Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.

Margaret Sanger, fully Margaret Higgins Sanger Slee

American Sex Educator, Nurse and Birth Control Advocate, Founder of Planned Parenthood

"Custom controls the sexual impulse as it controls no other."

"Women are too much inclined to follow in the footsteps of men, to try to think as men think, to try to solve the general problems of life as men solve them.. The women is not needed to do man’s work. she is not needed to think man’s thoughts... Her mission is not to enhance the masculine spirit, but to express the feminine; hers is not to preserve a man-made world, but to create a human world by the infusion of the feminine element into all of its activities."

"No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body. No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother."

"Diplomats make it their business to conceal the facts."

"Our failure to segregate morons who are increasing and multiplying ... demonstrates our foolhardy and extravagant sentimentalism ... [Philanthropists] encourage the healthier and more normal sections of the world to shoulder the burden of unthinking and indiscriminate fecundity of others; which brings with it, as I think the reader must agree, a dead weight of human waste. Instead of decreasing and aiming to eliminate the stocks that are most detrimental to the future of the race and the world, it tends to render them to a menacing degree dominant ... We are paying for, and even submitting to, the dictates of an ever-increasing, unceasingly spawning class of human beings who never should have been born at all."

"The marriage bed is the most degenerating influence in the social order."

"A free race cannot be born to slave mothers. A woman cannot choose but give a measure of that bondage to her sons and daughters."

"A group notoriously underprivileged and handicapped to a large measure by a ?caste' system that operates as an added weight upon their efforts to get a fair share of the better things in life. To give them the means of helping themselves is perhaps the richest gift of all. We believe birth control knowledge brought to this group, is the most direct, constructive aid that can be given them to improve their immediate situation."

"A mutual and satisfied sexual act is of great benefit to the average woman, the magnetism of it is health giving. When it is not desired on the part of the woman and she gives no response, it should not take place. The submission of her body without love or desire is degrading to the woman's finer sensibility, all the marriage certificates on earth to the contrary notwithstanding."

"A sickly race is a weak race. As long as Negro mothers die in childbirth at two and one-half times the rate of white mothers, as long as Negro babies are dying at twice the rate of white babies, colored homes will be unhappy."

"A woman?s duty: To look the whole world in the face with a go-to-hell look in the eyes? to speak and act in defiance of convention."

"Against the State, against the Church, against the silence of the medical profession, against the whole machinery of dead institutions of the past, the woman of today arises."

"All of our problems are the result of overbreeding among the working class, and if morality is to mean anything at all to us, we must regard all the changes which tend toward the uplift and survival of the human race as moral."

"Article 1. The purpose of the American Baby Code shall be to provide for a better distribution of babies? and to protect society against the propagation and increase of the unfit."

"Anyone, no matter how ignorant, how diseased mentally or physically, how lacking in all knowledge of children, seemed to consider he or she had the right to become a parent."

"Always to me any aroused group was a good group, and therefore I accepted an invitation to talk to the women's branch of the Ku Klux Klan at Silver Lake, New Jersey, one of the weirdest experiences I had in lecturing... Never before had I looked into a sea of faces like these. I was sure that if I uttered one word, such as abortion, outside the usual vocabulary of these women they would go off into hysteria. And so my address that night had to be in the most elementary terms, as though I were trying to make children understand. In the end, through simple illustrations I believed I had accomplished my purpose. A dozen invitations to speak to similar groups were proffered. The conversation went on and on, and when we were finally through it was too late to return to New York."

"Article 6. No permit for parenthood shall be valid for more than one birth."

"As an advocate of birth control I wish... to point out that the unbalance between the birth rate of the 'unfit' and the 'fit,' admittedly the greatest present menace to civilization, can never be rectified by the inauguration of a cradle competition between these two classes. In this matter, the example of the inferior classes, the fertility of the feeble-minded, the mentally defective, the poverty-stricken classes, should not be held up for emulation... On the contrary, the most urgent problem today is how to limit and discourage the over-fertility of the mentally and physically defective."

"Because of birth control, child slavery, prostitution, feeble mindedness, physical deterioration, hunger, oppression and war will disappear from the earth. There will come a Plato who will be understood, a Socrates who will drink no hemlock, and a Jesus who will not die upon the cross. These and the race that is to be in America await upon a motherhood that is to be sacred because it is free."

"As I look back upon my life, I see that every part of it was a preparation for the next. The most trivial of incidents fits into the larger pattern like a mosaic in a preconceived design."

"Birth Control is not merely an individual problem; it is not merely a national question, it concerns the whole wide world, the ultimate destiny of the human race. In his last book, Mr. [H.G.] Wells speaks of the meaningless, aimless lives which cram this world of ours, hordes of people who are born, who live, yet who have done absolutely nothing to advance the race one iota. Their lives are hopeless repetitions. All that they have said has been said before; all that they have done has been done better before. Such human weeds clog up the path, drain up the energies and the resources of this little earth. We must clear the way for a better world; we must cultivate our garden."

"Birth control is the first important step woman must take toward the goal of her freedom. It is the first step she must take to be man's equal. It is the first step they must both take toward human emancipation."

"Article 4. No woman shall have the legal right to bear a child, and no man shall have the right to become a father, without a permit."

"Birth control itself, often denounced as a violation of natural law, is nothing more or less than the facilitation of the process of weeding out the unfit, of preventing the birth of defectives or of those who will become defectives. So, in compliance with nature?s working plan, we must permit womanhood its full development before we can expect of it efficient motherhood. If we are to make racial progress, this development of womanhood must precede motherhood in every individual woman."

"But during all the long years this matter has been discussed, advocated, refuted, the people themselves?poor people especially?were blindly, desperately practicing family limitation, just as they are practicing it today. To them birth control does not mean what it does to us. To them it has meant the most barbaric methods. It has meant the killing of babies?infanticide,?abortions,?in one crude way or another."

"Birth control must lead ultimately to a cleaner race."

"Charity conceals a stupid cruelty, because it is not courageous enough to face unpleasant facts. Aside from the question of the unfitness of many women to become mothers, aside from the very definite deterioration in the human stock that such programs would inevitably hasten, we may question its value even to the normal though unfortunate mother. For it is never the intention of such philanthropy to give the poor over-burdened and often undernourished mother of the slum the opportunity to make the choice herself, to decide whether she wishes time after time to bring children into the world. It merely says 'Increase and multiply: We are prepared to help you do this.' Whereas the great majority of mothers realize the grave responsibility they face in keeping alive and rearing the children they have already brought into the world, the maternity center would teach them how to have more. The poor woman is taught how to have her seventh child, when what she wants to know is how to avoid bringing into the world her eighth. ...Such philanthropy, as Dean Inge has so unanswerably pointed out, is kind only to be cruel, and unwittingly promotes precisely the results most deprecated. It encourages the healthier and more normal sections of the world to shoulder the burden of unthinking and indiscriminate fecundity of others; which brings with it, as I think the reader must agree, a dead weight of human waste. Instead of decreasing and aiming to eliminate the stocks that are most detrimental to the future of the race and the world, it tends to render them to a menacing degree dominant."

"Eugenics aims to arouse the enthusiasm or the interest of the people in the welfare of the world fifteen or twenty generations in the future. On its negative side it shows us that we are paying for and even submitting to the dictates of an ever increasing, unceasingly spawning class of human beings who never should have been born at all?that the wealth of individuals and of states is being diverted from the development and the progress of human expression and civilization."

"Dire poverty drives this mother back again to the factory (no intelligent person will say she goes willingly). It is the fear of the loss of a job, debts and another mouth to feed that compels her to leave this newborn infant in the care of anyone who has the room to keep it. Any friend or neighbor who works at home can take care of this little waif."

"Eugenics is? the most adequate and thorough avenue to the solution of racial, political and social problems."

"Eugenics, which had started long before my time, had once been defined as including free love and prevention of conception... Recently it had cropped up again in the form of selective breeding."

"Greater understanding and practice of planned parenthood, through the use of contraceptive measures prescribed by doctors and clinics, will mean that there will be more strong and healthy children and fewer defective and handicapped babies unable to find a useful or happy place in life."

"Give dysgenic groups [people with "bad genes"] in our population their choice of segregation or [compulsory] sterilization."

"Eugenists imply or insist that a woman's first duty is to the state; we contend that her duty to herself is her first duty to the state. We maintain that a woman possessing an adequate knowledge of her reproductive functions is the best judge of the time and conditions under which her child should be brought into the world. We further maintain that it is her right, regardless of all other considerations, to determine whether she shall bear children or not, and how many children she shall bear if she chooses to become a mother."

"In passing, we should here recognize the difficulties presented by the idea of 'fit' and 'unfit.' Who is to decide this question? The grosser, the more obvious, the undeniably feeble-minded should, indeed, not only be discouraged but prevented from propagating their kind. But among the writings of the representative Eugenists one cannot ignore the distinct middle-class bias that prevails."

"Has knowledge of birth control, so carefully guarded and so secretly practiced by the women of the wealthy class ? and so tenaciously withheld from the working women ? brought them misery? Rather, has it not promoted greater happiness, greater freedom, greater prosperity and more harmony among them? The women who have this knowledge are the women who have been free to develop, free to enjoy in its best sense, and free to advance the interests of the community."

"I accepted an invitation to talk to the women's branch of the Ku Klux Klan...I saw through the door dim figures parading with banners and illuminated crosses...I was escorted to the platform, was introduced, and began to speak...In the end, through simple illustrations I believed I had accomplished my purpose. A dozen invitations to speak to similar groups were proffered."

"If plants and livestock as well, require space and air, sunlight and love, children need them even more. The only real wealth of our country lies in the men and women of the next generation. A farmer would rather produce a thousand thoroughbreds than a million runts. How are we to breed a race of human thoroughbreds unless we follow the same plan? We must make this country into a garden of children instead of a disorderly back lot overrun with human weeds. In a home where there are too many children in proportion to the living space, the air and sunlight, the children are usually overcrowded and underfed. They are a constant burden on their mother's overtaxed strength and the father's earning capacity. Such homes cannot be gardens in any sense of the word."

"I accepted one branch of this philosophy, but eugenics without birth control seemed to me a house built upon sands. It could not stand against the furious winds of economic pressure which had buffeted into partial or total helplessness a tremendous proportion of the human race. The eugenists wanted to shift the birth control emphasis from less children for the poor to more children for the rich. We went back of that and sought first to stop the multiplication of the unfit. This appeared the most important and greatest step towards race betterment."

"Instead of decreasing and aiming to eliminate the stocks [of people] that are most detrimental to the future of the race and the world, it tends to render them to a menacing degree dominant."

"It is a vicious cycle; ignorance breeds poverty and poverty breeds ignorance. There is only one cure for both, and that is to stop breeding these things. Stop bringing to birth children whose inheritance cannot be one of health or intelligence. Stop bringing into the world children whose parents cannot provide for them."

"It is apparent that nothing short of contraceptives can put an end to the horrors of abortion and infanticide."

"It is a noteworthy fact that not one of the women to whom I have spoken so far believes in abortion as a practice; but it is principle for which they are standing. They also believe that the complete abolition of the abortion law will shortly do away with abortions, as nothing else will."

"It is our experience, as it was our aim, that as a result of child-spacing, and adequate care of mothers, death rates would be reduced. It is now a fact that as a result of birth control, the survival rate among mothers and children is higher. There is less suffering for all groups."

"Life has taught me one supreme lesson. This is that we must?if we are really to live at all, if we are to enjoy the life more abundant promised by the Sages of Wisdom?we must put our convictions into action. My remuneration has been that I have been privileged to act out my faith."

"Knowledge of birth control is essentially moral. Its general, though prudent, practice must lead to a higher individuality and ultimately to a cleaner race."

"Mothers! Can you afford to have a large family? Do you want any more children? If not, why do you have them? Do not kill, do not take life but prevent safe, harmless information can be obtained of trained nurses at 46 Amboy Street."

"Negro participation in Planned Parenthood means democratic participation in a democratic idea. Like other democratic ideas, Planned Parenthood places greater value on human life and the dignity of each person. Without planning at birth, the life of Negroes as a whole in a democratic world cannot be planned."

"No despot ever flung forth his legions to die in foreign conquest, no privilege-ruled nation ever erupted across its borders, to lock in death embrace with another, but behind them loomed the driving power of a population too large for its boundaries and its natural resources."

"No gods, no masters."