Margaret Sanger; A New Appraisal...

She Was One of the Inspirations for the 1960s Sexual Revolution...

But it is Time to Reveal the Full and Horrendous Truth About Her Life



M argaret Sanger (1879 – 1966) was an American birth control activist and the founder of the American Birth Control League (which eventually became Planned Parenthood).

She was also among the very first influential contributors to the concept of 'personal relationship counselling' in the United States. Today many social liberals consider Margaret Sanger as one of the primary leaders and inspirations of the liberal social and sexual revolution of the 1960s, but many facts about this woman have not been forthcoming from liberal sources. Despite being almost canonized by some liberals, we really must insist on facing the full truth about this feisty lady.

Sanger has become one of the darlings of the liberal left, but some accounts of her life fail to tell the whole truth about the vicious atheism and the Marxism which were her guiding principles in sometimes making callous decisions because of her belief that human lives were without any intrinsic individual value. Even so, we do not claim that Margaret was entirely evil; without doubt she held a compassion for the many women who suffered much abuse through repeated pregnancies which their frail bodies often could not stand and she was determined to find ways which might assist them. Unfortunately, this undoubtedly very intelligent woman apparently held no concept of a spiritual life, nor of a God in Heaven, so her solutions were not always right and sometimes they were positively immoral, offensive and evil. She was also dismissive and insensitive to Christian beliefs and she sometimes seemed to deliberately provoke a hostile reaction from Christian leaders.

Personal Life

Born in Corning, New York, Margaret was much influenced by her early life; Her mother was a staunch Roman Catholic who went through eighteen pregnancies, although with only eleven live births resulting. This convinced the impressionable young Margaret that women should not be 'slaves' to their own bodies. In 1902 she married William Sanger who was a German Jew and a political leftist radical; Margaret wasted no time in imposing strict sexual restraints on his behaviour with her, for she had no intentions of following her mother's path. In fact, they had two children. It was William who introduced her to militant socialism and atheism. They went to live in Greenwich Village where they surrounded themselves with all the leftist radicals of the day. Ten years after her marriage Margaret Sanger started writing a column for the New York Call entitled "What Every Girl Should Know." She also distributed a pamphlet, Family Limitation, to married women. Sanger repeatedly caused outrage and risked imprisonment by acting in defiance of the Comstock Law of 1873, which had specifically outlawed the dissemination of contraceptive information and devices, such being regarded as obscene at that time.

Sanger was in fact a Marxist, an atheist and a racist with some real enthusiasm for human eugenics. As an example, she - like many eugenicists of her era - saw Australian aborigines as under-evolved and of little value except where they could be studied to gain better knowledge of evolution.

Margaret's early separation from her husband William Sanger in 1913, started to draw attention to the fact that this feisty little lady had no intention of conforming to the typical behaviour of an American wife of her era! In 1914 she launched The Woman Rebel, a monthly newsletter promoting contraception, using the highly provocative slogan, "No Gods and No Masters" (and being the first to coin the term "birth control"). The publication insisted that each woman must be "the absolute mistress of her own body." Both the title and the slogan were insensitive in the extreme and surely calculated to draw quick persecution upon herself for her obvious atheism but such insensitivity came to be very typical of Sanger. She was subsequently indicted for violating US postal obscenity laws, but jumped bail and fled to England under the alias name "Bertha Watson."

On October 16, 1916, Sanger opened a family planning and birth control clinic in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn, the first of its kind in the United States. Within days it was raided by police, which led to Sanger serving 30 days in prison. An initial appeal was rejected but in 1918 an opinion written by Judge Frederick E. Crane of the New York Court of Appeals allowed doctors to prescribe contraception. This was her first major breakthrough.

Sanger founded the American Birth Control League in 1921. In 1922, she traveled to Japan to work with Japanese feminist Kato Shidzue promoting birth control; over the next several years, she would return another six times for this purpose. In this year she also married her second husband, the oil tycoon, James Noah H. Slee.

An avowed atheist, Sanger frequently attacked Christian leaders who opposed her message, and insisted that it was capitalism which had led to [her concept of] the "enslavement" of working class women.

Sanger was also influenced by psychologist Havelock Ellis, especially in regards to his theories on female sexuality. His views inspired Sanger to later broaden her arguments for birth control by claiming that it would also fulfill a critical psychological need by enabling women to fully enjoy sexual relations, being freed from the fear of unwanted pregnancy. Sanger herself appears to have had few sexual inhibitions; after her divorce, she had an affair with her psychologist friend Ellis and is also widely believed to have had an affair with H.G. Wells, the English writer. Wells himself shared many of Sanger's views: he was a commited socialist and supporter of women's suffrage and he was also supportive of eugenics.

During World War II, while Margaret's teachings on contraception became more popular among women, her stock generally decreased within the United States government because of her violent opposition to American involvement in the war. She believed that wars were a product of over-population! So Margaret also had early involvement in the plainly crass and under-researched overpopulation arguments which would, in the 1960s, be taken up by such now discredited voices as Paul R. Ehrlich.

In the early 1960s, and now a very elderly lady, Sanger promoted the use of the newly available birth control pill. She toured Europe, Africa, and Asia, lecturing and helping to establish clinics. She died of the heart problems which had plagued her for about 15 years in 1966.

Sanger's Support for Racism, Eugenics But - Not Euthanasia??

Sanger was in fact a Marxist, an atheist and a racist with some real enthusiasm for human eugenics. As an example, she - like many eugenicists of her era - saw Australian aborigines as under-evolved and of little value except where they could be studied to gain better knowledge of evolution. She certainly believed that they, and other black peoples, should not be allowed to enter the white gene pool. Holding a strong drive to promote contraception and negative eugenics (that is, to prevent the birth of 'weaker' human elements), this woman believed that women should be allowed to have control over their own bodies. Sometimes we think that such thoughts had an origin in the 1960s/1970s with writers such as Germaine Greer but that is not so; Sanger was among the very first leaders to express such sentiments. However, she did so in a largely Christian country in which many found some of her views abhorrent and repugnant. Often the problem was in the inconsiderate and provocative way in which she expressed her views, even more than those views themselves.

It should be noted that, in this tract which advertised her new book, despite being an atheistic Marxist, Sanger writes of "immorality," therefore presumably acknowledging the existence of a higher moral authority (which she actually rejected). Interestingly, she also associates her birth control movement with the formation of a "new race," giving an indication of her eventual dream of a 'super race,' a theme later picked up by Adolf Hitler. Sanger eventually wanted to see far fewer babies, of higher genetic quality being born.
Her sadly depressed-looking two children (from her first marriage) accompany her.

As a strong supporter of eugenics, Sanger wrote:

'It is said that 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.' (Sanger, "What Every Girl Should Know" 1920, p. 47).

Eugenics refers to that social philosophy which claimed that human hereditary traits should be improved through social intervention. Methods of social intervention (targeted at those seen as "genetically unfit") advocated by some negative eugenicists have included selective breeding, sterilization and even euthanasia. Sanger's own eugenic policies ran to an exclusionary immigration policy, free access to birth control methods and full family-planning autonomy for the able-minded, but enforced segregation or sterilization for the profoundly retarded. At times Sanger seemed to expressly denounce euthanasia as a eugenics tool, yet - at other times - she also made statements which made clear her acceptance of the general principles therein.

In A Plan for Peace (1932), Sanger proposed a new congressional department 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.' (Sanger, "A Plan For Peace," Birth Control Review, April 1932, p. 106).

In fairness, Margaret Sanger completely rejected the idea of gassing the unfit (the idea was surprisingly popular at the time among Darwinist eugenicists). 'Nor do we believe,' wrote Sanger in Pivot of Civilization, 'that the community could or should send to the lethal chamber the defective progeny resulting from irresponsible and unintelligent breeding.'

However, at other times Sanger made comments which sounded very supportive of the principle of euthanasia. For example, in the very same book she did specifically call for "the elimination of human weeds," and the "cessation of charity" because it prolonged the lives of the unfit. So the principles of an eugenics-inspired euthanasia were clearly accepted by Sanger, if not the actual practising of the deed by gassing the unfit.

Abortion

On abortion, Margaret Sanger was initially violently opposed to abortion, in fact, it was the terrible failed abortions which she witnessed while living in New York City which convinced her that the widespread use of contraception would be far better. However, in her later life she appeared to soften, then completely change her view on this and became more concerned that the health of the mother should be protected with better health care as and when abortions became necessary.

"...Margaret Sanger and her organization began to be primary sponsors of abortion rights during her lifetime. But because she had associated herself with Adolph Hitler, praising him for his racial politics of eugenics, she changed the name of American Birth Control League to Planned Parenthood during WW II in order to disguise her racist past." (Source: Linda Gordon, 'Woman's Body; Woman's Right' - Grossman, 1976, p347).

Sanger's organisation did not die with her. International Planned Parenthood is now one of the major abortion-promoting bodies in the entire world. For this, it is said to receive millions of tax dollars each year through U.S. Federal and State Government funds.

Sanger's path down this slippery moral chute would be followed by numerous later liberals who would disregard the life of the child in the womb with astonishing ease, the basis of such a cavalier disregard for human life being, of course, in Marxist social theory and in the rejection of Christian values.

CONCLUSION

The young Margaret Sanger was certainly enthusiastic for social change to improve the lives of women of poor background - of this, and it is a meritorious ideal, there can be no doubt. She could, of course, have joined forces with the late Victorian Christian social reformers who were also keen to improve the lot of the poor. Sadly, Sanger was disinterested in Christianity-inspired social improvement for she very soon tied her colours to the mast of Marxism. This, and her atheism, which we believe to be a most hateful creed since it renders human beings to being simply chance biological occurrences of no true merit or value within themselves (compared to Christianity's consideration that every single human being is made in the image of God, with every life having intrinsic value, meaning and possibility of Eternal Life), would decide the course of her life. She was concerned for the poor, but her concern was myopic and selective - purely centred on married women who were "slaves" to their husbands.

Margaret Sanger, like many human beings, was a strange mixture. For sure: there was arrogance, amazing insensitivity at times, a seeming hatred of the weak, a contempt for Christianity and a liking for Marxist social theory. Yet she did appear to really care about the plight of women who were trapped in poverty and often also trapped in loveless marriages in which they sometimes only seemed to exist in order to satisfy male lust and to endure beatings from drunken husbands. She was, therefore, amazingly selective in her compassion, all of which was directed towards married women, with no compassion to spare for families, whether children or husbands. Nevertheless, outside of Roman Catholicism, most other Christians (although, certainly not all), would approve of her lifelong promotion of contraception as a better path than continual unwanted pregnancies, yet many would still see her general life path as misguided and sometimes plainly evil in being based on a flawed, godless philosophy. In fact, it is widely believed that the path to a more widespread public acceptance of contraception was made especially difficult because of Sanger's difficult and obstinate personality and her refusal to work with others; fact is: around the same time some Protestant leaders were also showing interest in the principle of marital contraception but Sanger quickly alienated them all.

We cannot, perhaps, fault the compassionate side of Margaret Sanger but her ethics and moral evaluation were very deeply flawed and her seeming liking for vulgarity, bad taste and for provoking anger when it might have been avoided, often brought her into needless conflicts. Meanwhile her atheism, and her easy acceptance of racism and eugenics and her approval of the principle of euthanasia (if not the actual practice of gassing the physically and mentally unfit) mean that - overall - we must consider Sanger as an evil little lady who will not escape the judgment of God for her part in being one of the architects of the hideous moral revolution of the 1960s/1970s, a sexual revolution which, it is now clear, has caused enormous damage, including the utterly disgraceful fact of millions of aborted babies. This, we believe, will finally stand as one of the most hideous stains on 20th/21st century western society. Most 'enlightened' westerners don't even think of this as important, but there is a God in Heaven who is keeping an account.
Robin A. Brace. January 2010.

Margaret Sanger; An Addendum

An e mailer has refused to accept that Sanger was an atheist, pointing to a 1957 interview in which she claimed to be an Episcopalian. That often very revealing interview was available here during 2011 (I obviously cannot guarantee that it will remain available online). However, I think that the idea that an Episcopalian could not possibly be an atheist is naive, even though my e mailer undoubtedly meant well. We may well be reminded of such Episcopalians as Bishop Spong, and, in England, Don Cupitt, the latter a Church of England deacon and writer who stated a few years ago that he now supported "objective atheism." In the view of many, a large number of liberal Episcopalians are effectively atheistic in outlook, holding no concept of an omnipotent God nor of the necessity of Christ's sacrifice, seeing that sacrifice as of noble, poetic and inspirational value only.

In the very same interview (to which I offer a link above) Sanger herself reveals that she holds no concept of an omnipotent God, so I see no reason to revise my view (and the view of several others) that Margaret Sanger was - effectively - atheistic in outlook. I suppose one could also question how often Sanger actually attended an Episcopalian 'place of worship'??
Robin A. Brace. March 12th, 2011.

THE CRUELTY OF EUGENICS AND EUTHANASIA

UK APOLOGETICS