Margaret Sanger

From Wikiquote
Jump to navigation Jump to search
The basic freedom of the world is woman's freedom. A free race cannot be born of slave mothers.
She is Margaret Sanger

Margaret Higgins Sanger (September 14, 1879September 6, 1966) was an American birth control activist, feminist, and eugenicist who opened the first birth control clinic in the United States and established organizations that evolved into the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.


Knowledge of birth control is essentially moral. Its general, though prudent, practice must lead to a higher individuality and ultimately to a cleaner race... 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.
  • The third group [of society] are those irresponsible and reckless ones having little regard for the consequences of their acts, or whose religious scruples prevent their exercising control over their numbers. Many of this group are diseased, feeble-minded, and are of the pauper element dependent upon the normal and fit members of society for their support. There is no doubt in the minds of all thinking people that the procreation of this group should be stopped.
    • Speech quoted in "Birth Control: What It Is, How It Works, What It Will Do." The Proceedings of the First American Birth Control Conference. Held at the Hotel Plaza, New York City, November 11-12, 1921. Published by the Birth Control Review, Gothic Press, pp. 172, 174.
  • Birth control is not contraception indiscriminately and thoughtlessly practiced. It means the release and cultivation of the better racial elements in our society, and the gradual suppression, elimination and eventual extirpation of defective stocks— those human weeds which threaten the blooming of the finest flowers of American civilization.
  • 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.
    • My Fight for Birth Control, 1931, p. 133.
  • You caused this. Mother is dead from having too many children.
    • To her father at her mother's funeral.
    • Quoted in Nidhi Bhushan (May 9, 2010). "The Pill turns 50". DNA. 
    Can you afford to have a large family?
    Do you want any more children?
    If not, why do you have them?
    Safe, Harmless Information can be obtained of trained nurses at
  • The most interesting incident of my life was some years ago when I was sitting beside a dying child's bed, watching the pulse and waiting for the crisis. It was about two o'clock in the morning. I started to take the pulse of the child and as I did so, I saw two bodies of the child - one slightly above the other exactly in the same position and an exact replica - except that it was not flesh but a substance more like cob-webs the color of smoke. I stood back and beheld this extraordinary phenomena and watched the upper body move majestically away in a horizontal position across the room and through the closed steel door. The physical body remained and was still breathing. Consciousness was never regained and an hour after, the little girl ceased to breathe.
    • To Roy Jansen, June 30, 1931. "Roy Jansen (1889-1975), an editor at the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph, wrote to Sanger on June 12 asking her to contribute 'some particularly intense or interesting moment in your life' for use in a series called 'Interesting Moments' that was to appear in several newspapers throughout the country." [1]
    • The Selected Papers of Margaret Sanger: Volume 2: Birth Control Comes of Age, 1928-1939, (2007), Esther Katz, editor, University of Illinois Press, ISBN 0252031377 ISBN 9780252031373 p. 99. (Interlineations within the text are rendered within up and down arrows (T I)[2])[3][4][5]
    • Notes at bottom of p. 99 read: "TLcy MSP, DLC (LCM 103:61). For ADf version dated June 12, 1931, see LCM 103:59. The published version was not found. 1. MS was probably referring to her daughter, Peggy Sanger, who died of pneumonia on November 6, 1915. 2. MS did not write about the two-body phenomena anywhere else, though she wrote in My Fight [for Birth Control] of Peggy's death that 'I saw the frail strength of her little body slip away' (126) [6]." [7] (MS = Margaret Sanger, TLcy = Typed Letter Carbon Copy, DLC = Library of Congress, ADf = Autograph Draft, LCM = Margaret Sanger Papers Microfilm, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. [8] [9][10]
  • Peggy was sleeping. Her pulse was so soft and slow. I was unable to realize that the end was near and had my fingers on her ankle to get the pulse when before my eyes arose another Peggy horizontally sleeping [who] rose about a foot or more—fluttering and quivering a moment as if taking leave of its bondage and slowly and majestically [she] soared and floated across the bed and out through the iron closed door ... Peggy had left for the great unknown and beyond.
    • This second version of Peggy Sanger's death quoted in Margaret Sanger: A Life of Passion, (2012), Jean H. Baker, Hill and Wang, New York, ISBN 0809067579 ISBN 9780809067572 p. 103. [11] Baker cites "MS Recollections, 1953, MSPSCC" in her notes to pages 92-108, Chapter 5, On Trial, Note 4, p. 315. (MSPSCC=Margaret Sanger Papers Microfilm Edition: Smith College Collections). Baker notes that "Her mother spent the rest of her life searching, and often finding, this ethereal, levitating daughter in the spirit world. At the time of Peggy's death, Sanger recalled earlier dreams, now understood as predictions, though she rejected Freud's popular sexualized interpretations of unconscious states. The number six - Peggy died November 6 - figured prominently in these memories, and to discover their significance she consulted astrologists and mediums, attended séances, and educated herself on the mechanics of spiritualism." Ibid., p. 103.
  • The church has ever opposed the progress of woman on the ground that her freedom would lead to immorality. We ask the church to have more confidence in women. We ask the opponents of this movement to reverse the methods of the church, which aims to keep women moral by keeping them in fear and in ignorance, and to inculcate into them a higher and truer morality based upon knowledge. And ours is the morality of knowledge. If we cannot trust woman with the knowledge of her own body, then I claim that two thousand years of Christian teaching has proved to be a failure.
    • The Morality of Birth Control, 18 November 1921, Park Theatre, NY [12]
  • While I personally believe in the sterilization of the feeble-minded, the insane and syphilitic, I have not been able to discover that these measures are more than superficial deterrents when applied to the constantly growing stream of the unfit. They are excellent means of meeting a certain phase of the situation, but I believe in regard to these, as in regard to other eugenic means, that they do not go to the bottom of the matter.
    • Birth Control and Racial Betterment Feb. 1919, The Birth Control Review

  • I care nothing for Free Speech in and by itself. All of us place too much value on the power of the printed word and the power of the spoken word. We read too much. We listen too much. We live too little. We act too little....I speak to you by my actions past and present. I have been gagged, I have been been suppressed, I have have been hauled off to jail. Yet every time, more people ave listened to me, more have protested, more have lifted their voices, more have been responded with courage and bravery....As a propagandist I see immense advantaged in being gagged. It silences me, but it makes millions of others talk about me, and the cause in which I live.
    • Ford Hall Forum Boston Speech, Woman Rebel, The Margaret Sanger Story, Peter Bagge.
  • I think the greatest sin in the world is bringing children into the world that have disease from their parents, that have no chance to be a human being, practically. Delinquents, prisoners, all sorts of things just marked when they're born. That to me is the greatest sin — that people can — can commit.
    • The Mike Wallace Interview (ABC)[13], 1957-09-21
    • Posed question: "Do you believe in sin — When I say "believe" I don't mean believe in committing sin, do you believe there is such a thing as a sin
  • It seems to me from my experience where I have been in North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Texas, that while the colored Negroes have great respect for white doctors they can get closer to their own members and more or less lay their cards on the table which means their ignorance, superstitions and doubts. They do not do this with the white people and if we can train the Negro doctor at the Clinic he can go among them with enthusiasm and with knowledge, which, I believe, will have far-reaching results among the colored people. His work in my opinion should be entirely with the Negro profession and the nurses, hospital, social workers, as well as the County’s white doctors. His success will depend upon his personality and his training by us.

    The ministers work is also important and he should be trained, perhaps by the Federation as to our ideals and the goal that we hope to reach. We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.
    • Commenting on the 'Negro Project' in a letter to Dr. Clarence Gamble, December 10, 1939. - Sanger manuscripts, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts. Also described in Linda Gordon's Woman's Body, Woman's Right: A Social History of Birth Control in America. New York: Grossman Publishers, 1976.
    • (Note: There is a different date circulated, e.g. Oct. 19, 1939; but Dec. 10 is the correct date of Mrs. Sanger's letter to Mr. Gamble.)
  • I should be the Hunger Strikee.
    • Margaret Sanger asking Ethel Bryne to agree to Sanger's historically revised biopic. [14]

What Every Girl Should Know (1913)[edit]

  • Let us not confuse the sexual impulse with love, for it alone is not love, but merely a necessary quality for the growth of love.
    • Chapter 4, "Sexual Impulses--Part II", p. 42.
  • Society, too, condemns the natural expression of Woman's emotion, save under certain prescribed conditions. In consequence of this, women suppress their maternal desires and today direct this great force into other channels, participating in the bigger and broader movements and activities in which they are active today.
    • Chapter 4, "Sexual Impulses--Part II", p. 43.
  • It is said a fish as large as a man has a brain no larger than the kernel of an almond. In all fish and reptiles where there is no great brain development, there is also no conscious sexual control. The lower down in the scale of human development we go the less sexual control we find. It is said that the aboriginal Australian, the lowest known species of the human family, just a step higher than the chimpanzee in brain development, has so little sexual control that police authority alone prevents him from obtaining sexual satisfaction on the streets. According to one writer, the rapist has just enough brain development to raise him above the animal, but like the animal, when in heat knows no law except nature which impels him to procreate whatever the result. Every normal man and Woman has the power to control and direct his sexual impulse. Men and women who have it in control and constantly use their brain cells in thinking deeply, are never sensual.
    • Chapter 4, "Sexual Impulses--Part II", p. 47.

Birth Control Review (1918-32)[edit]

  • 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.
    • "Morality and Birth Control" (February-March 1918), pp. 11, 14.
  • ...thousands of little children occupy sleeping quarters with parents and boarders whose every act is visible to all. Morality indeed! Society is much like the ostrich with its head in the sand. It will not look at facts and face the responsibility of its own stupidity.
    • "Morality and Birth Control" (February-March 1918), pp. 11, 14.
  • Our laws force women into celibacy on the one hand, or abortion on the other. [npg] Both conditions are declared by eminent medical authorities to be injurious to health.
    • "Morality and Birth Control" (February-March 1918), pp. 11, 14.
  • 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.
    • "Morality and Birth Control" (February-March 1918), pp. 11, 14.
  • 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.
    • "Morality and Birth Control" (February-March 1918), pp. 11, 14.
  • Knowledge of birth control is essentially moral. Its general, though prudent, practice must lead to a higher individuality and ultimately to a cleaner race.
    • "Morality and Birth Control" (February-March 1918), pp. 11, 14.
  • 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. To this end we insist that information in regard to scientific contraceptives be made open to all. We believe that if such information is placed within the reach of all, we will have made it possible to take the first, greatest step toward racial betterment....

    • "Birth Control and Racial Betterment" (February 1919).
  • 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.
    • Birth Control Review (December 1920)
  • Eugenics is … the most adequate and thorough avenue to the solution of racial, political and social problems.
    • "The Eugenic Value of Birth Control Propaganda" (October 1921), p. 5.
  • The campaign for birth control is not merely of eugenic value, but is practically identical with the final aims of eugenics.
    • "The Eugenic Value of Birth Control Propaganda" (October 1921), p. 5.
  • 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.
    • "The Eugenic Value of Birth Control Propaganda" (October 1921), p. 5.
  • We are convinced that racial regeneration like individual regeneration, must come "from within." That is, it must be autonomous, self-directive, and not imposed from without. In other words, every potential parent, and especially every potential mother, must be brought to an acute realization of the primary and central importance of bringing children into this world. ... Not until the parents of the world are thus given control over their reproductive faculties will it ever be possible ... to improve the quality of the generations of the future, [or] even to maintain civilization even at its present level. ... An idealistic code of sexual ethics, imposed from above, a set of rules devised by high-minded theorists who fail to take into account the living conditions and desires of the submerged masses, can never be of the slightest value in effecting any changes in the mores of the people.
    • "The Eugenic Value of Birth Control Propaganda" (October 1921), p. 5
  • Just think for a moment of the meaning of the word kindergarten—a garden of children! To me, that is just what the world ought to be—a garden of children. In this matter we should not do less than follow the example of the professional gardener. Every expert gardener knows that the individual plant must be properly spaced, rooted in a rich nourishing soil, and provided with sufficient air and sunlight. He knows that no plant would have a fair chance of life if it were overcrowded or choked by weeds. To grow into maturity, to bud, to blossom, to produce beautiful sturdy flowers in its own season, each plant must have constant attention, incessant care and tender devotion.

    If plants, and live stock 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.

    • Radio WFAB Syracuse (February 29, 1924), transcription in "The Meaning of Radio Birth Control" (April 1924), p. 111
  • The main objects of the Population Congress would be

    a) to raise the level and increase the general intelligence of population.

    b) to increase the population slowly by keeping the birth rate at its present level of fifteen per thousand, decreasing the death rate below its present mark of 11 per thousand.

    c) to keep the doors of immigration closed to the entrance of certain aliens whose condition is known to be detrimental to the stamina of the race, such as feebleminded, idiots, morons, insane, syphilitic, epileptic, criminal, professional prostitutes, and others in this class barred by the immigration laws of 1924.

    d) to apply a stern and rigid policy of sterilization and segregation to that grade of population whose progeny is tainted, or whose inheritance is such that objectionable traits may be transmitted to offspring.

    e) to insure the country against future burdens of maintenance for numerous offspring as may be born of feebleminded parents, by pensioning all persons with transmissible disease who voluntarily consent to sterilization.

    f) to give certain dysgenic groups in our population their choice of segregation or sterilization.

    • "A Plan for Peace" (April 1932), pp. 107-108, summarizing an address to the New History Society, New York City (January 17, 1932)

Woman and the New Race, (1922)[edit]

New York: Brentanos Publishers, 1922.[15]
  • Usually this desire [for family limitation] has been laid to economic pressure... It has asserted itself among the rich and among the poor, among the intelligent and the unintelligent. It has been manifested in such horrors as infanticide, child abandonment and abortion.
    • Chapter 2, "Women's Struggle for Freedom"
  • It is apparent that nothing short of contraceptives can put an end to the horrors of abortion and infanticide.
    • Chapter 2, "Women's Struggle for Freedom"
  • Thus we see that the second and third children have a very good chance to live through the first year. Children arriving later have less and less chance, until the twelfth has hardly any chance at all to live twelve months.

    This does not complete the case, however, for those who care to go farther into the subject will find that many of those who live for a year die before they reach the age of five.

    Many, perhaps, will think it idle to go farther in demonstrating the immorality of large families, but since there is still an abundance of proof at hand, it may be offered for the sake of those who find difficulty in adjusting old-fashioned ideas to the facts. The most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it. The same factors which create the terrible infant mortality rate, and which swell the death rate of children between the ages of one and five, operate even more extensively to lower the health rate of the surviving members.

    • Chapter 5, "The Wickedness of Creating Large Families."
  • The basic freedom of the world is woman's freedom. A free race cannot be born of slave mothers. A woman enchained cannot choose but give a measure of that bondage to her sons and daughters. 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.
    • Chapter 8, "Birth Control; A Parents' Problem or Woman's?"
  • Woman must have her freedom; the fundamental freedom of choosing whether or not she shall be a mother and how many children she will have. Regardless of what man's attitude may be, that problem is hers; and before it can be his, it is hers alone.

    She goes through the vale of death alone, each time a babe is born. As it is the right neither of man nor the state to coerce her into this ordeal, so it is her right to decide whether she will endure it. That right to decide imposes upon her the duty of clearing the way to knowledge by which she may make and carry out the decision.

    Birth control is woman's problem. The quicker she accepts it as hers and hers alone, the quicker will society respect motherhood. The quicker, too, will the world be made a fit place for her children to live.

    • Chapter 8, "Birth Control; A Parents' Problem or Woman's?"
  • While there are cases where even the law recognizes an abortion as justifiable if recommended by a physician, I assert that the hundreds of thousands of abortions performed in America each year are a disgrace to civilization.
    • Chapter 10, "Contraceptives or Abortion?"
  • 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.
    • Chapter 18, "The Goal"

The Pivot of Civilization, 1922[edit]

  • Those vast, complex, interrelated organizations aiming to control and to diminish the spread of misery and destitution and all the menacing evils that spring out of this sinisterly fertile soil, are the surest sign that our civilization has bred, is breeding and is perpetuating constantly increasing numbers of defectives, delinquents and dependents. My criticism, therefore, is not directed at the "failure" of philanthropy, but rather at its success.
  • These dangers inherent in the very idea of humanitarianism and altruism, dangers which have to-day produced their full harvest of human waste, of inequality and inefficiency, were fully recognized in the last century at the moment when such ideas were first put into practice.
  • There is a special type of philanthropy or benevolence, now widely advertised and advocated, both as a federal program and as worthy of private endowment, which strikes me as being more insidiously injurious than any other. This concerns itself directly with the function of maternity, and aims to supply [free of charge] medical and nursing facilities to slum mothers. Such women ... are, we are informed, to "receive adequate care during pregnancy, ... and for one month afterward." Thus are mothers and babies to be saved. "Childbearing is to be made safe." The work of the maternity centers ... is carried on among the poor and more docile sections of the city, among mothers least able, through poverty and ignorance, to afford the care and attention necessary for successful maternity. ... Such "benevolence" ... conceals a stupid cruelty, because ... 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.
    • Chapter 5, "The Cruelty of Charity"
  • 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.
    • Chapter 8, "Dangers of Cradle Competition" (also quoted in Charles Valenza, "Was Margaret Sanger a Racist?" Family Planning Perspectives, January-February 1985, page 44.)
  • The trouble with any effort of trying to divide humanity into the "fit" and the "unfit," is that we do not want, as H. G. Wells recently pointed out, to breed for uniformity but for variety. "We want statesmen and poets and musicians and philosophers and strong men and delicate men and brave men. The qualities of one would be the weaknesses of the other." We want, most of all, genius.
    Proscription on Galtonian lines would tend to eliminate many of the great geniuses of the world who were not only "Bohemian," but actually and pathologically abnormal—men like Rousseau, Dostoevsky, Chopin, Poe, Schumann, Nietzsche, Comte, Guy de Maupassant,—and how many others? But such considerations should not lead us into error of concluding that such men were geniuses merely because they were pathological specimens, and that the only way to produce a genius is to breed disease and defect. It only emphasizes the dangers of external standards of "fit" and "unfit."
    These limitations are more strikingly shown in the types of so-called "eugenic" legislation passed or proposed by certain enthusiasts. Regulation, compulsion and prohibitions affected and enacted by political bodies are the surest methods of driving the whole problem under-ground. As Havelock Ellis has pointed out, the absurdity and even hopelessness of effecting Eugenic improvement by placing on the statute books prohibitions of legal matrimony to certain classes of people, reveal the weakness of those Eugenists who minimize or undervalue the importance of environment as a determining factor. They affirm that heredity is everything and environment nothing, yet forget that it is precisely those who are most universally subject to bad environment who procreate most copiously, most recklessly and most disastrously.
    • Chapter 8, "Dangers of Cradle Competition"
  • 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.
    • Chapter 8, "Dangers of Cradle Competition"
  • While it is necessary to point out the importance of "heredity" as a determining factor in human life, it is fatal to elevate it to the position of an absolute. As with environment, the concept of heredity derives its value and its meaning only in so far as it is embodied and made concrete in generations of living organisms. Environment and heredity are not antagonistic. Our problem is not that of "Nature vs. Nurture," but rather of Nature x Nurture, of heredity multiplied by environment, if we may express it thus. The Eugenist who overlooks the importance of environment as a determining factor in human life, is as short-sighted as the Socialist who neglects the biological nature of man. We cannot disentangle these two forces, except in theory. To the child in the womb, said Samuel Butler, the mother is "environment." She is, of course, likewise "heredity." The age-old discussion of "Nature vs. Nurture" has been threshed out time after time, usually fruitlessly, because of a failure to recognize the indivisibility of these biological factors. The opposition or antagonism between them is an artificial and academic one, having no basis in the living organism.
    • Chapter 8, "Dangers of Cradle Competition"
  • Our 'overhead' expense in segregating the delinquent, the defective and the dependent, in prisons, asylums and permanent homes, our failure to segregate morons who are increasing and multiplying … demonstrate our foolhardy and extravagant sentimentalism. No industrial corporation could maintain its existence upon such a foundation. Yet hardheaded 'captains of industry,' financiers who pride themselves upon their cool-headed and keen-sighted business ability are dropping millions into rosewater philanthropies and charities that are silly at best and vicious at worst. In our dealings with such elements there is a bland maladministration and misuse of huge sums that should in all righteousness be used for the development and education of the healthy elements of the community.
    • Chapter 12, "Woman and the Future"

Margaret Sanger: An Autobiography (1938)[edit]

  • 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.

    • Chapter 29, "While the Doctors Consult", p. 366.
  • ...we explained simply what contraception was; that abortion was the wrong way — no matter how early it was performed it was taking a life; that contraception was the better way, the safer way — it took a little time, a little trouble, but was well worth while in the long run, because life had not yet begun.
  • 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.
    • Chapter 30, "Now Is the Time for Converse", p. 374.
  • 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.
    • Chapter 30, "Now Is the Time for Converse", pp. 374-375.

The Chicago Defender Interview with Earl Conrad (1945)[edit]

  • Discrimination is a world-wide thing. It has to be opposed everywhere. That is why I feel the Negro’s plight here is linked with that of the oppressed around the globe.
  • When we first started out an anti-Negro white man offered me $10,000 if I started [setting up birth-control clinics] in Harlem first. His idea was simply to cut down the number of Negroes. ‘Spread it [birth control] as far as you can among them,’ he said. That is, of course, not our idea. I turned him down. But that is an example of how vicious some people can be about this thing.

"Love or Babies: Must Negro Mothers Choose?" Negro Digest, (1946)[edit]

Negro Digest August 1946, pp. 3-8
  • We may never achieve the goal of having every pregnancy end with the birth of a healthy, normal child, but certainly a vast majority of the 17,000 stillbirths which occur to Negro mothers each year could be prevented if every baby were planned. Mothers in poor physical condition, mothers who are suffering from chronic diseases, who are sustaining themselves on inadequate diets or performing work out of all proportion to their strength, should have the means to avoid childbearing until their own physical situation can be improved. It is wicked that such women should be expected to bear a baby every year or to deny the love of their husbands. The fact that such pregnancies so frequently end in miscarriage or still-birth makes this burden as pointless as it is cruel.
  • The Negro race has reached a place in its history when every possible effort should be made to have every Negro child count as a valuable contribution to the future of America. Negro parents, like all parents, must create the next generation from strength, not from weakness; from health, not from despair.

One Minute News (1947), interview with British Pathé's John Parsons[edit]

Dorchester Hotel, London. Mrs Margaret Slee, President of America's Planned Parenthood Federation is interviewed by Pathe's John Parsons. Sanger married her second husband and 3-In-One Oil magnate James Noah H. Slee (1861-1943) in 1922. [16]

  • British Pathé: Mrs. Margaret (Sanger) Slee, President of America’s Planned Parenthood Federation, maintains that European Women should stop having babies for the next ten years:
  • John Parsons: Don’t you think such a theory, such a radical theory, is anti-social?
  • Margaret Sanger: On the contrary, it seems to me that it is more practical and Humane.
  • John Parsons: What about the women who want babies now and in 10 years won’t be able to have babies? Rather impractical don’t you think?
  • Margaret Sanger: Oh, John you do ask hard questions. I should think, that instead of being impractical, it is really very practical and intelligent and humane.
  • John Parsons: But Mrs. Slee in this country having babies is the only thing left which is both unrationed and untaxed, do you think we really ought to stop?
  • Margaret Sanger: Well I suppose a subject like that is really so personal that it is entirely up to the parents to decide, but from my view, I believe there should be no more babies in starving countries for the next ten years.
    • Video: [17] [18]
    • Ban on Babies is All Wet, Cry Angry Britons, Chicago Tribune, July 4, 1947, p. 9. [19]
    • 'Granny Sanger' Drops a Bomb - A Ten Year Moratorium on Births, Margaret Sanger Papers, Newsletter #65 (Fall 2013) [20]


  • More children from the fit, less from the unfit — that is the chief issue in birth control.
    • Editors of American Medicine in a review of Sanger's article "Why Not Birth Control Clinics in America?" published in Birth Control Review, May 1919
  • The mass of ignorant Negroes still breed carelessly and disastrously, so that the increase among Negroes, even more than the increase among whites, is from that portion of the population least intelligent and fit, and least able to rear their children properly.
    • W.E.B. DuBois, Birth Control Review, June 1932. Quoted by Sanger in her proposal for the "Negro Project."
  • Eugenic sterilization is an urgent need … We must prevent multiplication of this bad stock.
    • Misquoting Ernst Rudin, "Eugenic Sterilization: An Urgent Need", Birth Control Review, April 1933. [21]
    • Actual quote by Rudin: "Not only is it our task to prevent the multiplication of bad stocks, it is also to preserve the well-endowed stocks and to increase the birth-rate of the sound average population."
  • The marriage-bed is the most degenerating influence of the social order.
    • Alice Groff, "The Marriage Bed", The Woman Rebel, V.I No. 5, p. 39 (edited by Margaret Sanger)
  • We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.
    • Misquoted by Diane S. Dew (2001)
    • Omits words from a letter to Dr. Clarence Gamble Sanger proposing the "Negro Project", where Sanger wrote: "And we do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members."
    • The quote was similarly misused in "Women, Race, & Class" (12 February 1983) by Angela Davis, where it is implied that that Sanger was organizing an extermination campaign and the minister would be the main propaganda milling machine.
  • (We) are seeking to assist the white race toward the elimination of the unfit (blacks).
    • Falsely attributed to "Birth Control and Racial Betterment", Birth Control Review, February 1919 [22], by Steve Deace, "Planned Parenthood: The next relic from our racist past that must be purged", Midwest Conservative (The Washington Times), 2015-07-13
    • Actual quote: "Like the advocates of Birth Control, the eugenicists, for instance, are seeking to assist the race toward the elimination of the unfit."
  • Throughout the 200+ pages of this book Sanger called for the elimination of "human weeds," for the cessation of charity, for the segregation of "morons, misfits, and maladjusted," and for the sterilization of "genetically inferior races."
  • Colored people are like human weeds and are to be exterminated.
    • Unknown source, attributed by Life Education and Resource Network (LEARN) [23] and by Roger L. Roberson, Jr, The Bible & the Black Man: Breaking the Chains of Prejudice (2007), p. 18.
    • Seems to take "human weeds" from "a garden of children instead of a disorderly back lot overrun with human weeds" or from "the gradual suppression, elimination and eventual extirpation of defective stocks– those human weeds which threaten the blooming of the finest flowers of American civilization" and "exterminated" from "we do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea" (see above).
  • Blacks, soldiers, and Jews are a menace to the race.
    • Unknown source. Often falsely cited as Birth Control Review, April 1933 [24], as in William D. Gairdner, The War Against the Family (1992), p. 464. No letters or articles by Sanger appear in that issue.
    • John George, in American Extremists: Militias, Supremacists, Klansmen, Communists & Others (1992), p. 415, describes this quote as "evidently concocted in the late 1980s".
  • Birth control appeals to the advanced radical because it is calculated to undermine the authority of the Christian churches. I look forward to seeing humanity free someday of the tyranny of Christianity no less than Capitalism.
    • Unknown source, often attributed to The Woman Rebel.

Quotes about Sanger[edit]

  • While I would never argue that birth control or abortion rights constitute genocide, I have to take into consideration how sterilization has been imposed on poor people, especially people of color, and that someone like Margaret Sanger argued [birth control] was a privilege of affluent women but a duty for poorer women.
    • 2014 interview in Conversations with Angela Davis Edited by Sharon Lynette Jones (2021)
  • Whether other feminists would agree with me that the economic is the fundamental aspect of feminism, I don't know. But on this we are surely agreed, that Birth Control is an elementary essential in all aspects of feminism. Whether we are the special followers of Alice Paul, or Ruth Law, or Ellen Key, or Olive Schreiner, we must all be followers of Margaret Sanger. Feminists are not nuns. That should be established.
  • My great-grandmother Leah organized immigrant women in sweatshops and worked with Margaret Sanger distributing birth control information in the tenements, and the support of Sanger and many otherwise progressive people for eugenics contributed to the Nazi ideology that exterminated Leah's village in Ukraine.
  • Other evidences of changes in women’s status were more immediately apparent. The legendary ‘‘flapper’’ made her debut in the postwar decade, signaling with studied theatrical flourishes a new ethos of feminine freedom and sexual parity. The Nineteenth Amendment, enacted just in time for the 1920 presidential election, gave women at least formal political equality. The Equal Rights Amendment, first proposed by Alice Paul of the National Women’s Party in 1923, sought to guarantee full social and economic participation to women. An organized movement for the promotion of birth control, founded by Margaret Sanger in 1921 as the American Birth Control League, heralded a growing feminine focus on reproductive control and erotic liberation. Countless women, especially if they were urban, white, and affluent, now used the new technologies of spermicidal jelly and the Mensinga-type diaphragm, both first manufactured in quantity in the United States in the 1920s, to limit the size of their families. This development worried the authors of Recent Social Trends, who feared that the old-stock, white, urban middle class would be demographically swamped by the proliferation of the rural and immigrant poor, as well as blacks.
  • There is a striking kinship between our movement and Margaret Sanger's early efforts. She, like we, saw the horrifying conditions of ghetto life. Like we, she knew that all of society is poisoned by cancerous slums. Like we, she was a direct actionist — a nonviolent resister. She was willing to accept scorn and abuse until the truth she saw was revealed to the millions. At the turn of the century she went into the slums and set up a birth control clinic, and for this deed she went to jail because she was violating an unjust law. Yet the years have justified her actions. She launched a movement which is obeying a higher law to preserve human life under humane conditions. Margaret Sanger had to commit what was then called a crime in order to enrich humanity, and today we honor her courage and vision; for without them there would have been no beginning. Our sure beginning in the struggle for equality by nonviolent direct action may not have been so resolute without the tradition established by Margaret Sanger and people like her. Negroes have no mere academic nor ordinary interest in family planning. They have a special and urgent concern.
  • No, she worked as a nurse and she lived with Robert Allen Parker who wrote Margaret's books: he ghost wrote all her books.
    • Oliver Richard Bryne, when asked , "After the first clinic was closed did she [Ethel Bryne] work with the movement at all after that?", OBR Van Voris interview.
  • The first great birth-control crusader, Margaret Sanger, remarks that of the hundreds of women who wrote to her pleading for contraceptive information in the early part of the twentieth century, all spoke of wanting the health and strength to be better mothers to the children they already had; or of wanting to be physically affectionate to their husbands without dread of conceiving. None was refusing motherhood altogether, or asking for an easy life. These women-mostly poor, many still in their teens, all with several children-simply felt they could no longer do "right" by their families, whom they expected to go on serving and rearing. Yet there always has been, and there remains, intense fear of the suggestion that women shall have the final say as to how our bodies are to be used. It is as if the suffering of the mother, the primary identification of woman as the mother-were so necessary to the emotional grounding of human society that the mitigation, or removal, of that suffering, that identification, must be fought at every level, including the level of refusing to question it at all.
  • Like many other working-class Jewish women, Ruth R. learned from reading Sanger's birth-control pamphlet, What Every Woman Should Know, in Yiddish. Margaret Sanger, Ruth asserted, was the real pioneer. "It was the universal case that every woman suffered," she recalled.
    • Sydney Weinberg, The World of Our Mothers: The Lives of Jewish Immigrant Women (1988)

External links[edit]