“Margaret Sanger was born Margaret Higgins on September 14, 1879…(as) one of 11 children.” (Bio). Her mother died early, after having several miscarriages. “Her father was an Irish stonemason (who) preferred to drink and talk politics than earn a steady wage.”
Higgins became a nurse and married, having three children with William Sanger. According to Bio, She lived in a “bohemian enclave” and associated with writers and anarchists. She joined the “Women’s Committee of the New York Socialist Party, supporting the industrial Workers of the World union. In 1921, Sanger established the American Birth Control League, a precursor to today’s Planned Parenthood Federation of America, later opening the first legal birth control clinic in the United States.”
Given her focus on birth control, could it be that Sanger was disgusted with poverty and with those who lived in it? Might she have resented her father (for allowing the family to be impoverished) and her mother (for producing so many children in an impoverished situation)? Even worse, might she have felt shame and self-disgust for growing up poor and for being part of the “weak class”?
Sanger stated that the basic principle of her work was that “Every child should be a wanted child.”
The important question, however, is: a child wanted by whom”? Sanger’s belief seems to have been that if the mother didn’t want the child it was not worth asking if anyone else did, including the child herself.
As Sanger’s birth control movement grew it “intersected with the eugenics movement” (American Experience). While birth control “was still not publicly accepted in American society, some eugenicists believed birth control was a useful tool for curbing procreation among the ‘weak.’
“In the 1920s and 30s, Sanger calculated that the success of the eugenics idea gave her own movement legitimacy, and tried to ally her cause with the movement. Eugenics was a dominant theme at her birth control conferences, and Sanger spoke publicly of the need to put an end to breeding by the unfit. In 1920 Sanger publicly stated that ‘birth control is nothing more or less than the facilitation of the process of weeding out the unfit [and] of preventing the birth of defectives.’”
Sanger was quite specific as to her aims. In a 1939 letter to Dr. Clarence Gamble, she wrote: “We should hire three or four colored ministers, preferably with social-service backgrounds, and with engaging personalities. The most successful educational approach to the Negro is through a religious appeal. We don’t want the 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.”
In 1934, Sanger wrote in “America Needs a Code for Babies,” Give dysgenic groups [people with ‘bad genes’] in our population their choice of segregation or [compulsory] sterilization…The most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.”
It seems that the basic principle of Sanger’s work was less about every child being wanted and more about ridding the world of the unfit. It could be postulated that for Sanger, every child prevented via birth control or abortion was a surreptitious, metaphorical act of repeated suicide motivated by Sanger’s own self-loathing.
Like most leftists, Sanger couched her actions in elitism. In 1921 she wrote, “Eugenics is suggested by the most diverse minds as the most adequate and thorough avenue to the solution of racial, political and social problems. The eugenic and civilizational value of Birth Control is becoming apparent to the enlightened and the intelligent…the campaign for Birth Control is practically identical in ideal with the final aims of Eugenics.”
Sadly, while Sanger’s basic principle may have been the repeated killing of herself metaphorically, it in fact included taking with her anyone she deemed as being “unfit”, based on race, social class, or politics, in order to end the “sexual and racial chaos into which the world has today drifted.”
She stated, “It remains for the courageous and the enlightened to answer this demand, to kindle the spark, to direct a thorough education in entering wedge for the Eugenic educator…Upon this basis only may we improve the quality of the race…(by remedying the unbalance between the birth rate of the ‘unfit’ and the ‘fit’… (This imbalance is) “Admittedly the greatest present menace to civilization.”
Sanger went beyond her proselytization of birth control alone. She asserted, “Birth Control is not advanced as a panacea by which past and present evils of dysgenic breeding can be magically eliminated. Possibly drastic and Spartan methods may be forced upon society if it continues complacently to encourage the chance and chaotic breeding that has resulted from our stupidly cruel sentimentalism” (Margaret Sanger, “The Eugenic Value of Birth Control Propaganda,” Oct 1921).
It doesn’t involve much of a leap to read through those lines. It seems that she was threatening society with forced sterilization (or worse) for those who don’t buy into birth control and the eugenics movement.
It is interesting that members of the very races and classes that Sanger wanted to eliminate through eugenics hold Margaret Sanger in such high esteem. In fact, some blatantly deny Sanger’s beliefs, even though they are well documented and in Sanger’s own words.
Those blaming conservatives of racism and classism might do well to look within. The greatest of all racists and classists are those who want to eliminate human beings perceived to be inferior. The only ones promoting that view are pseudo-elite, self-loathing liberals like Sanger.