless glare of publicity and discussion and to examine analyze them with under the penetrating light of intelligence.

Yesterday we were denounced from the pulpit, jeered at in the press, hustled to jail by the police. Our press was suppressed, our meetings broken up, our clinics raided. Birth Control, they said, meant Race Suicide. Birth Control was the instrument of the devil, destroyer of the home, the morals of youth, and the future of the Nation. Birth Control would produce Sterility, Physical Degeneration, and the Morals of the young!

Yesterday undaunted we ploughed the field; we sowed the seeds of a new intelligence. Today we are gathering the harvest!

II. Today

To-day this Conference convinces me that those Yesterday can never return. are of the past forever! The spooks of Darkness, of Fear, of Superstition and Ignorance can never return to obstruct our progress into the dawn of To-morrow.

But we can not rest with To-day. We must move onward! Unless at the same time they arepreparations for the creation of a better world To-morrow, all attempts to solve the social problems which press upon the consciousness of theworld to-day are futile. You can pour out millions and BILLIONS in an unending Niagara to feed the hungry and to give work to the idle and it will be wasted, unless-–I repeat unless--in so doing you are awakening the innate intelligence of the People all American citizens to direct their own destinies and to create a life more abundant for themselves.

Life more abundant can never come until the nation-–the whole nation–-is awakened to the primary, fundamental and elemental importance of good breeding through Control. The wealth of this country–-of all any country–-can not be measured in Dollars, nor in Gold. It can only be estimated in the quality of individuals who make it up.

To-morrow, therefore, Our Legislators must decide are the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA to go on tacitlyencouraging and by maintaining obstructing perpetuating archaic laws on the statute books the breeding of the defective, the delinquent and the criminal? Compute the cost to the nation this work must be carried on in every section of the Country that in each Community the problem is more pressing than ever before.

All citizens and taxpayers are asked to meet the expenses of relief, to feed the hungry, to clothe the poverty-stricken, to employ the give work to the unemployed. That is To-day's. But let us not forget that the solution of today's problems may involve us in greater complication’s To-morrow.

If the Even if the obstacles confronting us today are so menacing, so threatening, so pressing, because even if Emergency Measures seem so imperative, vision must not perish. The blindness of yesterday has resulted in the chaos of today. but the very confusion of today should make us more keenly conscious than ever of our duty to tomorrow, unless we wish for the respect and gratitude of the children of to-morrow and the day after to-morrow we can earn to-day only by demonstrating for future historians that despite the World Tragedy into which wehave been precipitated hurled by the Stubborn and Wanton Ignorance of Yesterday, we have held despite the stumbling of our feet along the steep and rocky battlefield, wehave managed to hold aloft the tattered banner of intelligence–-have indeed carried forward still brightly burning the sacred torch pf life.