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Title: Woman and the New Race
Author: Sanger, Margaret
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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With A Preface By Havelock Ellis

       *       *       *       *       *       *

New York 1920

       *       *       *       *       *       *




       *       *       *       *       *       *


The modern Woman Movement, like the modern Labour Movement, may be
said to have begun in the Eighteenth century. The Labour movement
arose out of the Industrial Revolution with its resultant tendency to
over-population, to unrestricted competition, to social misery and
disorder. The Woman movement appeared as an at first neglected
by-product of the French Revolution with its impulses of general
human expansion, of freedom and of equality.

Since then, as we know, these two movements have each had a great and
vigorous career which is still far from completed. On the whole they
have moved independently along separate lines, and have at times
seemed indeed almost hostile to each other. That has ceased to be the
case. Of recent years it has been seen not only that these two
movements are not hostile, but that they may work together
harmoniously for similar ends.

One final step remained to be taken--it had to be realised not only
that the Labour movement could give the secret of success to the woman
movement by its method and organization, but that on the other hand,
woman held the secret without which labour is impotent to reach its
ends. Woman, by virtue of motherhood is the regulator of the
birthrate, the sacred disposer of human production. It is in the
deliberate restraint and measurement of human production that the
fundamental problems of the family, the nation, the whole brotherhood
of mankind find their solution. The health and longevity of the
individual, the economic welfare of the workers, the general level of
culture of the community, the possibility of abolishing from the world
the desolating scourge of war--all these like great human needs,
depend, primarily and fundamentally, on the wise limitation of the
human output. It does not certainly make them inevitable, but it
renders them possible of accomplishment; without it they have been
clearly and repeatedly proved to be impossible.

These facts have long been known to the few who view the world
realistically. But it is not the few who rule the world. It is the
masses--the ignorant, emotional, volatile, superstitious masses--who
rule the world. It is they who choose the few supreme persons who
manage or mismanage the world's affairs. Even the most stupid of us
must be able to see how it is done now, for during recent years the
whole process has been displayed before us on the very largest scale.

The lesson has not been altogether in vain. It is furnishing a new
stimulus to those who are working for the increase of knowledge, and
of practical action based on knowledge, among the masses, the masses
who alone possess the power to change the force of the world for good
or for evil, and by growth in wisdom to raise the human race on to a
higher level.

That is why the little book by Margaret Sanger, whose right to speak
with authority on these matters we all recognize, cannot be too widely
read. To the few who think, though they may here and there differ on
points of detail, it is all as familiar as A. B. C. But to the
millions who rule the world it is not familiar, and still less to the
handful of superior persons whom the masses elect to supreme
positions. Therefore, let this book be read; let it be read by every
man and woman who can read. And the sooner it is not only read but
acted on, the better for the world.


       *       *       *       *       *       *





















       *       *       *       *       *       *


       *       *       *       *       *



The most far-reaching social development of modern times is the revolt
of woman against sex servitude. The most important force in the
remaking of the world is a free motherhood. Beside this force, the
elaborate international programmes of modern statesmen are weak and
superficial. Diplomats may formulate leagues of nations and nations
may pledge their utmost strength to maintain them, statesmen may dream
of reconstructing the world out of alliances, hegemonies and spheres
of influence, but woman, continuing to produce explosive populations,
will convert these pledges into the proverbial scraps of paper; or she
may, by controlling birth, lift motherhood to the plane of a
voluntary, intelligent function, and remake the world. When the world
is thus remade, it will exceed the dream of statesman, reformer and

Only in recent years has woman's position as the gentler and weaker
half of the human family been emphatically and generally questioned.
Men assumed that this was woman's place; woman herself accepted it. It
seldom occurred to anyone to ask whether she would go on occupying it

Upon the mere surface of woman's organized protests there were no
indications that she was desirous of achieving a fundamental change in
her position. She claimed the right of suffrage and legislative
regulation of her working hours, and asked that her property rights be
equal to those of the man. None of these demands, however, affected
directly the most vital factors of her existence. Whether she won her
point or failed to win it, she remained a dominated weakling in a
society controlled by men.

Woman's acceptance of her inferior status was the more real because it
was unconscious. She had chained herself to her place in society and
the family through the maternal functions of her nature, and only
chains thus strong could have bound her to her lot as a brood animal
for the masculine civilizations of the world. In accepting her rôle as
the "weaker and gentler half," she accepted that function. In turn,
the acceptance of that function fixed the more firmly her rank as an

Caught in this "vicious circle," woman has, through her reproductive
ability, founded and perpetuated the tyrannies of the Earth. Whether
it was the tyranny of a monarchy, an oligarchy or a republic, the one
indispensable factor of its existence was, as it is now, hordes of
human beings--human beings so plentiful as to be cheap, and so cheap
that ignorance was their natural lot. Upon the rock of an
unenlightened, submissive maternity have these been founded; upon the
product of such a maternity have they flourished.

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

No period of low wages or of idleness with their want among the
workers, no peonage or sweatshop, no child-labor factory, ever came
into being, save from the same source. Nor have famine and plague been
as much "acts of God" as acts of too prolific mothers. They, also, as
all students know, have their basic causes in over-population.

The creators of over-population are the women, who, while wringing
their hands over each fresh horror, submit anew to their task of
producing the multitudes who will bring about the _next_ tragedy of

While unknowingly laying the foundations of tyrannies and providing
the human tinder for racial conflagrations, woman was also unknowingly
creating slums, filling asylums with insane, and institutions with
other defectives. She was replenishing the ranks of the prostitutes,
furnishing grist for the criminal courts and inmates for prisons. Had
she planned deliberately to achieve this tragic total of human waste
and misery, she could hardly have done it more effectively.

Woman's passivity under the burden of her disastrous task was almost
altogether that of ignorant resignation. She knew virtually nothing
about her reproductive nature and less about the consequences of her
excessive child-bearing. It is true that, obeying the inner urge of
their natures, _some_ women revolted. They went even to the extreme of
infanticide and abortion. Usually their revolts were not general
enough. They fought as individuals, not as a mass. In the mass they
sank back into blind and hopeless subjection. They went on breeding
with staggering rapidity those numberless, undesired children who
become the clogs and the destroyers of civilizations.

To-day, however, woman is rising in fundamental revolt. Even her
efforts at mere reform are, as we shall see later, steps in that
direction. Underneath each of them is the feminine urge to complete
freedom. Millions of women are asserting their right to voluntary
motherhood. They are determined to decide for themselves whether they
shall become mothers, under what conditions and when. This is the
fundamental revolt referred to. It is for woman the key to the temple
of liberty.

Even as birth control is the means by which woman attains basic
freedom, so it is the means by which she must and will uproot the evil
she has wrought through her submission. As she has unconsciously and
ignorantly brought about social disaster, so must and will she
consciously and intelligently _undo_ that disaster and create a new
and a better order.

The task is hers. It cannot be avoided by excuses, nor can it be
delegated. It is not enough for woman to point to the self-evident
domination of man. Nor does it avail to plead the guilt of rulers and
the exploiters of labor. It makes no difference that she does not
formulate industrial systems nor that she is an instinctive believer
in social justice. In her submission lies her error and her guilt. By
her failure to withhold the multitudes of children who have made
inevitable the most flagrant of our social evils, she incurred a debt
to society. Regardless of her own wrongs, regardless of her lack of
opportunity and regardless of all other considerations, _she_ must pay
that debt.

She must not think to pay this debt in any superficial way. She cannot
pay it with palliatives--with child-labor laws, prohibition,
regulation of prostitution and agitation against war. Political
nostrums and social panaceas are but incidentally and superficially
useful. They do not touch the source of the social disease.

War, famine, poverty and oppression of the workers will continue while
woman makes life cheap. They will cease only when she limits her
reproductivity and human life is no longer a thing to be wasted.

Two chief obstacles hinder the discharge of this tremendous
obligation. The first and the lesser is the legal barrier. Dark-Age
laws would still deny to her the knowledge of her reproductive nature.
Such knowledge is indispensable to intelligent motherhood and she must
achieve it, despite absurd statutes and equally absurd moral canons.

The second and more serious barrier is her own ignorance of the extent
and effect of her submission. Until she knows the evil her subjection
has wrought to herself, to her progeny and to the world at large, she
cannot wipe out that evil.

To get rid of these obstacles is to invite attack from the forces of
reaction which are so strongly entrenched in our present-day society.
It means warfare in every phase of her life. Nevertheless, at whatever
cost, she must emerge from her ignorance and assume her

She can do this only when she has awakened to a knowledge of herself
and of the consequences of her ignorance. The first step is birth
control. Through birth control she will attain to voluntary
motherhood. Having attained this, the basic freedom of her sex, she
will cease to enslave herself and the mass of humanity. Then, through
the understanding of the intuitive forward urge within her, she will
not stop at patching up the world; she will remake it.



Behind all customs of whatever nature; behind all social unrest,
behind all movements, behind all revolutions, are great driving
forces, which in their action and reaction upon conditions, give
character to civilization. If, in seeking to discover the source of a
custom, of a movement or of a revolution, we stop at surface
conditions, we shall never discern more than a superficial aspect of
the underlying truth.

This is the error into which the historian has almost universally
fallen. It is also a common error among sociologists. It is the
fashion nowadays, for instance, to explain all social unrest in terms
of economic conditions. This is a valuable working theory and has done
much to awaken men to their injustice toward one another, but it
ignores the forces within humanity which drive it to revolt. It is
these forces, rather than the conditions upon which they react, that
are the important factors. Conditions change, but the animating force
goes on forever.

So, too, with woman's struggle for emancipation. Women in all lands
and all ages have instinctively desired family limitation. Usually
this desire has been laid to economic pressure. Frequently the
pressure has existed, but the driving force behind woman's aspiration
_toward freedom_ has lain deeper. 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.

The only term sufficiently comprehensive to define this motive power
of woman's nature is the _feminine spirit_. That spirit manifests
itself most frequently in motherhood, but it is greater than
maternity. Woman herself, all that she is, all that she has ever been,
all that she may be, is but the outworking of this inner spiritual
urge. Given free play, this supreme law of her nature asserts itself
in beneficent ways; interfered with, it becomes destructive. Only when
we understand this can we comprehend the efforts of the feminine
spirit to liberate itself.

When the outworking of this force within her is hampered by the
bearing and the care of too many children, woman rebels. Hence it is
that, from time immemorial, she has sought some form of family
limitation. When she has not employed such measures consciously, she
has done so instinctively. Where laws, customs and religious
restrictions do not prevent, she has recourse to contraceptives.
Otherwise, she resorts to child abandonment, abortion and infanticide,
or resigns herself hopelessly to enforced maternity.

These violent means of freeing herself from the chains of her own
reproductivity have been most in evidence where economic conditions
have made the care of children even more of a burden than it would
otherwise have been. But, whether in the luxurious home of the
Athenian, the poverty-ridden dwelling of the Chinese, or the crude hut
of the primitive Australian savage, the woman whose development has
been interfered with by the bearing and rearing of children has tried
desperately, frantically, too often in vain, to take and hold her

Individual men have sometimes acquiesced in these violent measures,
but in the mass they have opposed. By law, by religious canons, by
public opinion, by penalties ranging all the way from ostracism to
beheading, they have sought to crush this effort. Neither threat of
hell nor the infliction of physical punishment has availed. Women have
deceived and dared, resisted and defied the power of church and state.
Quietly, desperately, consciously, they have marched to the gates of
death to gain the liberty which the feminine spirit has desired.

In savage life as well as in barbarism and civilization has woman's
instinctive urge to freedom and a wider development asserted itself in
an effort, successful or otherwise, to curtail her family.

"The custom of infanticide prevails or has prevailed," says Westermark
in his monumental work, _The Origin and Development of the Moral
Idea_, "not only in the savage world but among the semi-civilized and
civilized races."

With the savage mother, family limitation ran largely to infanticide,
although that practice was frequently accompanied by abortion as a
tribal means. As McLennan says in his "Studies in Ancient History,"
infanticide was formerly very common among the savages of New Zealand,
and "it was generally perpetrated by the mother." He notes much the
same state of affairs among the primitive Australians, except that
abortion was _also_ frequently employed. In numerous North American
Indian tribes, he says, infanticide and abortion were not uncommon,
and the Indians of Central America were found by him "to have gone to
extremes in the use of abortives."

When a traveller reproached the women of one of the South American
Indian tribes for the practice of infanticide, McLennan says he was
met by the retort, "Men have no business to meddle with women's

McLennan ventures the opinion that the practice of abortion so widely
noted among Indians in the Western Hemisphere, "must have supervened
on a practice of infanticide."

Similar practices have been found to prevail wherever historians have
dug deep into the life of savage people. Infanticide, at least, was
practiced by African tribes, by the primitive peoples of Japan, India
and Western Europe, as well as in China, and in early Greece and Rome.
The ancient Hebrews are sometimes pointed out as the one possible
exception to this practice, because the Mosaic law, as it has come
down to us, is silent upon the subject. Westermark is of the opinion
that it "hardly occurred among the Hebrews in historic times. But we
have reason to believe that at an earlier period, among them, as among
other branches of the Semitic race, child murder was frequently
practiced as a sacrificial rite."

Westermark found that "the murder of female infants, whether by the
direct employment of homicidal means, or exposure to privation and
neglect, has for ages been a common practice or even a genuine custom
among various Hindu castes."

Still further light is shed upon the real sources of the practice, as
well as upon the improvement of the status of woman through the
practice, by an English student of conditions in India. Captain S.
Charles MacPherson, of the Madras Army, in the Journal of the Royal
Asiatic Society for 1852, said: "I can here but very briefly advert to
the customs and feelings which the practice of infanticide (among the
Khonds of Orissa) alternately springs from and produces. The influence
and privileges of women are exceedingly great among the Khonds, and
are, I believe, greatest among the tribes which practice infanticide.
Their opinions have great weight in all public and private affairs;
their direct participation is often considered essential in the

If infanticide did not spring from a desire within the woman herself,
from a desire stronger than motherhood, would it prevail where women
enjoy an influence equal to that of men? And does not the fact that
the women in question do enjoy such influence, point unmistakably to
the motive behind the practice?

Infanticide did not go out of fashion with the advance from savagery
to barbarism and civilization. Rather, it became, as in Greece and
Rome, a recognized custom with advocates among leaders of thought and

So did abortion, which some authorities regard as a development
springing from infanticide and tending to supersede it as a means of
getting rid of undesired children.

As progress is made toward civilization, infanticide, then, actually
increased. This tendency was noted by Westermark, who also calls
attention to the conclusions of Fison and Howitt (in Kamilaroi and
Kurnai). "Mr. Fison who has lived for a long time among uncivilized
races," says Westermark, "thinks it will be found that infanticide is
far less common among the lower savages than among the more advanced

Following this same tendency into civilized countries, we find
infanticide either advocated by philosophers and authorized by law, as
in Greece and Rome, or widely practiced in spite of the law, civil and

The status of infanticide as an established, legalized custom in
Greece, is well summed up by Westermark, who says: "The exposure of
deformed or sickly infants was undoubtedly an ancient custom in
Greece; in Sparta, at least, it was enjoined by law. It was also
approved of by the most enlightened among the Greek philosophers.
Plato condemns all those children who are imperfect in limbs as well
as those who are born of depraved citizens."

Aristotle, who believed that the state should fix the number of
children each married pair should have, has this to say in _Politics_,
Book VII, Chapter V:

"With respect to the exposing and nurturing of children, let it be a
law that nothing mutilated shall be nurtured. And in order to avoid
having too great a number of children, if it be not permitted by the
laws of the country to expose them, it is then requisite to define how
many a man may have; and if any have more than the prescribed number,
some means must be adopted that the fruit be destroyed in the womb of
the mother before sense and life are generated in it."

Aristotle was a conscious advocate of family limitation even if
attained by violent means. "It is necessary," he says, "to take care
that the increase of the people should not exceed a certain number in
order to avoid poverty and its concomitants, sedition and other

In Athens, while the citizen wives were unable to throw off the
restrictions of the laws which kept them at home, the great number of
_hetera_, or stranger women, were the glory of the "Golden Age." The
homes of these women who were free from the burden of too many
children became the gathering places of philosophers, poets, sculptors
and statesmen. The _hetera_ were their companions, their inspiration
and their teachers. Aspasia, one of the greatest women of antiquity,
was such an emancipated individuality. True to the urge of the
feminine spirit, she, like Sappho, the poetess of Lesbia, sought to
arouse the Greek wives to the expression of their individual selves.
One writer says of her efforts: "This woman determined to do her
utmost to elevate her sex. The one method of culture open to women at
that time was poetry. There was no other form of literature, and
accordingly she systematically trained her pupils to be poets, and to
weave into the verse the noblest maxims of the intellect and the
deepest emotions of the heart. Young pupils with richly endowed minds
flocked to her from all countries and formed a kind of Woman's

"There can be no doubt that these young women were impelled to seek
the society of Sappho from disgust with the low drudgery and
monotonous routine to which woman's life was sacrificed, and they were
anxious to rise to something nobler and better."

Can there be any doubt that the unfortunate "citizen wives" of Athens,
bound by law to their homes, envied the brilliant careers of the
"stranger women," and sought all possible means of freedom? And can
there be any doubt that they acquiesced in the practice of infanticide
as a means to that end? Otherwise, how could the custom of destroying
infants have been so thoroughly embedded in the jurisprudence, the
thought and the very core of Athenian civilization?

As to the Spartan women, Aristotle says that they ruled their husbands
and owned two-fifths of the land. Surely, had they not approved of
infanticide for some very strong reasons of their own, they would have
abolished it.

Athens and Sparta must be regarded as giving very strong indications
that the Grecian women not only approved of family limitation by the
destruction of unwanted children, but that at least part of their
motive was personal freedom.

In Rome, an avowedly militaristic nation, living by conquest of weaker
states, all sound children were saved. But the weakly or deformed were
drowned. Says Seneca: "We destroy monstrous births, and we also drown
our children if they are born weakly or unnaturally formed." Wives of
Romans, however, were relieved of much of the drudgery of child
rearing by the slaves which Rome took by the thousands and brought
home. Thus they were free to attain an advanced position and to become
the advisors of their husbands in politics, making and unmaking
political careers.

When we come to look into the proverbial infanticide of the Chinese,
we find the same positive indications that it grew out of the
instinctive purpose of woman to free herself from the bondage of too
great reproductivity.

"In the poorest districts of China," says Westermark, "female infants
are often destroyed by their parents immediately after their birth,
chiefly on account of poverty. Though disapproved of by educated
Chinese, the practice is treated with forbearance or indifference by
the man of the people and is acquiesced in by the mandarins."

"When seriously appealed to on the subject," says the Rev. J.
Doolittle in _Social Life of the Chinese_, "though all deprecate it as
contrary to the dictates of reason and the instincts of nature, many
are ready boldly to apologize for it and declare it to be necessary,
especially in the families of the excessively poor."

Here again the wide prevalence of the custom is the first and best
proof that women are driven by some great pressure within themselves
to accede to it. If further proof were necessary, it is afforded by
the testimony of Occidentals who have lived in China, that Chinese
midwives are extremely skillful in producing early abortion. Abortions
are not performed without the consent and usually only at the demand
of the woman.

In China, as in India, the religions of the country condemned, even as
they to-day condemn, infanticide. Both foreign and native governments
have sought to make an end of the custom. But in both countries it
still prevails. Nor are these Eastern countries substantially
different from their Western neighbors.

The record of Western Europe is summarized by Oscar Helmuth Werner,
Ph.D., in his book, _"The Unmarried Mother in German Literature."_
"Infanticide," says Dr. Werner, "was the most common crime in Western
Europe from the Middle Ages down to the end of the Eighteenth
Century." This fact, of course, means that it was even more largely
practiced by the married than the unmarried, the married mothers being
far greater in number.

"Another problem which confronted the church," he says in another
place, "was the practice of exposure and killing of children by legal
parents." A sort of final word from Dr. Werner is this: "Infanticide
by legal parents has practically ceased in civilized countries, but
abortion, its substitute, has not."

How desperately woman desired freedom to develop herself as an
individual, apart from motherhood, is indicated by the fact that
infanticide was "the most common crime of Western Europe," in spite of
the fact that some of the most terrible punishments ever inflicted by
law were meted out to those women who sought this means of escape from
the burden of unwanted children. Dr. Werner shows that in Germany, for
instance, in the year 1532, it was the law that those guilty of
infanticide were "to be buried alive or impaled. In order to prevent
desperation, however, they shall be drowned if it is possible to get
to a stream or river, in which they shall be torn with glowing tongs

Notwithstanding the fact that at one time in Germany, the punishment
was that of drowning in a sack containing a serpent, a cat and a
dog--in order that the utmost agony might be inflicted--one sovereign
alone condemned 20,000 women to death for infanticide, without
noticeably reducing the practice.

To-day, in spite of the huge numbers of abortions and the
multiplication of foundlings' homes and orphans' asylums, infanticide
is still an occasional crime in all countries. As to woman's share in
the practice, let us add this word from Havelock Ellis, taken from the
chapter on "Morbid Psychic Phenomena" in his book, _Man and Woman_:

"Infanticide is the crime in which women stand out in the greatest
contrast to men; in Italy, for example, for every 100 men guilty of
infanticide, there are 477 women." And he remarks later that when a
man commits this crime, "he usually does it at the instance of some

Infanticide tends to disappear as skill in producing abortions is
developed or knowledge of contraceptives is spread, and only then. One
authority, as will be seen in a later chapter, estimates the number of
abortions performed annually in the United States at 1,000,000, and
another believes that double that number are produced.

"Among the Hindus and Mohammedans, artificial abortion is extremely
common," says Westermark. "In Persia every illegitimate pregnancy ends
with abortion. In Turkey, both among the rich and the poor, even
married women very commonly procure abortion after they have given
birth to two children, one of which is a boy."

The nations mentioned are typical of the world, except those countries
where information concerning contraceptives has enabled women to limit
their families without recourse to operations.

It is apparent that nothing short of contraceptives can put an end to
the horrors of abortion and infanticide. The Roman Catholic church,
which has fought these practices from the beginning, has been unable
to check them; and no more powerful agency could have been brought
into play. It took that church, even in the days of its unlimited
power, many centuries to come to its present sweeping condemnation of
abortion. The severity of the condemnation depended upon the time at
which the development of the foetus was interfered with. An
illuminating resume of the church's efforts in this direction is given
by Dr. William Burke Ryan in his authoritative and exhaustive study
entitled "_Infanticide; Its Law, Prevalence, Prevention and History"_.
Dr. Ryan says: "Theologians of the church of Rome made a distinction
between the inanimate and the animate foetus to which the soul is
added by the creation of God, and adopted the opinions of some of the
old philosophers, more particularly those of Aristotle, as to
animation in the male and female, but the canon law altogether
negatived the doctrine of the Stoics, for Innocent II condemned the
following proposition:

"'It seems probable that the foetus does not possess a rational soul
as long as it is in the womb, and only begins to possess it when born,
and consequently in no abortion is homicide committed.' Sextus V
inflicted severe penalties for the crime of abortion at any period;
these were in some degree mitigated by Gregory XIV, who, however,
still held that those producing the abortion of an animated foetus
should be subject to them, viz., and excommunication reserved to the
bishop and also an 'irregularity' reserved to the Pope himself for

To-day, the Roman church stands firmly upon the proposition that
"directly intended, artificial abortion must be regarded as wrongful
killing, as murder." [Footnote: Pastoral Medicine] But it required a
long time for it to reach that point, in the face of the demand for
relief from large families.

As it was with the fight of the church against abortion, so it is with
the effort to prevent abortion in the United States to-day. All
efforts to stop the practice are futile. Apparently, the numbers of
these illegal operations are increasing from year to year. From year
to year more women will undergo the humiliation, the danger and the
horror of them, and the terrible record, begun with the infanticide of
the primitive peoples, will go on piling up its volume of human misery
and racial damage, until society awakens to the fact that a
fundamental remedy must be applied.

To apply such a remedy, society must recognize the terrible lesson
taught by the innumerable centuries of infanticide and foeticide. If
these abhorrent practices could have been ended by punishment and
suppression, they would have ceased long ago. But to continue
suppression and punishment, and let the matter rest there, is only to
miss the lesson--only to permit conditions to go from bad to worse.

What is that lesson? It is this: woman's desire for freedom is born of
the feminine spirit, which is the absolute, elemental, inner urge of
womanhood. It is the strongest force in her nature; it cannot be
destroyed; it can merely be diverted from its natural expression into
violent and destructive channels.

The chief obstacles to the normal expression of this force are
undesired pregnancy and the burden of unwanted children. These
obstacles have always been and always will be swept aside by a
considerable proportion of women. Driven by the irresistible force
within them, they will always seek wider freedom and greater
self-development, regardless of the cost. The sole question that society
has to answer is, how shall women be permitted to attain this end?

Are you horrified at the record set down in this chapter? It is well
that you should be. You cannot help society to apply the fundamental
remedy unless you know these facts and are conscious of their fullest

Society, in dealing with the feminine spirit, has its choice of
clearly defined alternatives. It can continue to resort to violence in
an effort to enslave the elemental urge of womanhood, making of woman
a mere instrument of reproduction and punishing her when she revolts.
Or, it can permit her to choose whether she shall become a mother and
how many children she will have. It can go on trying to crush that
which is uncrushable, or it can recognize woman's claim to freedom,
and cease to impose diverting and destructive barriers. If we choose
the latter course, we must not only remove all restrictions upon the
use of scientific contraceptives, but we must legalize and encourage
their use.

This problem comes home with peculiar force to the people of America.
Do we want the millions of abortions performed annually to be
multiplied? Do we want the precious, tender qualities of womanhood, so
much needed for our racial development, to perish in these sordid,
abnormal experiences? Or, do we wish to permit woman to find her way
to fundamental freedom through safe, unobjectionable, scientific
means? We have our choice. Upon our answer to these questions depends
in a tremendous degree the character and the capabilities of the
future American race.



Each of us has an ideal of what the American of the future should be.
We have been told times without number that out of the mixture of
stocks, the intermingling of ideas and aspirations, there is to come a
race greater than any which has contributed to the population of the
United States. What is the basis for this hope that is so generally
indulged in? If the hope is founded upon realities, how may it be
realized? To understand the difficulties and the obstacles to be
overcome before the dream of a greater race in America can be
attained, is to understand something of the task before the women who
shall give birth to that race.

What material is there for a greater American race? What elements make
up our present millions? Where do they live? How do they live? In what
direction does our national civilization bend their ideals? What is
the effect of the "melting pot" upon the foreigner, once he begins to
"melt"? Are we now producing a freer, juster, more intelligent, more
idealistic, creative people out of the varied ingredients here?

Before we can answer these questions, we must consider briefly the
races which have contributed to American population.

Among our more than 100,000,000 population are Negroes, Indians,
Chinese and other colored people to the number of 11,000,000. There
are also 14,500,000 persons of foreign birth. Besides these there are
14,000,000 children of foreign-born parents and 6,500,000 persons
whose fathers or mothers were born on foreign soil, making a total of
46,000,000 people of foreign stock. Fifty per cent of our population
is of the native white strain.

Of the foreign stock in the United States, the last general census,
compiled in 1910, shows that 25.7 per cent was German, 14 per cent was
Irish, 8.5 per cent was Russian or Finnish, 7.2 was English, 6.5 per
cent Italian and 6.2 per cent Austrian. The Abstract of the same
census points out several significant facts. The Western European
strains in this country are represented by a majority of native-born
children of foreign-born or mixed parentage. This is because the
immigration from those sources has been checked. On the other hand,
immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe, including Russia and
Finland, increased 175.4 per cent from 1900 to 1910. During that
period, the slums of Europe dumped their submerged inhabitants into
America at a rate almost double that of the preceding decade, and the
flow was still increasing at the time the census was taken. So it is
more than likely that when the next census is taken it will be found
that following 1910 there was an even greater flow from Spain, Italy,
Hungary, Austria, Russia, Finland, and other countries where the iron
hand of economic and political tyrannies had crushed great populations
into ignorance and want. These peoples have not been in the United
States long enough to produce great families. The census of 1920 will
in all probability tell a story of a greater and more serious problem
than did the last.

Over one-fourth of all the immigrants over fourteen years of age,
admitted during the two decades preceding 1910, were illiterate. Of
the 8,398,000 who arrived in the 1900-1910 period, 2,238,000 could not
read or write. There were 1,600,000 illiterate foreigners in the
United States when the 1910 census was taken. Do these elements give
promise of a better race? Are we doing anything genuinely constructive
to overcome this situation?

Two-thirds of the white foreign stock in the United States live in
cities. Four-fifths of the populations of Chicago and New York are of
this stock. More than two-thirds of the populations of Boston,
Cleveland, Detroit, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Newark, Jersey
City, Providence, Worcester, Scranton, Paterson, Fall River, Lowell,
Cambridge, Bridgeport, St. Paul, Minneapolis and San Francisco are of
other than native white ancestry. Of the fifty principal cities of the
United States there are only fourteen in which fifty per cent of the
population is of unmixed native white parentage.

Only one state in the Union--North Carolina--has less than one per
cent of the white foreign stock. New York, New Jersey, Delaware,
Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Michigan, Illinois,
Wisconsin, Minnesota, the Dakotas, Montana and Utah have more than
fifty per cent foreign stock. Eleven states, including those on the
Pacific Coast, have from 35 to 50 per cent. Maine, Ohio and Kansas
have from 25 to 35 per cent. Maryland, Indiana, Missouri and Texas
have from 15 to 25 per cent. These proportions are increasing rather
than decreasing, owing to the extraordinarily high birth rate of the
foreign strains.

A special analysis of 1915 vital statistics for certain states, in the
World Almanac for 1918, shows that foreign-born mothers gave birth to
nearly 62 per cent of the children born in Connecticut, nearly 58 per
cent in Massachusetts, nearly 33 per cent in Michigan, nearly 58 per
cent in Rhode Island, more than 43 per cent in New Hampshire, more
than 54 per cent in New York and more than 38 per cent in

All these figures, be it remembered, fail to include foreign stock of
the second generation after landing. If the statistics for children
who have native parents but foreign-born grandparents, or who have one
foreign-born parent, were given, they would doubtless leave but a
small percentage of births from stocks native to the soil for several

Immigrants or their children constitute the majority of workers
employed in many of our industries. "Seven out of ten of those who
work in our iron and steel industries are drawn from this class," says
the National Geographic Magazine (February, 1917), "seven out of ten
of our bituminous coal miners belong to it. Three out of four who work
in packing towns were born abroad or are children of those who were
born abroad; four out of five of those who make our silk goods, seven
out of eight of those employed in woolen mills, nine out of ten of
those who refine our petroleum, and nineteen out of twenty of those
who manufacture our sugar are immigrants or the children of
immigrants." And it might have shown a similarly high percentage of
those in the ready-made clothing industries, railway and public works
construction of the less skilled sort, and a number of others.

That these foreigners who have come in hordes have brought with them
their ignorance of hygiene and modern ways of living and that they are
handicapped by religious superstitions is only too true. But they also
bring in their hearts a desire for freedom from all the tyrannies that
afflict the earth. They would not be here if they did not bear within
them the hardihood of pioneers, a courage of no mean order. They have
the simple faith that in America they will find equality, liberty and
an opportunity for a decent livelihood. And they have something else.
The cell plasms of these peoples are freighted with the potentialities
of the best in Old World civilization. They come from lands rich in
the traditions of courage, of art, music, letters, science and
philosophy. Americans no longer consider themselves cultured unless
they have journeyed to these lands to find access to the treasures
created by men and women of this same blood. The immigrant brings the
possibilities of all these things to our shores, but where is the
opportunity to reproduce in the New World the cultures of the old?

What opportunities have we given to these peoples to enrich our
civilization? We have greeted them as "a lot of ignorant foreigners,"
we have shouted at, bustled and kicked them.

Our industries have taken advantage of their ignorance of the
country's ways to take their toil in mills and mines and factories at
starvation wages. We have herded them into slums to become diseased,
to become social burdens or to die. We have huddled them together like
rabbits to multiply their numbers and their misery. Instead of saying
that we Americanize them, we should confess that we animalize them.
The only freedom we seem to have given them is the freedom to make
heavier and more secure their chains. What hope is there for racial
progress in this human material, treated more carelessly and brutally
than the cheapest factory product?

Nor are all our social handicaps bound up in the immigrant.

There were in the United States, when the Federal Industrial Relations
Committee finished its work in 1915, several million migratory
workers, most of them white, many of them married but separated from
their families, who were compelled, like themselves, to struggle with
dire want.

There were in 1910 more than 2,353,000 tenant farmers, two-thirds of
whom lived and worked under the terrible conditions which the
Industrial Relations Commission's report showed to prevail in the
South and Southwest. These tenant farmers, as the report showed, were
always in want, and were compelled by the very terms of the prevailing
tenant contracts to produce children who must go to the fields and do
the work of adults. The census proved that this tenancy was on the
increase, the number of tenants in all but the New England and Middle
Atlantic States having increased approximately 30 per cent from 1900
to 1910.

Moreover, there were in the United States in 1910, 5,516,163
illiterates. Of these 1,378,884 were of pure native white stock. In
some states in the South as much as 29 per cent of the population is
illiterate, many of these, of course, being Negroes.

There is still another factor to be considered--a factor which because
of its great scope is more ominous than any yet mentioned. This is the
underpaid mass of workers in the United States--workers whose
low wages are forcing them deeper into want each day. Let Senator
Borah, not a radical nor even a reformer, but a leader of the
Republican party, tell the story. "Fifty-seven per cent of the
families in the United States have incomes of $800 or less," said
he in a speech before the Senate, August 24, 1917, "Seventy per cent
of the families of our country have incomes of $1,000 or less. Tell me
how a man so situated can have shelter for his family; how he can provide
food and clothing. He is an industrial peon. His home is scant and pinched
beyond the power of language to tell. He sees his wife and children on the
ragged edge of hunger from week to week and month to month. If sickness
comes, he faces suicide or crime. He cannot educate his children;
he cannot fit them for citizenship; he cannot even fit them as soldiers
to die for their country.

"It is the tragedy of our whole national life--how these people live
in such times as these. We have not yet gathered the fruits of such an
industrial condition in this country. We have been saved thus far by
reason of the newness of our national life, our vast public lands now
almost exhausted, our great natural resources now fast being seized
and held, but the hour of reckoning will come."

Senator Borah was thinking, doubtless, of open revolution, of
bloodshed and the destruction of property. In a far more terrible
sense, the reckoning which he has referred to is already upon us. The
ills we suffer as the result of the conditions now prevailing in the
United States are appalling in their sum.

It is these conditions that produce the 3,000,000 child laborers of
the United States; child slaves who undergo hardships that blight them
physically and mentally, leaving them fit only to produce human beings
whose deficiencies and misfortunes will exceed their own.

From these same elements, living under these same conditions come the
feebleminded and other defectives. Just how many feebleminded there
are in the United States, no one knows, because no attempt has ever
been made to give public care to all of them, and families are more
inclined to conceal than to reveal the mental defects of their
members. Estimates vary from 350,000 at the present time to nearly
400,000 as early as 1890, Henry H. Goddard, Ph. D., of the Vineland,
N. J., Training School, being authority for the latter statement. Only
34,137 of these unfortunates were under institutional care in the
United States in 1916, the rest being free to propagate their kind--piling
up public burdens for future generations. The feebleminded are
notoriously prolific in reproduction. The close relationship between
poverty and ignorance and the production of feebleminded is shown by
Anne Moore, Ph.D., in a report to the Public Education Association of
New York in 1911. She found that an overwhelming proportion of the
classified feebleminded children in New York schools came from large
families living in overcrowded slum conditions, and that only a small
percentage were born of native parents.

Sixty thousand prostitutes go and come anew each year in the United
States. This army of unfortunates, as social workers and scientists
testify, come from families living under like conditions of want.

In the New York City schools alone in December, 1916, 61 per cent of
the children were suffering from undernourishment and 21 per cent in
immediate danger of it. These facts, also the result of the conditions
outlined, were discovered by the city Bureau of Child Hygiene.

Another item in the sordid list is that of venereal disease. In his
pamphlet entitled "_The Venereal Diseases_," issued in 1918, Dr.
Hermann M. Biggs head of the New York State Department of Health
quoted authorities who gave estimates of the amount of syphilis and
gonorrhea in the United States. One says that 60 per cent of the men
contract one disease or the other at some time. Another said that 40
per cent of the population of New York City had syphilis, one of the
most terrible of all maladies. Poverty, delayed marriage,
prostitution--a brief and terrible chain accounts for this scourge.

Finally, there is tuberculosis, bred by bad housing conditions and
contributed to in frightful measure by poor food and unhealthy
surroundings during the hours of employment. Dr. Frederick L. Hoffman,
director of the National Association for the Study and Prevention of
Tuberculosis and foremost statistical authority upon tuberculosis in
the United States, says: "We know of 2,000,000 tubercular persons in
the United States."

Does this picture horrify the reader? This is not the whole truth. A
few scattered statistics lack the power to reflect the broken lives of
overworked fathers, the ceaseless, increasing pain of overburdened
mothers and the agony of childhood fighting its way against the
handicaps of ill health, insufficient food, inadequate training and
stifling toil.

Can we expect to remedy this situation by dismissing the problem of
the submerged native elements with legislative palliatives or treating
it with careless scorn? Do we better it by driving out of the
immigrant's heart the dream of liberty that brought him to our shores?
Do we solve the problem by giving him, instead of an opportunity to
develop his own culture, low wages, a home in the slums and those
pseudo-patriotic preachments which constitute our machine-made

Every detail of this sordid situation means a problem that must be
solved before we can even clear the way for a greater race in America.
Nor is there any hope of solving any of these problems if we continue
to attack them in the usual way.

Men have sentimentalized about them and legislated upon them. They
have denounced them and they have applied reforms. But it has all been
ridiculously, cruelly futile.

This is the condition of things for which those stand who demand more
and more children. Each child born under such conditions but makes
them worse--each child in its own person suffers the consequence of
the intensified evils.

If we are to develop in America a new race with a racial soul, we must
keep the birth rate within the scope of our ability to understand as
well as to educate. We must not encourage reproduction beyond our
capacity to assimilate our numbers so as to make the coming generation
into such physically fit, mentally capable, socially alert individuals
as are the ideal of a democracy.

The intelligence of a people is of slow evolutional development--it
lags far behind the reproductive ability. It is far too slow to cope
with conditions created by an increasing population, unless that
increase is carefully regulated.

We must, therefore, not permit an increase in population that we are
not prepared to care for to the best advantage--that we are not
prepared to do justice to, educationally and economically. We must
popularize birth control thinking. We must not leave it haphazardly to
be the privilege of the already privileged. We must put this means of
freedom and growth into the hands of the masses.

We must set motherhood free. We must give the foreign and submerged
mother knowledge that will enable her to prevent bringing to birth
children she does not want. We know that in each of these submerged
and semisubmerged elements of the population there are rich factors of
racial culture. Motherhood is the channel through which these cultures
flow. Motherhood, when free to choose the father, free to choose the
time and the number of children who shall result from the union,
automatically works in wondrous ways. It refuses to bring forth
weaklings; refuses to bring forth slaves; refuses to bear children who
must live under the conditions described. It withholds the unfit,
brings forth the fit; brings few children into homes where there is
not sufficient to provide for them. Instinctively it avoids all those
things which multiply racial handicaps. Under such circumstances we
can hope that the "melting pot" will refine. We shall see that it will
save the precious metals of racial culture, fused into an amalgam of
physical perfection, mental strength and spiritual progress. Such an
American race, containing the best of all racial elements, could give
to the world a vision and a leadership beyond our present imagination.



Thus far we have been discussing mainly one class in America--the
workers. Most women who belong to the workers' families have no
accurate or reliable knowledge of contraceptives, and are, therefore,
bringing children into the world so rapidly that they, their families
and their class are overwhelmed with numbers. Out of these numbers, as
has been shown, have grown many of the burdens with which society in
general is weighted; out of them have come, also, the want, disease,
hard living conditions and general misery of the workers.

The women of this class are the greatest sufferers of all. Not only do
they bear the material hardships and deprivations in common with the
rest of the family, but in the case of the mother, these are
intensified. It is the man and the child who have first call upon the
insufficient amount of food. It is the man and the child who get the
recreation, if there is any to be had, for the man's hours of labor
are usually limited by law or by his labor union.

It is the woman who suffers first from hunger, the woman whose
clothing is least adequate, the woman who must work all hours, even
though she is not compelled, as in the case of millions, to go into a
factory to add to her husband's scanty income. It is she, too, whose
health breaks first and most hopelessly, under the long hours of work,
the drain of frequent childbearing, and often almost constant nursing
of babies. There are no eight-hour laws to protect the mother against
overwork and toil in the home; no laws to protect her against ill
health and the diseases of pregnancy and reproduction. In fact there
has been almost no thought or consideration given for the protection
of the mother in the home of the workingman.

There are no general health statistics to tell the full story of the
physical ills suffered by women as a result of too great
reproductivity. But we get some light upon conditions through the
statistics on maternal mortality, compiled by Dr. Grace L. Meigs, for
the Children's Bureau of the United States Department of Labor. These
figures do not include the deaths of women suffering from diseases
complicated by pregnancy.

"In 1913, in this country at least 15,000 women, it is estimated, died
from conditions caused by childbirth; about 7,000 of these died from
childbed fever and the remaining 8,000 from diseases now known to be
to a great extent preventable or curable," says Dr. Meigs in her
summary, "Physicians and statisticians agree that these figures are a
_great underestimate_."

Think of it--the needless deaths of 15,000 women a "great
underestimate"! Yet even this number means that virtually every hour
of the day and night two women die as the result of childbirth in the
healthiest and supposedly the most progressive country in the world.

It is apparent that Dr. Meigs leaves out of consideration the many
thousands of deaths each year of women who become pregnant while
suffering from tuberculosis. Dr. S. Adolphus Knopf, addressing the
forty-fourth annual convention of the American Public Health
Association, in Cincinnati in 1916, called attention to the fact that
some authors hold that "65 per cent of the women afflicted with
tuberculosis, even when afflicted only in the relatively early and
curable stages, die as the result of pregnancy which could have been
avoided and their lives saved had they but known some means of
prevention." Nor were syphilis, various kidney and heart disorders and
other diseases, often rendered fatal by pregnancy, taken into account
by Dr. Meigs' survey.

Still, leaving out all the hundreds of thousands of women who die
because pregnancy has complicated serious diseases, Dr. Meigs finds
that "in 1913, the death rate per 100,000 of the population from all
conditions caused by childbirth was little lower than that from
typhoid fever. This rate would be almost quadrupled if only the group
of the population which can be affected, women of child-bearing ages,
were considered. In 1913, childbirth caused more deaths among women 15
to 44 years old than any disease except tuberculosis."

From what sort of homes come these deaths from childbirth? Most of
them occur in overcrowded dwellings, where food, care, sanitation,
nursing and medical attention are inadequate. Where do we find most of
the tuberculosis and much of the other disease which is aggravated by
pregnancy? In the same sort of home.

The deadly chain of misery is all too plain to anyone who takes the
trouble to observe it. A woman of the working class marries and with
her husband lives in a degree of comfort upon his earnings. Her
household duties are not beyond her strength. Then the children begin
to come--one, two, three, four, possibly five or more. The earnings of
the husband do not increase as rapidly as the family does. Food,
clothing and general comfort in the home grow less as the numbers of
the family increase. The woman's work grows heavier, and her strength
is less with each child. Possibly--probably--she has to go into a
factory to add to her husband's earnings. There she toils, doing her
housework at night. Her health goes, and the crowded conditions and
lack of necessities in the home help to bring about disease--especially
tuberculosis. Under the circumstances, the woman's chances of
recovering from each succeeding childbirth grow less. Less too are
the chances of the child's surviving, as shown by tables in another
chapter. Unwanted children, poverty, ill health, misery, death--these
are the links in the chain, and they are common to most of the
families in the class described in the preceding chapter.

Nor is the full story of the woman's sufferings yet told. Grievous as
is her material condition, her spiritual deprivations are still
greater. By the very fact of its existence, mother love demands its
expression toward the child. By that same fact, it becomes a necessary
factor in the child's development. The mother of too many children, in
a crowded home where want, ill health and antagonism are perpetually
created, is deprived of this simplest personal expression. She can
give nothing to her child of herself, of her personality. Training is
impossible and sympathetic guidance equally so. Instead, such a mother
is tired, nervous, irritated and ill-tempered; a determent, often,
instead of a help to her children. Motherhood becomes a disaster and
childhood a tragedy.

It goes without saying that this woman loses also all opportunity of
personal expression outside her home. She has neither a chance to
develop social qualities nor to indulge in social pleasures. The
feminine element in her--that spirit which blossoms forth now and then
in women free from such burdens--cannot assert itself. She can
contribute nothing to the wellbeing of the community. She is a
breeding machine and a drudge--she is not an asset but a liability to
her neighborhood, to her class, to society. She can be nothing as long
as she is denied means of limiting her family.

In sharp contrast with these women who ignorantly bring forth large
families and who thereby enslave themselves, we find a few women who
have one, two or three children or no children at all. These women,
with the exception of the childless ones, live full-rounded lives.
They are found not only in the ranks of the rich and the well-to-do,
but in the ranks of labor as well. They have but one point of basic
difference from their enslaved sisters--they are not burdened with the
rearing of large families.

We have no need to call upon the historian, the sociologist nor the
statistician for our knowledge of this situation. We meet it every day
in the ordinary routine of our lives. The women who are the great
teachers, the great writers, the artists, musicians, physicians, the
leaders of public movements, the great suffragists, reformers, labor
leaders and revolutionaries are those who are not compelled to give
lavishly of their physical and spiritual strength in bearing and
rearing large families. The situation is too familiar for discussion.
Where a woman with a large family is contributing directly to the
progress of her times or the betterment of social conditions, it is
usually because she has sufficient wealth to employ trained nurses,
governesses, and others who perform the duties necessary to child
rearing. She is a rarity and is universally recognized as such.

The women with small families, however, are free to make their choice
of those social pleasures which are the right of every human being and
necessary to each one's full development. They can be and are, each
according to her individual capacity, comrades and companions to their
husbands--a privilege denied to the mother of many children. Theirs is
the opportunity to keep abreast of the times, to make and cultivate a
varied circle of friends, to seek amusements as suits their taste and
means, to know the meaning of real recreation. All these things remain
unrealized desires to the prolific mother.

Women who have a knowledge of contraceptives are not compelled to make
the choice between a maternal experience and a marred love life; they
are not forced to balance motherhood against social and spiritual
activities. Motherhood is for them to choose, as it should be for
every woman to choose. Choosing to become mothers, they do not thereby
shut themselves away from thorough companionship with their husbands,
from friends, from culture, from all those manifold experiences which
are necessary to the completeness and the joy of life.

Fit mothers of the race are these, the courted comrades of the men
they choose, rather than the "slaves of slaves." For theirs is the
magic power--the power of limiting their families to such numbers as
will permit them to live full-rounded lives. Such lives are the
expression of the feminine spirit which is woman _and all of her_--not
merely art, nor professional skill, nor intellect--but all that woman
is, or may achieve.



The most serious evil of our times is that of encouraging the bringing
into the world of large families. The most immoral practice of the day
is breeding too many children. These statements may startle those who
have never made a thorough investigation of the problem. They are,
nevertheless, well considered, and the truth of them is abundantly
borne out by an examination of facts and conditions which are part of
everyday experience or observation.

The immorality of large families lies not only in their injury to the
members of those families but in their injury to society. If one were
asked offhand to name the greatest evil of the day one might, in the light
of one's education by the newspapers, or by agitators, make any one of a
number of replies. One might say prostitution, the oppression of labor,
child labor, or war. Yet the poverty and neglect which drives a girl into
prostitution usually has its source in a family too large to be properly
cared for by the mother, if the girl is not actually subnormal because her
mother bore too many children, and, therefore, the more likely to become a
prostitute. Labor is oppressed because it is too plentiful; wages go up
and conditions improve when labor is scarce. Large families make plentiful
labor and they also provide the workers for the child-labor factories as
well as the armies of unemployed. That population, swelled by
overbreeding, is a basic cause of war, we shall see in a later chapter.
Without the large family, not one of these evils could exist to any
considerable extent, much less to the extent that they exist to-day. The
large family--especially the family too large to receive adequate care--is
the one thing necessary to the perpetuation of these and other evils and
is therefore a greater evil than any one of them.

First of the manifold immoralities involved in the producing of a
large family is the outrage upon the womanhood of the mother. If no
mother bore children against her will or against her feminine
instinct, there would be few large families. The average mother of a
baby every year or two has been forced into unwilling motherhood, so
far as the later arrivals are concerned. It is not the less immoral
when the power which compels enslavement is the church, state or the
propaganda of well-meaning patriots clamoring against "race suicide."
The wrong is as great as if the enslaving force were the unbridled
passions of her husband. The wrong to the unwilling mother, deprived
of her liberty, and all opportunity of self-development, is in itself
enough to condemn large families as immoral.

The outrage upon the woman does not end there, however. Excessive
childbearing is now recognized by the medical profession as one of the
most prolific causes of ill health in women. There are in America
hundreds of thousands of women, in good health when they married, who
have within a few years become physical wrecks, incapable of mothering
their children, incapable of enjoying life.

"Every physician," writes Dr. Wm. J. Robinson in _Birth Control or The
Limitation of Offspring_, "knows that too frequent childbirth, nursing
and the sleepless nights that are required in bringing up a child
exhaust the vitality of thousands of mothers, make them prematurely
old, or turn them into chronic invalids."

The effect of the large family upon the father is only less disastrous
than it is upon the mother. The spectacle of the young man, happy in
health, strength and the prospect of a joyful love life, makes us
smile in sympathy. But this same young man ten years later is likely
to present a spectacle as sorry as it is familiar. If he finds that
the children come one after another at short intervals--so fast indeed
that no matter how hard he works, nor how many hours, he cannot keep
pace with their needs--the lover whom all the world loves will have
been converted into a disheartened, threadbare incompetent, whom all
the world pities or despises. Instead of being the happy, competent
father, supporting one or two children as they should be supported, he
is the frantic struggler against the burden of five or six, with the
tragic prospect of several more. The ranks of the physically weakened,
mentally dejected and spiritually hopeless young fathers of large
families attest all too strongly the immorality of the system.

If its effects upon the mother and the wage-earning father were not
enough to condemn the large family as an institution, its effects upon
the child would make the case against it conclusive. In the United
States, some 300,000 children under one year of age die each twelve
months. Approximately ninety per cent of these deaths are directly or
indirectly due to malnutrition, to other diseased conditions resulting
from poverty, or to excessive childbearing by the mother.

The direct relationship between the size of the wage-earner's family
and the death of children less than one year old has been revealed by
a number of studies of the infant death rate. One of the clearest of
these was that made by Arthur Geissler among miners and cited by Dr.
Alfred Ploetz before the First International Eugenic Congress.
[Footnote: Problems in Eugenics, London, 1913.] Taking 26,000 births
from unselected marriages, and omitting families having one and two
children, Geissler got this result:

                     Deaths During
                     First Year.
   1st born children    23%
   2nd  "    "          20%
   3rd  "    "          21%
   4th  "    "          23%
   5th  "    "          26%
   6th  "    "          29%
   7th  "    "          31%
   8th  "    "          33%
   9th  "    "          36%
  10th  "    "          41%
  11th  "    "          51%
  12th  "    "          60%

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. Moreover, the overcrowded homes
of large families reared in poverty further contribute to this
condition. Lack of medical attention is still another factor, so that
the child who must struggle for health in competition with other
members of a closely packed family has still great difficulties to
meet after its poor constitution and malnutrition have been accounted

The probability of a child handicapped by a weak constitution, an
overcrowded home, inadequate food and care, and possibly a deficient
mental equipment, winding up in prison or an almshouse, is too evident
for comment. Every jail, hospital for the insane, reformatory and
institution for the feebleminded cries out against the evils of too
prolific breeding among wage-workers.

We shall see when we come to consider the relation of voluntary
motherhood to the rights of labor and to the prevention of war that
the large family of the worker makes possible his oppression, and that
it also is the chief cause of such human holocausts as the one just
closed after the four and a half bloodiest years in history. No such
extended consideration is necessary to indicate from what source the
young slaves in the child-labor factories come. They come from large
impoverished families--from families in which the older children must
put their often feeble strength to the task of supporting the younger.

The immorality of bringing large families into the world is recognized
by those who are combatting the child-labor evil. Mary Alden Hopkins,
writing in Harper's Weekly in 1915, quotes Owen R. Lovejoy, general
secretary of the National Child Labor Committee, as follows:

"How many are too many? ... Any more than the mother can look after
and the father make a living for ... Under present conditions as soon
as there are too many children for the father to feed, some of them go
to work in the mine or factory or store or mill near by. In doing
this, they not only injure their tender growing bodies, but
indirectly, they drag down the father's wage ... The home becomes a
mere rendezvous for the nightly gathering of bodies numb with
weariness and minds drunk with sleep." And if they survive the
factory, they marry to perpetuate and multiply their ignorance,
weakness and diseases.

What have large families to do with prostitution? Ask anyone who has
studied the problem. The size of the family has a direct bearing on
the lives of thousands of girls who are living in prostitution.
Poverty, lack of care and training during adolescence, overcrowded
housing conditions which accompany large families are universally
recognized causes of "waywardness" in girls. Social workers have cried
out in vain against these conditions, pointing to their inevitable

In the foreword to "Downward Paths," A. Maude Royden says: "Intimately
connected with this aspect of the question is that of home and
housing, especially of the child. The age at which children are first
corrupted is almost incredibly early, until we consider the nature of
the surroundings in which they grow up. Insufficient space, over-crowding,
the herding together of all ages and both sexes--these things break
down the barriers of a natural modesty and reserve. Where decency
is practically impossible, unchastity will follow, and follow
almost as a matter of course." And the child who has no place to play
except in the street, who lacks mother care, whose chief emotional
experience is the longing for the necessities of life? We know too
well the end of the sorry tale. The forlorn figures of the shadows
where lurk the girls who sell themselves that they may eat and be
clothed rise up to damn the moral dogmatists, who mouth their
sickening exhortations to the wives and mothers of the workers to
breed, breed, breed.

The evidence is conclusive as regards the large family of the
wage-worker. Social workers, physicians and reformers cry out to stop the
breeding of these, who must exist in want until they become permanent
members of the ranks of the unfit.

But what of the family of the wealthy or the merely well-to-do? It is
among these classes that we find the women who have attained to
voluntary motherhood. It is to these classes, too, that the "race
suicide" alarmists have from time to time addressed specially
emphasized pleas for more children. The advocates of more prolific
breeding urge that these same women have more intelligence, better
health, more time to care for children and more means to support them.
They therefore declare that it is the duty of such women to populate
the land with strong, healthy, intelligent offspring--to bear children
in great numbers.

It is high time to expose the sheer foolishness of this argument. The
first absurdity is that the women who are in comfortable circumstances
could continue to be cultured and of social value if they were the
mothers of large families. Neither could they maintain their present
standard of health nor impart it to their children.

While it is true that they have resources at their command which ease
the burden of child-bearing and child rearing immeasurably, it is also
true that the wealthy mother, as well as the poverty-stricken mother,
must give from her own system certain elements which it takes time to
replace. Excessive childbearing is harder on the woman who lacks care
than on the one who does not, but both alike must give their bodies
time to recover from the strain of childbearing. If the women in
fortunate circumstances gave ear to the demand of masculine
"race-suicide"[A] fanatics they could within a few years be down to the
condition of their sisters who lack time to cultivate their talents
and intellects. A vigorous, intelligent, fruitfully cultured
motherhood is all but impossible if no restriction is placed by that
motherhood upon the number of children.

[Footnote A: Interesting and perhaps surprising light is thrown upon
the origin of the term "race suicide" by the following quotation from
an article by Harold Bolce in the Cosmopolitan (New York) for May,

"'The sole effect of prolificacy is to fill the cemeteries with tiny
graves, sacrifices of the innocents to the Moloch of immoderate
maternity.' Thus insists Edward A. Ross, Professor of Sociology in the
University of Wisconsin; and he protests against the 'dwarfing of
women and the cheapening of men' as regards the restriction of the
birth rate as a 'movement at bottom salutary, and its evils minor,
transient and curable.' This is virile gospel, and particularly
significant coming from the teacher who invented the term 'race
suicide,' which many have erroneously attributed to Mr. Roosevelt."]

Wage-workers and salaried people have a vital interest in the size of
the families of those better situated in life. Large families among
the rich are immoral not only because they invade the natural right of
woman to the control of her own body, to self-development and to
self-expression, but because they are oppressive to the poorer elements of
society. If the upper and middle classes of society had kept pace with
the poorer elements of society in reproduction during the past fifty
years, the working class to-day would be forced down to the level of
the Chinese whose wage standard is said to be a few handfuls of rice a

If these considerations are not enough to halt the masculine advocate
of large families who reminds us of the days of our mothers and
grandmothers, let it be remembered that bearing and rearing six or
eight children to-day is a far different matter from what it was in
the generations just preceding. Physically and nervously, the woman of
to-day is not fitted to bear children as frequently as was her mother
and her mother's mother. The high tension of modern life and the
complicating of woman's everyday existence have doubtless contributed
to this result. And who of us can say, until a careful scientific
investigation is made, how much the rapid development of tuberculosis
and other grave diseases, even among the well-nurtured, may be due to
the depletion of the physical capital of the unborn by the too
prolific childbearing of preceding generations of mothers?

The immorality of bringing into being a large family is a wrong-doing
shared by three--the mother, the father and society. Upon all three
falls the burden of guilt. It may be said for the mother and father
that they are usually ignorant. What shall be said of society? What
shall be said of us who permit outworn laws and customs to persist in
piling up the appalling sum of public expense, misery and spiritual
degradation? The indictment against the large unwanted family is
written in human woe. Who in the light of intelligent understanding
shall have the brazenness to stand up and defend it?

One thing we know--the woman who has escaped the chains of too great
reproductivity will never again wear them. The birth rate of the
wealthy and upper classes will never appreciably rise. The woman of
these classes is free of her most oppressive bonds. Being free, we
have a right to expect much of her. We expect her to give still
greater expression to her feminine spirit--we expect her to enrich the
intellectual, artistic, moral and spiritual life of the world. We
expect her to demolish old systems of morals, a degenerate prudery,
Dark-Age religious concepts, laws that enslave women by denying them
the knowledge of their bodies, and information as to contraceptives.
These must go to the scrapheap of vicious, cast-off things. Hers is
the power to send them there. Shall we look to her to strike the first
blow which shall wrench her sisters from the grip of the dead hand of
the past?



Before we pass to a further consideration of our subject, shall we not
pause to take a still closer look at the human misery wrought by the
enslavement of women through unwilling motherhood? Would you know the
appalling sum of this misery better than any author, any scientist,
any physician, any social worker can tell you? Hear the story from the
lips of the women themselves. Learn at first hand what it means to
make a broken drudge of a woman who might have been the happy mother
of a few strong children. Learn from the words of the victims of
involuntary motherhood what it means to them, to their children and to
society to force the physically unfit or the unwilling to bear
children. When you have learned, stop to ask yourself what is the
worth of the law, the moral code, the tradition, the religion, that
for the sake of an outworn dogma of submission would wreck the lives
of these women, condemn their progeny to pain, want, disease and
helplessness. Ask yourself if these letters, these cries of despair,
born of the anguish of woman's sex slavery are not in themselves
enough to stop the mouths of the demagogues, the imperialists and the
ecclesiastics who clamor for more and yet more children? And if the
pain of others has no power to move your heart and stir your hands and
brain to action, ask yourself the more selfish question: Can the
children of these unfortunate mothers be other than a burden to
society--a burden which reflects itself in innumerable phases of cost,
crime and general social detriment?

"For our own sakes--for our children's sakes--" plead the mothers,
"help us! Let us be women, rather than breeding machines."

The women who thus cry out are pleading not only for themselves and
their children, but for society itself. Their plea is for us and
ours--it is the plea for happier conditions, for higher ideals, for a
stronger, more vigorous, more highly developed race.

The letters in this chapter are the voices of humble prophets crying
out to us stop our national habit of human waste. They are warnings
against disaster which we now share and must continue to share as it
grows worse, unless we heed the warning and put our national house in

Each and every unwanted child is likely to be in some way a social
liability. It is only the wanted child who is likely to be a social
asset. If we have faith in this intuitive demand of the unfortunate
mothers, if we understand both its dire and its hopeful significance,
we shall dispose of those social problems which so insistently and
menacingly confront us today. For the instinct of maternity to protect
its own fruits, the instinct of womanhood to be free to give something
besides surplus of children to the world, cannot go astray. The rising
generation is always the material of progress, and motherhood is the
agency for the improvement and the strengthening and guiding of that

The excerpts contained in this chapter are typical of the letters
which come to me by the thousands. They tell their own story,
simply--sometimes ungrammatically and illiterately, but nevertheless
irresistibly. It is the story of slow murder of the helpless by a
society that shields itself behind ancient, inhuman moral creeds--which
dares to weigh those dead creeds against the agony of the living
who pray for the "mercy of death."

Can a mother who would "rather die" than bear more children serve
society by bearing still others? Can children carried through nine
months of dread and unspeakable mental anguish and born into an
atmosphere of fear and anger, to grow up uneducated and in want, be a
benefit to the world? Here is what the mother says:

"I have read in the paper about you and am very interested in Birth
Control I am a mother of four living children and one dead the oldest
10 and baby 22 months old. I am very nervous and sickly after my
children. I would like you to advise me what to do to prevent from
having any more as I would rather die than have another. I am keeping
away from my husband as much as I can, but it causes quarrels and
almost separation. All my babies have had marasmus in the first year
of their lives and I almost lost my baby last summer. I always worry
about my children so much. My husband works in a brass foundry it is
not a very good job and living is so high that we have to live as
cheap as possible. I've only got 2 rooms and kitchen and I do all my
work and sewing which is very hard for me."

Shall this woman continue to be forced into a life of unnatural
continence which further aggravates her ill health and produces
constant discord? Shall she go on having children who come into being
with a heritage of ill health and poverty, and who are bound to become
public burdens? Or would it be the better policy to let motherhood
follow its instinct to save itself, its offspring and society from
these ills?

Or shall women be forced into abortion, as is testified by the mother
whose daughters are mothers, and who, in the hope of saving them from
both slavery and the destruction of their unborn children, wrote the
letter which follows:

"I have born and raised 6 children and I know all the hardships of
raising a large family. I am now 53 years old and past having children
but I have 3 daughters that have 2 children each and they say they
will die before they will have any more and every now and again they
go to a doctor and get rid of one and some day I think it will kill
them but they say they don't care for they will be better dead than
live in hell with a big family and nothing to raise them on. It is for
there sakes I wish you to give me that information."

What could the three women mentioned in this letter contribute to the
wellbeing of the future American race? Nothing, except by doing
exactly what they wish to do--refusing to bear children that they do
not want and cannot care for. Their instinct is sound--but what is to
be said of the position of society at large, which forces women who
are in the grip of a sound instinct to seek repeated abortions in
order to follow that instinct? Are we not compelling women to choose
between inflicting injury upon themselves, their children and the
community, and undergoing an abhorrent operation which kills the
tenderness and delicacy of womanhood, even as it may injure or kill
the body?

Will the offspring of a paralytic, who must perforce neglect the
physical care and training of her children, enhance the common good by
their coming? Here is a letter from a paralytic mother, whose days and
nights are tortured by the thought of another child, and whose reason
is tottering at the prospect of leaving her children without her care:

"I sent for a copy of your magazine and now feel I must write you to
see if you can help me.

"I was a high school girl who married a day laborer seven years ago.
In a few months I will again be a mother, the fourth child in less
than six years. While carrying my babies am always partly paralyzed on
one side. Do not know the cause but the doctor said at last birth we
must be 'more careful,' as I could not stand having so many children.
Am always very sick for a long time and have to have chloroform.

"We can afford help only about 3 weeks, until I am on my feet again,
after confinement. I work as hard as I can but my work and my children
are always neglected. I wonder if my body does survive this next birth
if my reason will.

"It is terrible to think of bringing these little bodies and souls
into the world without means or strength to care for them. And I can
see no relief unless you give it to me or tell me where to get it. I
am weaker each time and I know that this must be the last one, for it
would be better for me to go, than to bring more neglected babies into
the world. I can hardly sleep at night for worrying. Is there an
answer for women like me?"

In another chapter, we have gotten a glimpse of the menace of the
feebleminded. Here is a woman who is praying for help to avoid adding
to the number of mentally helpless:

"My baby is only 10 months old and the oldest one of four is 7, and
more care than a baby, has always been helpless. We do not own a roof
over our heads and I am so discouraged I want to die if nothing can be
done. Can't you help me just this time and then I know I can take care
of myself. Ignorance on this all important subject has put me where I
am. I don't know how to be sure of bringing myself around. I beg of
you to help me and anything I can do to help further your wonderful
work I will do. Only help me this once, no one will know only I will
be blessed.

"I not only have a terrible time when I am confined but caring for the
oldest child it preys so on my mind that I fear more defective
children. Help me please!"

The offspring of one feebleminded man named Jukes has cost the public
in one way and another $1,300,000 in seventy-five years. Do we want
more such families? Is this woman standing guard for the general
welfare? Had she been permitted the use of contraceptives before she
was forced to make a vain plea for abortion, would she not have
rendered a service to her fellow citizens, as well as to herself?

Millions are spent in the United States every year to combat
tuberculosis. The national waste involved in illness and deaths from
tuberculosis runs up into the billions. Is it then good business, to
say nothing of the humane aspects of the situation, to compel the
writer of the following letter to go on adding to the number of the
tubercular? Which is the guardian of public welfare here--the mother
instinct which wishes to avoid bearing tubercular children, or the
statute which forbids her to know how to avoid adding to the census of
"white plague" victims? The letter reads:

"Kindly pardon me for writing this to you, not knowing what trouble
this may cause you. But I've heard of you through a friend and realize
you are a friend of humanity. If people would see with your light, the
world would be healthy. I married the first time when I was eighteen
years old, a drinking man. I became mother to five children. In 1908
my husband died of consumption. I lost two of my oldest children from
the same disease, one at 16 and the other at 23. The youngest of them
all, a sweet girl of nineteen, now lies at ---- sanatorium expecting
to leave us at any time. The other sister and brother look very

"I have always worked very hard, because I had to. In 1913 I married
again, a good man this time, but a laboring man, and our constant fear
and trouble is what may happen if we bring children into the world.
I'm forty-six years old this month and not very well any more, either.
So a godsend will be some one who can tell me how to care for myself,
so I can be free from suffering and also not bring mortals to earth to
suffer and die."

Not even the blindest of all dogmatists can ignore the danger to the
community of to-day and the race of to-morrow in permitting an insane
woman to go on bearing children. Here is a letter which tells a
two-sided story--how mother instinct, even when clouded by periodic
insanity, seeks to protect itself and society, and how society
prevents her from attaining that end:

"There is a woman in this town who has six children and is expecting
another. Directly after the birth of a child, she goes insane, a
raving maniac, and they send her to the insane asylum. While she is
gone, her home and children are cared for by neighbors. After about
six months, they discharge her and she comes home and is in a family
way again in a few months. Still the doctors will do nothing for her.

"She is a well-educated woman and says if she would not have any more
children, she is sure she could be entirely free from these insane

"If you will send me one of your pamphlets, I will give it to her and
several others equally deserving.

"Hoping you will see fit to grant my request, I remain, etc."

The very word "syphilis" brings a shudder to anyone who is familiar
with the horrors of the malady. Not only in the suffering brought to
the victim himself and in the danger of infecting others, but in the
dire legacy of helplessness and disease which is left to the offspring
of the syphilitic, is this the most destructive socially, of all
"plagues." Here is a letter, which as a criticism of our present
public policy in regard to national waste and to contraceptives,
defies comment:

"I was left without a father when a girl of fourteen years old. I was
the oldest child of five. My mother had no means of support except her
two hands, so we worked at anything we could, my job being nurse girl
at home while mother worked most of the time, as she could earn more
money than I could, for she could do harder work.

"I wasn't very strong and finally after two years my mother got so
tired and worn out trying to make a living for so many, she married
again, and as she married a poor man, we children were not much better
off. At the age of seventeen I married a man, a brakeman on
the ---- Railroad, who was eleven years older than I. He drank some and
was a very frail-looking man, but I was very ignorant of the world and did
not think of anything but making a home for myself and husband. After
eleven months I had a little girl born to me. I did not want more
children, but my mother-in-law told me it was a terrible sin to do
anything to keep from having children and that the Lord only sent just
what I could take care of and if I heard of anything to do I was told
it was injurious, so I did not try.

"In eleven months again, October 25, I had another little puny girl.
In twenty-three months, Sept. 25th, I had a seven-lb. boy. In ten
months, July 15, I had a seven-months baby that lived five hours. In
eleven months, June 20, I had another little girl. In seventeen
months, Nov. 30, another boy. In nine months a four months'
miscarriage. In twelve months another girl, and in three and a half
years another girl.

"All of these children were born into poverty; the father's health was
always poor, and when the third girl was born he was discharged from
the road because of his disability, yet he was still able to put
children into the world. When the oldest child was twelve years old
the father died of concussion of the brain while the youngest child
was born two months after his death.

"Now, Mrs. Sanger, I did not want those children, because even in my
ignorance I had sense enough to know that I had no right to bring
those children into such a world where they could not have decent
care, for I was not able to do it myself nor hire it done. I prayed
and I prayed that they would die when they were born. Praying did no
good and to-day I have read and studied enough to know that I am the
mother of seven living children and that I committed a crime by
bringing them into the world, their father was syphilitic (I did not
know about such things when I was a girl). One son is to be sent to
Mexico, while one of my girls is a victim of the white slave traffic.

"I raised my family in a little college town in ---- and am well known
there, for I made my living washing and working for the college people
while I raised my little brood. I often wondered why those educated
well-to-do people never had so many children. I have one married
daughter who is tubercular, and she also has two little girls, only a
year apart. I feel so bad about it, and write to ask you to send me
information for her. Don't stop your good work; don't think it's not
appreciated; for there are hundreds of women like myself who are not
afraid to risk their lives to help you to get this information to poor
women who need it."

There is no need to go on repeating these cries. These letters have
come to me by the thousands. There are enough of them to fill many
volumes--each with its own individual tragedy, each with its own
warning to society.

Every ill that we are trying to cure to-day is reflected in them. The
wife who through an unwilling continence drives her husband to
prostitution; habitual drunkenness, which prohibition may or may not
have disposed of as a social problem; mothers who toil in mills and
whose children must follow them to that toil, adding to the long train
of evils involved in child labor; mothers who have brought eight, ten,
twelve or fifteen undernourished, weakly children into the world to
become public burdens of one sort or another--all these and more, with
the ever-present economic problem, and women who are remaining
unmarried because they fear a large family which must exist in want;
men who are living abnormal lives for the same reason. All the social
handicaps and evils of the day are woven into these letters--and out
of each of them rises these challenging facts: First, oppressed
motherhood knows that the cure for these evils lies in birth control;
second, society has not yet learned to permit motherhood to stand
guard for itself, its children, the common good and the coming race.
And one reading such letters, and realizing their significance, is
constrained to wonder how long such a situation can exist.



Are overburdened mothers justified in their appeals for contraceptives
or abortions? What shall we say to women who write such letters as
those published in the preceding chapter? Will anyone, after reading
those letters, dare to say to these women that they should go on
bringing helpless children into the world to share their increasing

The women who thus cry for aid are the victims of ignorance. Awakening
from that ignorance, they are demanding relief. Had they been
permitted a knowledge of their sex functions, had they had some
guiding principle of motherhood, those who at this late day are asking
for contraceptives would have swept aside all barriers and procured
them long ago. Those who are appealing for abortions would never have
been in such a situation.

To say to these women that they should continue their helpless
breeding of the helpless is stupid brutality. The facts set forth
earlier in this book, and the cries of tortured motherhood which echo
through the letters just referred to, are more than ample evidence
that there are times when it is woman's highest duty to refuse to bear

There has seemed to be a great deal of disagreement among the medical
authorities who have attempted to say when a woman should not have
children. This disagreement has been rendered even more confusing by a
babel of voices from the ranks of sociologists. Within the past few
years, however, so much light has been shed upon the subject that it
is now comparatively easy for the student to separate the well-founded
conclusions from those which are of doubtful value, or plainly
worthless. The opinions which I summarize here are not so much my own,
originally, as those of medical authorities who have made deep and
careful investigations. There is, however, nothing set forth here
which I have not in my own studies tested and proved correct. In
addition to carrying the weight of the best medical authority, a fact
easily confirmed by the first specialist you meet, they are further
reinforced by the findings of the federal Children's Bureau, and other
organizations which have examined infant mortality and compiled rates.

To the woman who wishes to have children, we must give these answers
to the question when not to have them.

Childbearing should be avoided within two or three years after the
birth of the last child. Common sense and science unite in pointing
out that the mother requires at least this much time to regain her
strength and replenish her system in order to give another baby proper
nourishment after its birth. Authorities are insistent upon their
warnings that too frequent childbearing wrecks the woman's health.
Weakness of the reproductive organs and pelvic ailments almost
certainly result if a woman bears children too frequently.

By all means there should be no children when either mother or father
suffers from such diseases as tuberculosis, gonorrhea, syphilis,
cancer, epilepsy, insanity, drunkenness and mental disorders. In the
case of the mother, heart disease, kidney trouble and pelvic
deformities are also a serious bar to childbearing.

Thousands of volumes have been written by physicians upon the danger
to mothers and offspring of having children when one or both parents
are suffering from the diseases mentioned above. As authorities have
pointed out in all these books, the jails, hospitals for the insane,
poorhouses and houses of prostitution are filled with the children
born of such parents, while an astounding number of their children are
either stillborn or die in infancy.

These facts are now so well known that they would need little
discussion here, even if space permitted. Miscarriages, which are
particularly frequent in cases of syphilis and pelvic deformities, are
a great source of danger to the health and even to the life of the
mother. Where either parent suffers from gonorrhea, the child is in
danger of being born blind. Tuberculosis in the parent leaves the
child's system in such condition that it is likely to suffer from the
disease. Childbearing is also a grave danger to the tubercular mother.
A tendency to insanity, if not insanity itself, may be transmitted to
the child, or it may be feebleminded if one of the parents is insane
or suffers from any mental disorder. Drunkenness in the parent or
parents has been found to be the cause of feeblemindedness in the
offspring and to leave the child with a constitution too weak to
resist disease as it should.

No more children should be born when the parents, though healthy
themselves, find that their children are physically or mentally
defective. No matter how much they desire children, no man and woman
have a right to bring into the world those who are to suffer from
mental or physical affliction. It condemns the child to a life of
misery and places upon the community the burden of caring for it,
probably for its defective descendants for many generations.

Generally speaking, no woman should bear a child before she is twenty-two
years old. It is better still that she wait until she is twenty-five.
High infant mortality rates for mothers under twenty-two attest
this fact. It is highly desirable from the mother's standpoint to
postpone childbearing until she has attained a ripe physical and
mental development, as the bearing and nursing of infants interferes
with such development. It is also all important to the child; the
offspring of a woman who is twenty-five or somewhat older has the best
chance of good physical and mental equipment.

In brief, a woman should avoid having children unless both she and the
father are in such physical and mental condition as to assure the
child a healthy physical and mental being. This is the answer that
must be made to women whose children are fairly sure of good care,
sufficient food, adequate clothing, a fit place to live and at least a
fair education.

A distinctly different and exceedingly important side of the problem
must be considered when the women workers, the wives and the mothers
of workers, wish to know when to avoid having children. Such a woman
must answer her own question. What anyone else may tell her is far
less important than what she herself shall reply to a society that
demands more and more children and which gives them less and less when
they arrive.

What shall this woman say to a society that would make of her body a
reproductive machine only to waste prodigally the fruit of her being?
Does society value her offspring? Does it not let them die by the
hundreds of thousands of want, hunger and preventable disease? Does it
not drive them to the factories, the mills, the mines and the stores
to be stunted physically and mentally? Does it not throw them into the
labor market to be competitors with her and their father? Do we not
find the children of the South filling the mills, working side by side
with their mothers, while the fathers remain at home? Do we not find
the father, mother and child competing with one another for their
daily bread? Does society not herd them in slums? Does it not drive
the girls to prostitution and the boys to crime? Does it educate them
for free-spirited manhood and womanhood? Does it even give them during
their babyhood fit places to live in, fit clothes to wear, fit food to
eat, or a clean place to play? Does it even permit the mother to give
them a mother's care?

The woman of the workers knows what society does with her offspring.
Knowing the bitter truth, learned in unspeakable anguish, what shall
this woman say to society? The power is in her hands. She can bring
forth more children to perpetuate these conditions, or she can
withhold the human grist from these cruel mills which grind only

Shall she say to society that she will go on multiplying the misery
that she herself has endured? Shall she go on breeding children who
can only suffer and die? Rather, shall she not say that until society
puts a higher value upon motherhood she will not be a mother? Shall
she not sacrifice her mother instincts for the common good and say
that until children are held as something better than commodities upon
the labor market, she will bear no more? Shall she not give up her
desire for even a small family, and say to society that until the
world is made fit for children to live in, she will have no children
at all?



The problem of birth control has arisen directly from the effort of
the feminine spirit to free itself from bondage. Woman herself has
wrought that bondage through her reproductive powers and while
enslaving herself has enslaved the world. The physical suffering to be
relieved is chiefly woman's. Hers, too, is the love life that dies
first under the blight of too prolific breeding. Within her is wrapped
up the future of the race--it is hers to make or mar. All of these
considerations point unmistakably to one fact--it is woman's duty as
well as her privilege to lay hold of the means of freedom. Whatever
men may do, she cannot escape the responsibility. For ages she has
been deprived of the opportunity to meet this obligation. She is now
emerging from her helplessness. Even as no one can share the suffering
of the overburdened mother, so no one can do this work for her. Others
may help, but she and she alone can free herself.

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.

It does not greatly alter the case that some women call themselves
free because they earn their own livings, while others profess freedom
because they defy the conventions of sex relationship. She who earns
her own living gains a sort of freedom that is not to be undervalued,
but in quality and in quantity it is of little account beside the
untrammeled choice of mating or not mating, of being a mother or not
being a mother. She gains food and clothing and shelter, at least,
without submitting to the charity of her companion, but the earning of
her own living does not give her the development of her inner sex
urge, far deeper and more powerful in its outworkings than any of
these externals. In order to have that development, she must still
meet and solve the problem of motherhood.

With the so-called "free" woman, who chooses a mate in defiance of
convention, freedom is largely a question of character and audacity.
If she does attain to an unrestricted choice of a mate, she is still
in a position to be enslaved through her reproductive powers. Indeed,
the pressure of law and custom upon the woman not legally married is
likely to make her more of a slave than the woman fortunate enough to
marry the man of her choice.

Look at it from any standpoint you will, suggest any solution you
will, conventional or unconventional, sanctioned by law or in defiance
of law, woman is in the same position, fundamentally, until she is
able to determine for herself whether she will be a mother and to fix
the number of her offspring. This unavoidable situation is alone
enough to make birth control, first of all, a woman's problem. On the
very face of the matter, voluntary motherhood is chiefly the concern
of the woman.

It is persistently urged, however, that since sex expression is the
act of two, the responsibility of controlling the results should not
be placed upon woman alone. Is it fair, it is asked, to give her,
instead of the man, the task of protecting herself when she is,
perhaps, less rugged in physique than her mate, and has, at all
events, the normal, periodic inconveniences of her sex?

We must examine this phase of her problem in two lights--that of the
ideal, and of the conditions working toward the ideal. In an ideal
society, no doubt, birth control would become the concern of the man
as well as the woman. The hard, inescapable fact which we encounter
to-day is that man has not only refused any such responsibility, but
has individually and collectively sought to prevent woman from
obtaining knowledge by which she could assume this responsibility for
herself. She is still in the position of a dependent to-day because
her mate has refused to consider her as an individual apart from his
needs. She is still bound because she has in the past left the
solution of the problem to him. Having left it to him, she finds that
instead of rights, she has only such privileges as she has gained by
petitioning, coaxing and cozening. Having left it to him, she is
exploited, driven and enslaved to his desires.

While it is true that he suffers many evils as the consequence of this
situation, she suffers vastly more. While it is true that he should be
awakened to the cause of these evils, we know that they come home to
her with crushing force every day. It is she who has the long burden
of carrying, bearing and rearing the unwanted children. It is she who
must watch beside the beds of pain where lie the babies who suffer
because they have come into overcrowded homes. It is her heart that
the sight of the deformed, the subnormal, the undernourished, the
overworked child smites first and oftenest and hardest. It is _her_
love life that dies first in the fear of undesired pregnancy. It is
her opportunity for self expression that perishes first and most
hopelessly because of it.

Conditions, rather than theories, facts, rather than dreams, govern
the problem. They place it squarely upon the shoulders of woman. She
has learned that whatever the moral responsibility of the man in this
direction may be, he does not discharge it. She has learned that,
lovable and considerate as the individual husband may be, she has
nothing to expect from men in the mass, when they make laws and decree
customs. She knows that regardless of what ought to be, the brutal,
unavoidable fact is that she will never receive her freedom until she
takes it for herself.

Having learned this much, she has yet something more to learn. 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. If after attaining their freedom, women accept
conditions in the spheres of government, industry, art, morals and
religion as they find them, they will be but taking a leaf out of
man's book. The woman is not needed to do man's work. She is not
needed to think man's thoughts. She need not fear that the masculine
mind, almost universally dominant, will fail to take care of its own.
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

Woman must not accept; she must challenge. She must not be awed by
that which has been built up around her; she must reverence that
within her which struggles for expression. Her eyes must be less upon
what is and more clearly upon what should be. She must listen only
with a frankly questioning attitude to the dogmatized opinions of
man-made society. When she chooses her new, free course of action, it must
be in the light of her own opinion--of her own intuition. Only so can
she give play to the feminine spirit. Only thus can she free her mate
from the bondage which he wrought for himself when he wrought hers.
Only thus can she restore to him that of which he robbed himself in
restricting her. Only thus can she remake the world.

The world is, indeed, hers to remake, it is hers to build and to
recreate. Even as she has permitted the suppression of her own
feminine element and the consequent impoverishment of industry, art,
letters, science, morals, religions and social intercourse, so it is
hers to enrich all these.

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



Thousands of well-intentioned people who agree that there are times
and conditions under which it is woman's highest duty to avoid having
children advocate continence as the one permissible means of birth
control. Few of these people agree with one another, however, as to
what continence is. Some have in mind absolute continence. Others urge
continence for periods varying from a few weeks to many years. Still
others are thinking of Karezza, or male continence, as it is sometimes

The majority of physicians and sex psychologists hold that the
practice of absolute continence is, for the greater part of the human
race, an absurdity. Were such continence to be practiced, there is no
doubt that it would be a most effective check upon the birth rate. It
is seldom practiced, however, and when adhered to under compulsion the
usual result is injury to the nervous system and to the general
health. Among healthy persons, this method is practicable only with
those who have a degree of mentally controlled development as yet
neither often experienced nor even imagined by the mass of humanity.

Absolute continence was the ideal of the early Christian church for
all of its communicants, as shall be seen in another chapter. We shall
also see how the church abandoned this standard and now confines the
doctrine of celibacy to the unmarried, to the priesthood and the nuns.

Celibacy has been practiced in all ages by a few artists,
propagandists and revolutionists in order that their minds may be
single to the work which has claimed their lives and all the forces of
their beings may be bent in one direction. Sometimes, too, such
persons have remained celibate to avoid the burden of caring for a

The Rev. Dr. Thomas Robert Malthus, who in 1798 issued the first of
those works which exemplified what is called the Malthusian doctrine,
also advocated celibacy or absolute continence until middle age.
Malthus propounded the now widely recognized principle that population
tends to increase faster than the food supply and that unlimited
reproduction brings poverty and many other evils upon a nation. His
theological training naturally inclined him to favor continence--not
so much from its practicability, perhaps, as because he believed that
it was the only possible method.

We would be ignoring a vital truth if we failed to recognize the fact
that there are individuals who through absorption in religious zeal,
consecration to a cause, or devotion to creative work are able to live
for years or for a lifetime a celibate existence. It is doubtless true
that the number of those who are thus able to transmute their sex
forces into other creative forms is increasing. It is not with these,
however, that we are concerned. Rather it is with the mass of
humanity, who practice continence under some sort of compulsion.

What is the result of forcing continence upon those who are not fitted
or do not desire to practice it? The majority opinion of medical
science and the evidence of statistics are united on this point.
Enforced continence is injurious--often highly so.

"Physiology," writes Dr. J. Rutgers in _Rassenverbesserung_, "teaches
that every function gains in power and efficiency through a certain
degree of control, but that the too extended suppression of a desire
gives rise to pathological disturbances and in time cripples the
function. Especially in the case of women may the damage entailed by
too long continued sexual abstinence bring about deep disturbances."

All this, be it understood, refers to persons of mature age. For young
men and women under certain ages, statistics and the preponderance of
medical opinion agree that continence is highly advisable, in many
cases seemingly altogether necessary to future happiness. The famous
Dr. Bertillon, of France, inventor of the Bertillon system of
measurements for the human body, has made, perhaps, the most
exhaustive of all studies in this direction. He demonstrates a large
mortality for the boy who marries before his twentieth year. When
single, the mortality of French youths averages only 14 per thousand;
among married youths it rises to 100 per thousand. Which shows that it
is six or eight times more perilous for a youth to be incontinent than
continent up to that age. Dr. Bertillon's conclusions are that men
should marry between their twenty-fifth and thirtieth years, and that
women should marry when they have passed twenty. With the single
exception of young men and women below the ages noted, Dr. Bertillon's
statistics tell a very different story. And where it relates to
celibates, it is a shocking one.

"Dr. Bertillon shows that in France, Belgium and Holland married men
live considerably longer than single ones," writes Dr. Charles R.
Drysdale, in summing up the matter in "_The Population Question_" "and
are much less subject to becoming insane, criminal or vicious." From
the same studies we learn that the conjugal state is also more
favorable to the health of the woman over twenty years of age, in the
three countries covered.

An analysis of criminal records showed that more than twice as many
unmarried men and women had been held for crimes of all kinds than
married persons. Rates based upon 10,000 cases of insanity among men
and women in the same countries showed 3.95 per thousand for male
celibates against 2.17 for married men. For single women the rate was
3.4 against but 1.9 for married women. Insanity was reduced one-half
among women by marriage.

More startling still is the evidence of the mortality statistics.
Bertillon found that the death rates of bachelors and widowers
averaged from nearly two to nearly three times as high as those of
married men of the same ages. Dr. Mayer, in his _Rapports Conjugaux_,
showed that the death rates among the celibate religious orders
studied were nearly twice as high as those of the laity.

Can anyone knowing the facts ask that we recommend continence as a
birth-control measure?

Virtually all of the dangers to health involved in absolute continence
are involved also in the practice of continence broken only when it is
desired to bring a child into the world. In the opinion of some
medical authorities, it is even worse, because of the almost constant
excitation of unsatisfied sex desire by the presence of the mate.
People who think that they believe in this sort of family limitation
have much to say about "self-control." Usually they will admit that to
abstain from all but a single act of sexual intercourse each year is
an indication of high powers of self-restraint. Yet that one act,
performed only once a year, might be sufficient to "keep a woman with
one child in her womb and another at her breast" during her entire
childbearing period. That would mean from eighteen to twenty-four
children for each mother, provided she survived so many births and
lactations. Contraceptives are quite as necessary to these
"self-controlled" ones who do not desire children every year
as to those who lead normal, happy love lives.

From the necessity of contraceptives and from the dangers of this
limited continence certain persons are, of course, relieved. They are
the ones whose mental and spiritual development is so high as to make
this practice natural to them. These individuals are so exceedingly
rare, however, that they need not be discussed here. Moreover, they
are capable of solving their own problems.

Few who advocate the doctrine of absolute continence live up to it
strictly. I met one woman who assured me that she had observed it
faithfully in the thirteen years since her youngest child was born.
She had such a loathing for sexual union, however, that it was
doubtless the easiest and best thing for her to do.

Loathing, disgust or indifference to the sex relationship nearly
always lies behind the advocacy to continence except for the conscious
purpose of creating children. In other words, while one in ten
thousand persons may find full play for a diverted and transmuted sex
force in other creative functions, the rest avoid the sex union from
repression. These are two widely different situations--one may make
for racial progress and the happiness of the few individuals capable
of it; the other poisons the race at its fountain and brings nothing
but the discontent, unhappiness and misery which follow enforced
continence. For all that, an increasing number of persons, mostly
women, are advocating continence within marriage.

Sexual union is nearly always spoken of by such persons as something
in itself repugnant, disgusting, low and lustful. Consciously or
unconsciously, they look upon it as a hardship, to be endured only, to
bring "God's image and likeness" into the world. Their very attitude
precludes any great probability that their progeny will possess an
abundance of such qualities.

Much of the responsibility for this feeling upon the part of many
thousands of women must be laid to two thousand years of Christian
teaching that all sex expression is unclean. Part of it, too, must be
laid to the dominant male's habit of violating the love rights of his

The habit referred to grows out of the assumed and legalized right of
the husband to have sexual satisfaction at any time he desires,
regardless of the woman's repugnance for it. The law of the state
upholds him in this regard. A husband need not support his wife if she
refuses to comply with his sexual demands.

Of the two groups of women who regard physical union either with
disgust and loathing, or with indifference, the former are the less
numerous. Nevertheless, there are many thousands of them. I have
listened to their stories often, both as a nurse in obstetrical cases
and as a propagandist for birth control. An almost universal cause of
their attitude is a sad lack of understanding of the great beauties of
the normal, idealistic love act. Neither do they understand the
uplifting power of such unions for both men and women. Ignorance of
life, ignorance of all but the sheer reproductive function of mating,
and especially a wrong training, are most largely responsible for this
tragic state of affairs. When this ignorance extends to the man in
such a degree as to permit him to have the all too frequent coarse and
brutal attitude toward sex matters, the tragedy is only deepened.

Truly the church and those "moralists" who have been insisting upon
keeping sex matters in the dark have a huge list of concealed crimes
to answer for. The right kind of a book, a series of clear, scientific
lectures, or a common-sense talk with either the man or woman will
often do away with most of the repugnance to physical union. When the
repugnance is gone, the way is open to that upliftment through sex
idealism which is the birthright of all women and men.

When I have had the confidence of women indifferent to physical union,
I have found the fault usually lay with the husband. His idea of
marriage is too often that of providing a home for a female who would
in turn provide for his physical needs, including sexual satisfaction.
Such a husband usually excludes such satisfaction from the category of
the wife's needs, physical or spiritual.

This man is not concerned with his wife's sex urge, save as it
responds to his own at times of his choosing. Man's code has taught
woman to be quite ashamed of such desires. Usually she speaks of
indifference without regret; often proudly. She seems to regard
herself as more chaste and highly endowed in purity than other women
who confess to feeling physical attraction toward their husbands. She
also secretly considers herself far superior to the husband who makes
no concealment of his desire toward her. Nevertheless, because of this
desire upon the husband's part, she goes on "pretending" to mutual
interest in the relationship.

Only the truth, plainly spoken, can help these people. The woman is
condemned to physical, mental and spiritual misery by the ignorance
which society has fixed upon her. She has her choice between an
enforced continence, with its health-wrecking consequences and its
constant aggravation of domestic discord, and the sort of prostitution
legalized by the marriage ceremony. The man may choose between
enforced continence and its effects, or he may resort to an unmarried
relationship or to prostitution. Neither of these people--the one
schooled directly or indirectly by the church and the other trained in
the sex ethics of the gutter--can hope to lift the other to the
regenerating influences of a pure, clean, happy love life. As long as
we leave sex education to the gutter and houses of prostitution, we
shall have millions of just such miserable marriage failures.

Such continence as is involved in dependence upon the so-called "safe
period" for family limitation will harm no one. The difficulty here is
that the method is not practical. It simply does not work. The woman
who employs this method finds herself in the same predicament as the
one who believes that she is not in danger of pregnancy when she does
not respond passionately to her husband. That this woman is more
likely to conceive than the emotional one, is a well-known fact. The
woman who refuses to use contraceptives, but who rejects sex
expression except for a few days in the month, is likely to learn too
soon the fallacy of her theory as a birth-control method.

For a long time the "safe period" was suggested by physicians. It was
also the one method of birth control countenanced by the
ecclesiastics. Women are learning from experience and specialists are
discovering by investigation that the "safe period" is anything but
safe for all women. Some women are never free from the possibility of
conception from puberty to the menopause. Others seemingly have "safe
periods" for a time, only to become pregnant when they have begun to
feel secure in their theory. Here again, continence must give way, as
a method of birth control, to contraceptives.

In the same category as the "safe period," as a method of birth
control, must be placed so-called "male continence." The same practice
is also variously known as "Karezza," "Sedular Absorption" and
"Zugassent's Discovery." Those who regard it as a method of family
limitation are likely to find themselves disappointed.

As a form of continence, however, if it can be called continence, it
is asserted to bring none of the long course of evils which too often
follow the practice of lifelong abstinence, or abstinence broken only
when a child is desired.

Its devotees testify that they avoid ill effects and achieve the
highest possible results. These results are due, probably, to two

First, those who practice Karezza are usually of a high mental and
spiritual development and are, therefore, capable of an exalted degree
of self-control without actual repression. Second, they have the
benefit of that magnetic interchange between man and woman which makes
for physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. This stimulation becomes
destructive irritation in ordinary forms of continence.

The Oneida Community, a religious group comprising about 130 men and
150 women, which occupied a part of an old Indian reservation in the
state of New York, were the chief exponents of "male continence." The
practice was a religious requirement with them and they laid great
stress upon three different functions which they attributed to the
sexual organs. They held that these functions were urinary,
reproductive and amative, each separate and distinct in its use from
the others. Cases are cited in which both men and women are said to
have preserved their youth and their sexual powers to a ripe old age,
and to have prolonged their honeymoons throughout married life. The
theory, however, interesting as it may be when considered as
"continence," is not to be relied upon as a method of birth control.

Summing it all up, then, continence may meet the needs of a few
natures, but it does not meet the needs of the masses. To enforce
continence upon those whose natures do not demand it, is an injustice,
the cruelty and the danger of which has been underestimated rather
than exaggerated. It matters not whether this wrong is committed by
the church, through some outworn dogma; by the state, through the laws
prohibiting contraceptives, or by society, through the conditions
which prevent marriage when young men and women reach the age at which
they have need of marriage.

The world has been governed too long by repression. The more
fundamental the force that is repressed the more destructive its
action. The disastrous effects of repressing the sex force are written
plainly in the health rates, the mortality statistics, the records of
crime and the entry books of the hospitals for the insane. Yet this is
not all the tale, for there are still the little understood hosts of
sexually abnormal people and the monotonous misery of millions who do
not die early nor end violently, but who are, nevertheless, devoid of
the joys of a natural love life.

As a means of birth control, continence is as impracticable for most
people as it is undesirable. Celibate women doubtless have their place
in the regeneration of the world, but it is not they, after all, who
will, through experience and understanding recreate it. It is mainly
through fullness of expression and experience in life that the mass of
women, having attained freedom, will accomplish this unparalleled

The need of women's lives is not repression, but the greatest possible
expression and fulfillment of their desires upon the highest possible
plane. They cannot reach higher planes through ignorance and
compulsion. They can attain them only through knowledge and the
cultivation of a higher, happier attitude toward sex. Sex life must be
stripped of its fear. This is one of the great functions of
contraceptives. That which is enshrouded in fear becomes morbid. That
which is morbid cannot be really beautiful.

A true understanding of every phase of the love life, and such an
understanding alone, can reveal it in its purity--in its power of
upliftment. Force and fear have failed from the beginning of time.
Their fruits are wrecks and wretchedness. Knowledge and freedom to
choose or reject the sexual embrace, according as it is lovely or
unlovely, and these alone, can solve the problem. These alone make
possible between man and woman that indissoluble tie and mutual
passion, and common understanding, in which lies the hope of a higher



Society has not yet learned the significance of the age-long effort of
the feminine spirit to free itself of the burden of excessive
childbearing. It has been singularly blind to the real forces
underlying the cause of infanticide, child abandonment and abortion.
It has permitted the highest and most powerful thing in woman's nature
to be hindered, diverted, repressed and confused. Society has
permitted this inner urge of woman to be rendered violent by
repression until it has expressed itself in cruel forms of family
limitation, which this same society has promptly labeled "crimes" and
sought to punish. It has gone on blindly forcing women into these
"crimes," deaf alike to their entreaties and to the lessons of

As we have seen in the second chapter of this book, child abandonment
and infanticide are by no means obsolete practices. As for abortion,
it has not decreased but increased with the advance of civilization.
The reader will recall that one authority says that there are
1,000,000 abortions in the United States every year, while another
estimates double that number.

Most of the women of the middle and upper classes in America seem
secure in their knowledge of contraceptives as a means of birth
control. Under present conditions, when the laws in most states regard
this knowledge, howsoever it be imparted, as illicit, and the federal
statutes prohibit the sending of it through the mails, even the women
in more fortunate circumstances sometimes have difficulty in getting
scientific information. Nevertheless, so strong is their purpose that
they do obtain it and use it, correctly or incorrectly.

The great majority of women, however, belong to the working class.
Nearly all of these women will fall into one of two general groups--the
ones who are having children against their wills, and those who,
to escape this evil, find refuge in abortion. Being given their choice
by society--to continue to be overburdened mothers or to submit to a
humiliating, repulsive, painful and too often gravely dangerous
operation, those women in whom the feminine urge to freedom is
strongest choose the abortionist. One group goes on bringing children
to birth, hoping that they will be born dead or die. The women of the
other group strive consciously by drastic means to protect themselves
and the children already born.

"Our examinations," says Dr. Max Hirsch, an authority on the subject,
"have informed us that the largest number of abortions (in the United
States) are performed on married women. This fact brings us to the
conclusion that contraceptive measures among the upper classes and the
practice of abortion among the lower class, are the real means
employed to regulate the number of offspring."

Thus a high percentage of women in comfortable circumstances escape
overbreeding by the use of contraceptives. A similarly high percentage
of women not in comfortable circumstances are forced to submit to
forced maternity, because their only alternative at present is
abortion. When accidental conception takes place, some women of both
classes resort to abortion if they can obtain the services of an

When society holds up its hands in horror at the "crime" of abortion,
it forgets at whose door the first and principal responsibility for
this practice rests. Does anyone imagine that a woman would submit to
abortion if not denied the knowledge of scientific, effective
contraceptives? Does anyone believe that physicians and midwives who
perform abortions go from door to door soliciting patronage? The
abortionist could not continue his practice for twenty-four hours if
it were not for the fact that women come desperately begging for such
operations. He could not stay out of jail a day if women did not so
generally approve of his services as to hold his identity an open but
seldom-betrayed secret.

The question, then, is not whether family limitation should be
practiced. It _is_ being practiced; it has been practiced for ages and
it will always be practiced. The question that society must answer is
this: Shall family limitation be achieved through birth control or
abortion? Shall normal, safe, effective contraceptives be employed, or
shall we continue to force women to the abnormal, often dangerous
surgical operation?

This question, too, the church, the state and the moralist must
answer. The knowledge of contraceptive methods may yet for a time be
denied to the woman of the working class, but those who are
responsible for denying it to her, and she herself, should understand
clearly the dangers to which she is exposed because of the laws which
force her into the hands of the abortionist.

To understand the more clearly the difference between birth control by
contraceptives and family limitation through abortion it is necessary
to know something of the processes of conception. Knowledge of these
processes will also enable us to comprehend more thoroughly the
dangers to which woman is exposed by our antiquated laws, and how much
better it would be for her to employ such preventive measures as would
keep her out of the hands of the abortionist, into which the laws now
drive her.

In every woman's ovaries are imbedded millions of ovules or eggs. They
are in every female at birth, and as the girl develops into womanhood,
these ovules develop also. At a certain age, varying slightly with the
individual, the ripest ovule leaves the nest or ovary and comes down
one of the tubes connecting with the womb and passes out of the body.
When this takes place, it is said that the girl is at the age of
puberty. When it reaches the womb the ovule is ready for the process
of conception--that is, fertilization by the male sperm.

At the time the ovule is ripening, the womb is preparing to receive
it. This preparation consists of a reinforced blood supply brought to
its lining. If fertilization takes place, the fertilized ovule or ovum
will cling to the lining of the womb and there gather its nourishment.
If fertilization does not take place, the ovum passes out of the body
and the uterus throws off its surplus blood supply. This is called the
menstrual period. It occurs about once a month or every twenty-eight

In the male organs there are glands called testes. They secrete a
fluid called the semen. In the semen is the life-giving principle
called the sperm.

When intercourse takes place, if no preventive is employed, the semen
is deposited in the woman's vagina. The ovule is not in the vagina,
but is in the womb, farther up, or perhaps in the tube on its way to
the womb. As steel is attracted to the magnet, the sperm of the male
starts on its way to seek the ovum. Several of these sperm cells
start, but only one enters the ovum and is absorbed into it. This
process is called fertilization, conception or impregnation.

If no children are desired, the meeting of the male sperm and the ovum
must be prevented. When scientific means are employed to prevent this
meeting, one is said to practice birth control. The means used is
known as a contraceptive.

If, however, a contraceptive is not used and the sperm meets the ovule
and development begins, any attempt at removing it or stopping its
further growth is called abortion.

There is no doubt that women are apt to look upon abortion as of
little consequence and to treat it accordingly. An abortion is as
important a matter as a confinement and requires as much attention as
the birth of a child at its full term.

"The immediate dangers of abortion," says Dr. J. Clifton Edgar, in his
book, "_The Practice of Obstetrics_," "are hemorrhage, retention of an
adherent placenta, sepsis, tetanus, perforation of the uterus. They
also cause sterility, anemia, malignant diseases, displacements,
neurosis, and endometritis."

In plain, everyday language, in an abortion there is always a very
serious risk to the health and often to the life of the patient.

It is only the women of wealth who can afford the best medical skill,
care and treatment both at the time of the operation and afterwards.
In this way they escape the usual serious consequences.

The women whose incomes are limited and who must continue at work
before they have recovered from the effects of an abortion are the
great army of sufferers. It is among such that the deaths due to
abortion usually ensue. It is these, too, who are most often forced to
resort to such operations.

If death does not result, the woman who has undergone an abortion is
not altogether safe from harm. The womb may not return to its natural
size, but remain large and heavy, tending to fall away from its
natural position. Abortion often leaves the uterus in a condition to
conceive easily again and unless prevention is strictly followed
another pregnancy will surely occur. Frequent abortions tend to cause
barrenness and serious, painful pelvic ailments. These and other
conditions arising from such operations are very likely to ruin a
woman's general health.

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.

The effects of such operations upon a woman, serious as they may be,
are nothing as compared to the injury done her general health by drugs
taken to produce the same result. Even such drugs as are prescribed by
physicians have harmful effects, and nostrums recommended by druggists
are often worse still.

Even more drastic may be the effect upon the unborn child, for many
women fill their systems with poisonous drugs during the first weeks
of their pregnancy, only to decide at last, when drugs have failed, as
they usually do, to bring the child to birth.

There are no statistics, of course, by which we may compute the amount
of suffering to mother and child from the use of such drugs, but we
know that the total of physical weakness and disease must be
astounding. We know that the woman's own system feels the strain of
these drugs and that the embryo is usually poisoned by them. The child
is likely to be rickety, have heart trouble, kidney disorder, or to be
generally weak in its powers of resistance. If it does not die before
it reaches its first year, it is probable that it will have to
struggle against some of these weaknesses until its adolescent period.

It needs no assertion of mine to call attention to the grim fact that
the laws prohibiting the imparting of information concerning the
preventing of conception are responsible for tens of thousands of
deaths each year in this country and an untold amount of sickness and
sorrow. The suffering and the death of these women is squarely upon
the heads of the lawmakers and the puritanical, masculine-minded
person who insist upon retaining the abominable legal restrictions.

Try as they will they cannot escape the truth, nor hide it under the
cloak of stupid hypocrisy. If the laws against imparting knowledge of
scientific birth control were repealed, nearly all of the 1,000,000 or
2,000,000 women who undergo abortions in the United States each year
would escape the agony of the surgeon's instruments and the long trail
of disease, suffering and death which so often follows.

"He who would combat abortion," says Dr. Hirsch, "and at the same time
combat contraceptive measures may be likened to the person who would
fight contagious diseases and forbid disinfection. For contraceptive
measures are important weapons in the fight against abortion.

"America has a law since 1873 which prohibits by criminal statute the
distribution and regulation of contraceptive measures. It follows,
therefore, that America stands at the head of all nations in the huge
number of abortions."

There is the case in a nutshell. Family limitation will always be
practiced as it is now being practiced--either by birth control or by
abortion. We know that. The one means health and happiness--a
stronger, better race. The other means disease, suffering, death.

The woman who goes to the abortionist's table is not a criminal but a
martyr--a martyr to the bitter, unthinkable conditions brought about
by the blindness of society at large. These conditions give her the
choice between the surgeon's instruments and the sacrificing of what
is highest and holiest in her--her aspiration to freedom, her desire
to protect the children already hers. These conditions--not the
woman--outface society with this question:

"Contraceptives or Abortion--which shall it be?"



There are several means of preventing conception which are both
certain and harmless. What those means are the state laws forbid me to
say. If I should defy the state laws and name those contraceptives,
the federal laws would forbid this book's going through the mails. Nor
can I, without coming into conflict with the laws, tell _why_ these
means are reliable. It is difficult to discuss the subject without
using franker language than the statutes permit, and I do not wish to
violate the law in this particular book.

"Can I rely upon this? Is it certain? Will it prevent absolutely?"
Such questions, always asked by women who seek advice concerning
contraceptives, testify both to their fear of involuntary motherhood
and their doubt as to any and all means offered for their deliverance.

Doubt as to the certainty of contraceptives arises from two sources.
One is the uninformed element in the medical profession. A physician
who belongs to this element may object to birth control upon general
grounds, or he may repeat old-fashioned objections to cover his
ignorance of contraceptives. For, strange as it may seem, there is an
amazing ignorance among physicians of this supremely important
subject. The uninformed objector often assumes to speak with the voice
of authority, asserting that there are no thoroughly dependable
contraceptives that are not injurious to the user.

The other source of distrust is the experience of the woman herself.
Having no place to go for scientific advice, she gathers her
information from neighbors and friends. One offers this suggestion,
another offers that, each urging the means that she has found
successful and condemning others. All this is very confusing and
extremely disturbing to the woman who, for one reason or another, is
living in constant fear of pregnancy.

It is not at all surprising that such a state of affairs exists. There
has been so much secrecy about the whole subject and so much
dependence upon amateurish and nonprofessional advice that it is
almost impossible for anyone to procure reliable information or to
recognize it when given. This is especially true in the United States
where there are both federal and state laws to punish those who
disseminate knowledge of birth-control methods.

Even under present conditions, however, there is a certain amount of
reliable information concerning methods of birth control. We know that
there are several methods of prevention which are not only dependable,
but which can be used without injury either to the man or the woman.
Knowledge of what these methods are and how to apply them should be
available to every married man and woman. It is safe to predict that
in a very few years they will be available.

Some methods are more dependable than others, just as there are some
more simple of adjustment than others. Some are cheap and less
durable; others are expensive and last for years. There are some which
for a quarter of a century have stood the test of certainty in
Holland, France, England and the United States among the wealthier
classes, as the falling birth rate among these classes indicates. And
just as the reliable, primitive wheelbarrow is antiquated beside the
latest airplane, so, as scientific investigators turn their attention
more and more to this field, will the awkward, troublesome methods of
the past give way to the simpler, more convenient methods of the

Although the law forbids information concerning reliable means of
contraception, it is hardly likely that it can be invoked to prevent
warnings against widely practiced methods which are NOT reliable. The
employment of such methods leads not only to disappointment but often
to ill health.

One of the most common practices of this kind is that of nursing one
baby too long in the hope of preventing the birth of the next. The
"poor whites" of the South and many of the foreign-born women of the
United States pin their hopes to this method. Often they persist in
nursing a child until it is eighteen months old--almost always until
they become pregnant again.

Prolonged nursing hurts both child and mother, it is said. In the
child it causes a tendency to brain disease, probably through
disordered digestion and nutrition. In the mother it causes a strong
tendency to deafness and blindness. If a child is nursed after it is
twelve months old, it is generally pale, flabby and unhealthy, often
rickety, one authority points out, while the mother is usually
nervous, emaciated and hysterical. If pregnancy occurs under these
conditions, the mother not only injures her own health but that of the
next child, often developing in it a weakness of constitution which it
never overcomes.

Moreover, prolonged nursing has been found to be unreliable as a
contraceptive. We know this upon good authority. It should not be
depended upon at all.

In the same class is the so-called "safe period" referred to in
another chapter. For many women there is never any "safe period."
Others have "safe periods" for a number of years, only to find
themselves pregnant because these periods have ceased without warning.

One of the most frequent of all the mistakes made in recommending
contraceptives is the advice to use an antiseptic or cold-water
douche. This error seems to be surprisingly persistent. I am
particularly surprised to hear from women that such douches have been
prescribed by physicians. Any physician who knows the first rudiments
of physiology and anatomy must also know that necessary and important
as an antiseptic douche is as a cleanser and hygienic measure, it is
assuredly not to be advised as a means of preventing conception.

A woman may, and often does, become pregnant before she can make use
of a douche. This is particularly likely to happen if her uterus is
low. And the woman who does much walking, who stands for long hours or
who uses the sewing machine a great deal is likely to have a low
uterus. It is then much easier for the spermatazoa to enter almost
directly into the womb than it would otherwise be, and the douche, no
matter how soon it is used, is likely to be ineffective. The tendency
of the uterus to drop under strain goes far to explain why some women
who have depended upon the douche for years suddenly find themselves
pregnant. Do not depend upon the douche. As a cleansing agent, it is a
necessary part of every woman's toilet, but it is not a preventive.

Even if the douche were dependable, the absence of sanitary
convenience from households in remote districts and the difficulty of
using a douche in crowded tenements would prevent many women from
making use of it.

Despite the unreliability of some methods and the harmfulness of some
others, there _are_ methods which are both harmless and certain. This
much the woman who is seeking means of limiting her family may be told
here. _In using any method_, whatsoever, all depends upon the care
taken to use it properly. No surgeon, no matter how perfect his
instruments, would expect perfect results from the simplest operation
did he not exercise the greatest possible care. Common sense, good
judgment and taking pains are necessary in the use of all

More and more perfect means of preventing conception will be developed
as women insist upon them. Every woman should make it plain to her
physician that she expects him to be informed upon this subject. She
should refuse to accept evasive answers. An increasing demand upon
physicians will inevitably result in laboratory researches and
experimentation. Such investigation is indeed already beginning and we
may expect great progress in contraceptive methods in the near future.
We may also expect more authoritative opinions upon preventive methods
and devices. When women confidently and insistently demand them, they
will have access to contraceptives which are both certain and



Labor seems instinctively to have recognized the fact that its
servitude springs from numbers. Seldom, however, has it applied its
knowledge logically and thoroughly. The basic principle of craft
unionism is limitation of the number of workers in a given trade. This
has been labor's most frequent expedient for righting its wrongs.
Every unionist knows, as a matter of course, that if that number is
kept small enough, his organization can compel increases of wages,
steady employment and decent working conditions. Craft unionism has
succeeded in attaining these insofar as it has been able to apply this
principle. It has failed insofar as it has been unable to apply it.

The weakness of craft unionism is that it does not carry its principle
far enough. It applies its policy of limitation of numbers only to the
trade. In his home, the worker, whether he is a unionist or
non-unionist, goes on producing large numbers of children to compete
with him eventually in the labor market.

"The history of labor," says Teresa Billington-Greig in the _Common
Sense of The Population Question_, "is the history of an ever
unsuccessful effort upon the part of man to bring his productive
ability as a worker up to his reproductive ability. It has been a
losing battle all the way."

The small percentage of highly skilled, organized workers lead in the
struggle for better conditions. Craft unions, by limiting the number
of men available for any one trade, manage to procure better pay,
shorter hours and other advantages for their members.

Disaster, in the form of famine, pestilence, tidal waves, earthquakes
or war, sometimes limits the number of available workers. Then those
who live in parts of the world that are not affected, or who stay at
home during wars, reap a temporary advantage. These advantages,
however, are quickly offset by increased prices, or by competition for
jobs when soldiers return from war. This form of limitation of numbers
works to the advantage of labor as long as it is available, but great
disasters are not constantly in operation while the worker's
reproductive ability is. So in a few years they have lost what
nature's destructiveness won for them.

The great mass of the workers--including children and women--are
unskilled and unorganized. Not only that, they are for some
considerable part of the time seeking employment. They are, of course,
poorly paid. Thus, through their low wages and their seeking of
employment, they always come into direct competition with one another
and with the skilled and organized workmen. As their families live in
want and are often diseased, they create the chief social problems of
the day. They bring children into the world as fast as women can bear
them. With each child they increase their own misery and provide
another worker to force down wages and prolong hours, through
competition for employment.

This has been the way of labor from the beginning. It is labor's way
in every country.

Having discovered that there is no relief in legislation, labor
organizes to limit its numbers in certain trades. Meanwhile the women
of the working class go on breeding more workers to wipe out in the
future the advantages gained for the present. In Paris, for instance,
the proletarian quarters of the city show a birth rate more than three
times as high as the birth rate in the well-to-do sections.

"Dr. Jacques Bartillon furnishes us with statistics which prove that
the birth rate in any quarter of Paris is in inverse ratio to its
degree of affluence," says G. Hardy in _How to Prevent Pregnancy_.
"The rich Champs-Elysees has a birth rate a third of that Bellerville
or of the Buttes-Chaumont. From 1,000 women from the age of fifteen to
fifty, Menimontant gives 116 births; the Champs-Elysees thirty-four

"It is the same in Berlin. For 1,000 women from the age of fifteen to
that of fifty, a very poor quarter gives 157 births; a rich quarter
gives 47 births."

And so it is the world over. The very word "proletarian," as Hardy
points out, means "producer of children."

The children thus carelessly produced undermine the health of the
mother, deepen the family's poverty, destroy the happiness of the
home, and dishearten the father; all this in addition to being future
competitors in the labor market. Too often their increasing number
drives the mother herself into industry, where her beggarly wages tend
to lower the level of those of her husband.

The first sickening feature of this general situation is the high
infant mortality among the children of the workers. Many children come
merely to sap the strength of the mother, suffer and die, leaving to
show for their coming and going only an increased burden of sorrow and
debt. The lower the family income, the more of these babies die before
they are a year old.

A survey of infant mortality in Johnstown, Pa., by the federal
Children's Bureau, gave these typical results for the year 1911:

                          Infant Mortality
  Father's Earnings            Rate
  Under $521.................. 197.3
  $521 to $624................ 193.1
  $625 to $779................ 163.1
  $780 to $899................ 168.4
  $900 to $1,199.............. 142.3
  $1,200 or over.............. 102.
  Ample........................ 88.

These figures do not represent the total income of all families.
Neither will money buy as much in 1920 as it did in 1911. Seventy per
cent of the people of the United States have incomes of less than
$1,000. This means that from 142 to 197 children born into such
families die before they are one year old. The births and deaths of
these children represent just so much useless burden of anguish and
sorrow to the workers.

Despite this high infant death rate, the workers of the United States
still have more children than they can care for. There are enough of
them left over to provide 3,000,000 child laborers, who by working for
a pittance crowd their parents out of employment and force the
families deeper into poverty.

When all is said and done, the workers who produce large families have
themselves to blame for the hundreds of thousands of unemployed
grasping for jobs, for the strike breakers, for the policemen who beat
up and arrest strikers and for the soldiers who shoot strikers down.
All these come from the families of workingmen. Their fathers and
mothers are workers for wages. Out of the loins of labor they come
into the world and compel surplus labor to betray labor that is

Nor is this all. When a workman of superior strength and skill,
protected by his union, manages to maintain a large or moderate sized
family in a degree of comfort, there always comes a time when he must
strike to preserve what he has won. If he is not beaten by unorganized
workers who seek his job, he still has to face the possibility of
listening to the cries of several hungry children. If the strike is a
long one, these cries often down the promptings of loyalty and class
interest--often they defeat him when nothing else could.

Is it any wonder that under handicaps like these labor becomes
confused and flounders? It has been offered a multitude of
remedies--political reforms, wage legislation, statutory regulation of
hours, and so on. It has been invited to embrace craft and industrial
unionism, syndicalism, anarchism, socialism as panaceas for its
liberation. Except in a few countries, it has not attained to
aggressive power, but has been a tool for unscrupulous politicians.

Even with the temporary advantages gained by the wiping out of
millions of workers in the Great War, labor's problem remains
unsolved. It has now, as always, to contend with the crop of young
laborers coming into the market, and with the ever-present "labor-saving"
machine which, instead of relieving the worker's situation,
makes it all the harder for him to escape. Fewer laborers are needed
to-day for a given amount of production and distribution than before
the invention of these machines. Yet, owing to the increase in the
number of the workers, labor finds itself enslaved instead of
liberated by the machine.

"Hitherto," says John Stuart Mill, "it is questionable if all the
mechanical inventions yet made have lightened the day's toil of any
human being. They have enabled a greater population to live the same
life of drudgery and imprisonment, and an increased number of
manufacturers and others to make fortunes."

That, in a few words, sums up the greater part of labor's progress. We
blame capitalism and its wasteful, brutal industrial system for all
our social problems, but our numbers were vast and our bondage
grievous before modern industry came into existence. We may curse the
trusts, but our subjection was accomplished before the trusts had
emerged from the brain of evolution. We may blame public officials and
individual employers, but our burdens were crushing before these were
born. We look now here, now there, for the cause of our
condition--everywhere but at the one to blame. We fight again and
again for our rights, only to be conquered by our own kind, our
own children, our brother's, our neighbor's.

Let us carry to its logical conclusion the principle of limitation
which has been partially applied by labor unions. The way to get rid
of labor problems, unemployment, low wages, the surplus, unwanted
population, is to stop breeding. They come from our own ranks--from
our own families. The way to get better wages, shorter hours, a new
system for the advancement of labor, is to make labor's numbers fewer.
Let us not wait for war, famine and plague to do it. Let us cease
bringing unwanted children into the world to suffer a while, add to
our burdens and die. Let us cease bringing others into the world to
compete with us for a living. Let the women workers practice birth

What are the concrete things which the worker can gain at once through
birth control? First, a small family can live much better than a large
one upon the wages now received. Workers could be better fed, clothed
and educated. Again, fewer children in the families of the workers
would tend to check the rise in the prices of food, which are forced
up as the demand increases. Within a few years it would reduce the
number of workers competing for jobs. The worker could the more easily
force society to give him more of the product of his labor--or all of
it. And while these things are taking place, the slums, with their
disease, their moral degradation and all their sordid accompaniments,
would automatically disappear. No worker would need to live in such
tenements--hence they would be modernized or torn down. At the same
time, the few children that were being born to the workers would be
stronger, healthier, more courageous. They would be fit human
beings--not miserable victims of murderous conditions.

Birth control does not propose to replace any of the idealistic
movements and philosophies of the workers. It is not a substitute, it
precedes. It is of itself a principle that lifts the heaviest of the
burdens that afflict labor. It can and it must be the foundation upon
which any permanently successful improvement in conditions is
attained. It is, therefore, a necessary prelude in all effective

A few years of systematic agitation for birth control would put labor
in a position to solve all its problems. Labor, organized or
unorganized, must take heed of this fact. Groups and parties working
for a new social order must include it in their programmes. No social
system, no workers' democracy, no Socialist republic can operate
successfully and maintain its ideals unless the practice of birth
control is encouraged to a marked and efficient degree.

In Spain I saw a bull fight. It was in the great arena at Barcelona.
As bull after bull went down, his magnificent, defeated strength
bleeding away through wounds inflicted by his weak but skillful
assailant, I thought of the world of workers and their oppressors.

As each bull was sent into the arena, he was confronted by one
assailant and twenty _confusers_. There was but one enemy for him to
face, but there were twenty brilliant flags, each of a different
color, to distract his attention from the man who held the weapon. No
sooner was his real antagonist in danger, than one of the confusers
fluttered a flag before his anger-maddened eyes. With one toss of his
horns he could have ripped the life from the toreador, but his
confusers were always there with the flags. One after another he
charged them, only to spend the force of his lunges in the empty air.
He found that as he was about to toss one of his confusers into the
air, he was confronted by another flag, which he charged with equal

Finally, utterly bewildered and exhausted, too spiritless to meet the
attack, he falls under the sword thrust of the toreador. And the sun
shines in the deep blue overhead, the band plays, the ten thousand
gayly-clad spectators shout, while the victim is dragged out to make
room for another.

It is the drama of labor.

It will be the drama of labor until labor finds its real enemy. That
enemy is the reproductive ability of the working class which gluts the
channels of progress with the helpless and weak, and stimulates the
tyrants of the world in their oppression of mankind.


In every nation of militaristic tendencies we find the reactionaries
demanding a higher and still higher birth rate. Their plea is, first,
that great armies are needed to defend the country from its possible
enemies; second, that a huge population is required to assure the
country its proper place among the powers of the world. At bottom the
two pleas are the same.

As soon as the country becomes overpopulated, these reactionaries
proclaim loudly its moral right to expand. They point to the huge
population, which in the name of patriotism they have previously
demanded should be brought into being. Again pleading patriotism, they
declare that it is the moral right of the nation to take by force such
room as it needs. Then comes war--usually against some nation supposed
to be less well prepared than the aggressor.

Diplomats make it their business to conceal the facts, and politicians
violently denounce the politicians of other countries. There is a long
beating of tom-toms by the press and all other agencies for
influencing public opinion. Facts are distorted and lies invented
until the common people cannot get at the truth. Yet, when the war is
over, if not before, we always find that "a place in the sun," "a path
to the sea," "a route to India" or something of the sort is at the
bottom of the trouble. These are merely other names for expansion.

The "need of expansion" is only another name for overpopulation. One
supreme example is sufficient to drive home this truth. That the Great
War, from the horror of which we are just beginning to emerge, had its
source in overpopulation is too evident to be denied by any serious
student of current history.

For the past one hundred years most of the nations of Europe have been
piling up terrific debts to humanity by the encouragement of unlimited
numbers. The rulers of these nations and their militarists have
constantly called upon the people to breed, breed, breed! Large
populations meant more people to produce wealth, more people to pay
taxes, more trade for the merchants, more soldiers to protect the
wealth. But more people also meant need of greater food supplies, an
urgent and natural need for expansion.

As shown by C.V. Drysdale's famous "War Map of Europe," the great
conflict began among the high birth rate countries--Germany, with its
rate of 31.7, Austria-Hungary with 33.7 and 36.7, respectively, Russia
with 45.4, Serbia with 38.6. Italy with her 38.7 came in, as the world
is now well informed through the publication of secret treaties by the
Soviet government of Russia, upon the promise of territory held by
Austria. England, owing to her small home area, is cramped with her
comparatively low birth rate of 26.3. France, among the belligerents,
is conspicuous for her low birth rate of 19.9, but stood in the way of
expansion of high birth rate Germany. Nearly all of the persistently
neutral countries--Holland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland
have low birth rates, the average being a little over 26.

Owing to the part Germany played in the war, a survey of her birth
statistics is decidedly illuminating. The increase in the German birth
rate up to 1876 was great. Though it began to decline then, the
decline was not sufficient to offset the tremendous increase of the
previous years. There were more millions to produce children, so while
the average number of births per thousand was somewhat smaller, the
net increase in population was still huge. From 41,000,000 in 1871,
the year the Empire was founded, the German population grew to
approximately 67,000,000 in 1918. Meanwhile her food supply increased
only a very small per cent. In 1910, Russia had a birth rate even
higher than Germany's had ever been--a little less than 48 per
thousand. When czarist Russia wanted an outlet to the Mediterranean by
way of Constantinople, she was thinking of her increasing population.
Germany was thinking of her increasing population when she spoke as
with one voice of a "place in the sun."

"For some decades," said the Royal Prussian Journal, in an article
quoted by the Malthusian (London) of April 15, 1911, "the great growth
of German population has been almost entirely forced into the towns,
since of the four millions of increase in five years, only a few can
find places in agriculture, as most properties are too small to permit
of letting off a portion. And as regards the larger farms, the
tendency of modern, cheaper machine methods is rather to produce a
saving of the more costly manual labor."

"For some time past Germany has no longer been in the position of
feeding her own population, and large quantities of food as
raw-materials have to be imported, for which exports have to be exchanged.
It is doubtful whether even this can for long keep pace with the
present rate of increase of population."

There were other utterances which just as frankly acknowledged that,
having produced surplus population, Germany proposed to procure by
means of war the expansion necessary to care for it. Adelyne More, in
"Uncontrolled Breeding," a study of the birth rate in its relation to
war, quoted the Berliner Post: "Can a great and rapidly growing nation
like Germany always renounce all claims to further development or to
the expansion of its political power? The final settlement with France
and England, the expansion of our colonial possessions, in order to
create new German homes for the overflow of our population--these are
problems which must be faced in the near future." This was published
in 1913.

Just as frank was the recognition of the true cause of international
conflicts by a number of British authorities.

In "Uncontrolled Breeding," the author quotes the British National
Commission's report on The Declining Birth Rate: "The pressure of
population in any country brings, as a chief historic consequence,
overflows and migrations not only for peaceful settlement, but for
conquest and for the subjugation and exploitation of weaker peoples.
This always remains a chief cause of international disputes."

The militaristic claim for Germany's right to new territory was simply
a claim to the right of life and food for the German babies--the same
right that a chick claims to burst its shell. If there had not been
other millions of people claiming the same right, there would have
been no war. But there were other millions.

The German rulers and leaders pointed out the fact that expansion
meant more business for German merchants, more work for German workmen
at better wages, and more opportunities for Germans abroad. They also
pointed out that lack of expansion meant crowding and crushing at
home, hard times, heavy burdens, lack of opportunity for Germans, and
what not. In this way, they gave the people of the Empire a startling
and true picture of what would happen from overcrowding. Once they
realized the facts, the majority of Germans naturally welcomed the
so-called war of defense.

The argument was sound. Once the German mothers had submitted to the
plea for overbreeding, it was inevitable that imperialistic Germany
should make war. Once the battalions of unwanted babies came into
existence--babies whom the mothers did not want but which they bore as
a "patriotic duty"--it was too late to avoid international conflict.
The great crime of imperialistic Germany was its high birth rate.

It has always been so. Behind all war has been the pressure of
population. "Historians," says Huxley, "point to the greed and
ambition of rulers, the reckless turbulence of the ruled, to the
debasing effects of wealth and luxury, and to the devastating wars
which have formed a great part of the occupation of mankind, as the
causes of the decay of states and the foundering of old civilizations,
and thereby point their story with a moral. But beneath all this
superficial turmoil lay the deep-seated impulse given by unlimited

Robert Thomas Malthus, formulator of the doctrine which bears his
name, pointed out, in the closing years of the eighteenth century, the
relation of overpopulation to war. He showed that mankind tends to
increase faster than the food supply. He demonstrated that were it not
for the more common diseases, for plague, famine, floods and wars,
human beings would crowd each other to such an extent that the misery
would be even greater than it now is. These he described as "natural
checks," pointing out that as long as no other checks are employed,
such disasters are unavoidable. If we do not exercise sufficient
judgment to regulate the birth rate, we encounter disease, starvation
and war.

Both Darwin and John Stuart Mill recognized, by inference at least,
the fact that so-called "natural checks"--and among them war--will
operate if some sort of limitation is not employed. In his _Origin of
Species_, Darwin says: "There is no exception to the rule that every
organic being naturally increases at so high a rate, if not destroyed,
that the earth would soon be covered by the progeny of a single pair."
Elsewhere he observes that we do not permit helpless human beings to
die off, but we create philanthropies and charities, build asylums and
hospitals and keep the medical profession busy preserving those who
could not otherwise survive. John Stuart Mill, supporting the views of
Malthus, speaks to exactly the same effect in regard to the
multiplying power of organic beings, among them humanity. In other
words, let countries become overpopulated and war is inevitable. It
follows as daylight follows the sunrise.

When Charles Bradlaugh and Mrs. Annie Besant were on trial in England
in 1877 for publishing information concerning contraceptives, Mrs.
Besant put the case bluntly to the court and the jury:

"I have no doubt that if natural checks were allowed to operate right
through the human as they do in the animal world, a better result
would follow. Among the brutes, the weaker are driven to the wall, the
diseased fall out in the race of life. The old brutes, when feeble or
sickly, are killed. If men insisted that those who were sickly should
be allowed to die without help of medicine or science, if those who
are weak were put upon one side and crushed, if those who were old and
useless were killed, if those who were not capable of providing food
for themselves were allowed to starve, if all this were done, the
struggle for existence among men would be as real as it is among
brutes and would doubtless result in the production of a higher race
of men.

"But are you willing to do that or to allow it to be done?"

We are not willing to let it be done. Mother hearts cling to children,
no matter how diseased, misshapen and miserable. Sons and daughters
hold fast to parents, no matter how helpless. We do not allow the weak
to depart; neither do we cease to bring more weak and helpless beings
into the world. Among the dire results is war, which kills off, not
the weak and the helpless, but the strong and the fit.

What shall be done? We have our choice of one of three policies. We
may abandon our science and leave the weak and diseased to die, or
kill them, as the brutes do. Or we may go on overpopulating the earth
and have our famines and our wars while the earth exists. Or we can
accept the third, sane, sensible, moral and practicable plan of birth
control. We can refuse to bring weak, the helpless and the unwanted
children into the world. We can refuse to overcrowd families, nations
and the earth. There are these ways to meet the situation, and only
these three ways.

The world will never abandon its preventive and curative science; it
may be expected to elevate and extend it beyond our present
imagination. The efforts to do away with famine and the opposition to
war are growing by leaps and bounds. Upon these efforts are largely
based our modern social revolutions.

There remains only the third expedient--birth control, the real cure
for war. This fact was called to the attention of the Peace Conference
in Paris, in 1919, by the Malthusian League, which adopted the
following resolution at its annual general meeting in London in June
of that year:

"The Malthusian League desires to point out that the proposed scheme
for the League of Nations has neglected to take account of the
important questions of _the pressure of population_, which _causes the
great international economic competition_ and rivalry, and of the
_increase of population_, which is put forward as a justification for
_claiming increase of territory_. It, therefore, wishes to put on
record its belief that the League of Nations will only be able to
fulfill its aim _when it adds a clause_ to the following effect:

"'That each Nation desiring to enter into the League of Nations shall
pledge itself _so to restrict its birth rate_ that its people shall be
able to live in comfort _in their own dominions without need_ for
territorial expansion, and that it shall recognize that _increase of
population shall not justify_ a demand either for increase of
territory or for the compulsion of other Nations to admit its
emigrants; so that when all Nations in the League have shown their
ability to live on their own resources without international rivalry,
they will be in a position to fuse into an international federation,
and territorial boundaries will then have little significance.'"

As a matter of course, the Peace Conference paid no attention to the
resolution, for, as pointed out by Frank A. Vanderlip, the American
financier, that conference not only ignored the economic factors of
the world situation, but seemed unaware that Europe had produced more
people than its fields could feed. So the resolution amounted to so
much propaganda and nothing more.

This remedy can be applied only by woman and she will apply it. She
must and will see past the call of pretended patriotism and of glory
of empire and perceive what is true and what is false in these things.
She will discover what base uses the militarist and the exploiter make
of the idealism of peoples. Under the clamor of the press, permeating
the ravings of the jingoes, she will hear the voice of Napoleon, the
archtype of the militarists of all nations, calling for "fodder for

"Woman is given to us that she may bear children," said he. "Woman is
our property, we are not hers, because she produces children for
us--we do not yield any to her. She is, therefore, our possession as the
fruit tree is that of the gardener."

That is what the imperialist is _thinking_ when he speaks of the glory
of the empire and the prestige of the nation. Every country has its
appeal--its shibboleth--ready for the lips of the imperialist. German
rulers pointed to the comfort of the workers, to old-age pensions,
maternal benefits and minimum wage regulations, and other material
benefits, when they wished to inspire soldiers for the Fatherland.
England's strongest argument, perhaps, was a certain phase of liberty
which she guarantees her subjects, and the protection afforded them
wherever they may go. France and the United States, too, have their
appeals to the idealism of democracy--appeals which the politicians of
both countries know well how to use, though the peoples of both lands
are beginning to awake to the fact that their countries have been
living on the glories of their revolutions and traditions, rather than
the substance of freedom. Behind the boast of old-age pensions,
material benefits and wage regulations, behind the bombast concerning
liberty in this country and tyranny in that, behind all the slogans
and shibboleths coined out of the ideals of the peoples for the uses
of imperialism, woman must and will see the iron hand of that same
imperialism, condemning women to breed and men to die for the will of
the rulers.

Upon woman the burden and the horrors of war are heaviest. Her heart
is the hardest wrung when the husband or the son comes home to be
buried or to live a shattered wreck. Upon her devolve the extra tasks
of filling out the ranks of workers in the war industries, in addition
to caring for the children and replenishing the war-diminished
population. Hers is the crushing weight and the sickening of soul. And
it is out of her womb that those things proceed. When she sees what
lies behind the glory and the horror, the boasting and the burden, and
gets the vision, the human perspective, she will end war. She will
kill war by the simple process of starving it to death. For she will
refuse longer to produce the human food upon which the monster feeds.



Upon the shoulders of the woman conscious of her freedom rests the
responsibility of creating a new sex morality. The vital difference
between a morality thus created by women and the so-called morality of
to-day, is that the new standard will be based upon knowledge and
freedom while the old is founded upon ignorance and submission.

What part will birth control play in bringing forth this new standard?
What effect will its practice have upon woman's moral development?
Will it lift her to heights that she has not yet achieved, and if so,
how? Why is the question of morality always raised by the objector to
birth control? All these questions must be answered if we are to get a
true picture of the relation of the feminine spirit to morals. They
can best be answered by considering, first, the source of our present
standard of sex morals and the reasons why those standards are what
they are; and, second, the source and probable nature of the new

We get most of our notions of sex morality from the Christian
church--more particularly from the oldest existing Christian church, known
as the Roman Catholic. The church has generally defined the "immoral
woman" as one who mates out of wedlock. Virtually, it lets it go at
that. In its practical workings, there is nothing in the church code
of morals to protect the woman, either from unwilling submission to
the wishes of her husband, from undesired pregnancy, nor from any
other of the outrages only too familiar to many married women. Nothing
is said about the crime of bringing an unwanted child into the world,
where often it cannot be adequately cared for and is, therefore,
condemned to a life of misery. The church's one point of insistence is
upon the right of itself to legalize marriage and to compel the woman
to submit to whatever such marriage may bring. It is true that there
are remedies of divorce in the case of the state, but the church has
adhered strictly to the principle that marriage, once consummated, is
indissoluble. Thus, in its operation, the church's code of sex morals
has nothing to do with the basic sex rights of the woman, but
enforces, rather, the assumed property rights of the man to the body
and the services of his wife. They are man-made codes; their vital
factor, as they apply to woman, is submission to the man.

Closely associated with and underlying the principle of submission,
has been the doctrine that the sex life is in itself unclean. It
follows, therefore, that all knowledge of the sex physiology or sex
functions is also unclean and taboo. Upon this teaching has been
founded woman's subjection by the church and, largely through the
influence of the church, her subjection by the state to the needs of
the man.

Let us see how these principles have affected the development of the
present moral codes and some of their shifting standards. When we have
finished this analysis, we shall know why objectors to birth control
raise the "morality" question.

The church has sought to keep women ignorant upon the plea of keeping
them "pure." To this end it has used the state as its moral policeman.
Men have largely broken the grip of the ecclesiastics upon masculine
education. The ban upon geology and astronomy, because they refute the
biblical version of the creation of the world, are no longer
effective. Medicine, biology and the doctrine of evolution have won
their way to recognition in spite of the united opposition of the
clerics. So, too, has the right of woman to go unveiled, to be
educated, and to speak from public platforms, been asserted in spite
of the condemnations of the church, which denounced them as
destructive of feminine purity. Only in sex matters has it succeeded
in keeping the bugaboo alive.

It clings to this last stronghold of ignorance, knowing that woman
free from sexual domination would produce a race spiritually free and
strong enough to break the last of the bonds of intellectual darkness.

It is within the marriage bonds, rather than outside them, that the
greatest immorality of men has been perpetrated. Church and state,
through their canons and their laws, have encouraged this immorality.
It is here that the woman who is to win her way to the new morality
will meet the most difficult part of her task of moral house cleaning.

In the days when the church was striving for supremacy, when it needed
single-minded preachers, proselyters and teachers, it fastened upon
its people the idea that all sexual union, in marriage or out of it,
is sinful. That idea colors the doctrines of the Church of Rome and
many other Christian denominations to this hour. "Marriage, even for
the sake of children was a carnal indulgence" in earlier times, as
Principal Donaldson points out in "_The Position of Women Among the
Early Christians._" [Footnote: Contemporary Review, 1889.] It was held
that the child was "conceived in sin," and that as the result of the
sex act, an unclean spirit had possession of it. This spirit can be
removed only by baptism, and the Roman Catholic baptismal service even
yet contains these words: "Go out of him, thou unclean spirit, and
give place unto the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete."

In the _Intellectual Development of Europe_, John William Draper,
speaking of the teaching of celibacy among the Early Fathers,
[Footnote: 2-Vol. 1, page 426.] says: "The sinfulness of the marriage
relation and the preeminent value of chastity followed from their
principles. If it was objected to such practices that by their
universal adoption the human species would soon be extinguished and no
man would remain to offer praises to God, these zealots, remembering
the temptations from which they had escaped, with truth replied that
there would always be sinners enough in the world to avoid that
disaster, and that out of their evil work, good would be brought.
Saint Jerome offers us the pregnant reflection that though it may be
marriage that fills the earth, it is virginity that replenishes

The early church taught that there were enough children on earth. It
needed missionaries more than it needed babies, and impressed upon its
followers the idea that the birth wails of the infant were a protest
against being born into so sordid a world.

Thus are we presented with one of the enormous inconsistencies of the
church in sex matters. The teachings of the "Early Fathers" were
effect the advocacy of an attempt to enforce birth control through
absolute continence, while later it reverted, as it reverts to-day, to
the Mosaic injunction to "be fruitful and multiply."

The very force of the sex urge in humanity compelled the church to
abandon the teaching of celibacy for its general membership. Paul, who
preferred to see Christians unmarried rather than married, had
recognized the power of this force. In the seventh chapter of the
First Epistle to the Corinthians (according to the Douay translation
of the Vulgate, which is accepted by the Church of Rome), he said:

"8--But I say unto you the unmarried and the widows; it is good if
they continue even as I.

"9--But if they do not contain themselves, let them marry, for it is
better to marry than to be burnt."

When the church became a political power rather than a strictly
religious institution, it needed a high birth rate to provide laymen
to support its increasingly expensive organization. It then began to
exploit the sex force for its own interest. It reversed its position
in regard to children. It encouraged marriage under its own control
and exhorted women to bear as many children as possible. The world was
just as sordid and the birth wails of the infants were just as
piteous, but the needs of the hierarchy had changed. So it modified
the standard of sex morality to suit its own requirements--marriage
now became a sacrament.

Shrewd in changing its general policy from celibacy to marriage, the
church was equally shrewd in perpetuating the doctrine of woman's
subjection for its own interest. That doctrine was emphatically stated
in the Third Chapter of the First Epistle of Peter and the Fifth
Chapter of Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians. In the Douay version of
the latter, we find this:

"22--Let women be subject to their husbands as to the Lord.

"23--Because the husband is the head of the wife; as Christ is the
head of the Church.

"24--Therefore, as the Church is subject to Christ, so let the wives
be to their husbands in all things."

These doctrines, together with the teaching that sex life is of itself
unclean, formed the basis of morality as fixed by the Roman church.

Nor does the St. James version of the Bible, generally used by
Protestant churches to-day, differ greatly in these particulars from
the accepted Roman Catholic version, as a comparison will show.

If Christianity turned the clock of general progress back a thousand
years, it turned back the clock two thousand years for woman. Its
greatest outrage upon her was to forbid her to control the function of
motherhood under any circumstances, thus limiting her life's work to
bringing forth and rearing children. Coincident with this, the
churchmen deprived her of her place in and before the courts, in the
schools, in literature, art and society. They shut from her heart and
her mind the knowledge of her love life and her reproductive
functions. They chained her to the position into which they had thrust
her, so that it is only after centuries of effort that she is even
beginning to regain what was wrested from her.

"Christianity had no favorable effect upon women," says Donaldson,
"but tended to lower their character and contract the range of their
activity. At the time when Christianity dawned upon the world, women
had attained great freedom, power and influence in the Roman empire.
Tradition was in favor of restriction, but by a concurrence of
circumstances, women had been liberated from the enslaving fetters of
the old legal forms. They enjoyed freedom of intercourse in society.
They walked in the public thoroughfares with veils that did not hide
their faces. They dined in the company of men. They studied literature
and philosophy. They took part in political movements. They were
allowed to defend their own law cases if they liked, and they helped
their husbands in the government of provinces and the writing of

And again: "One would have imagined that Christianity would have
favored the extension of woman's freedom. In a very short time women
are seen only in two capacities--as martyrs and deaconesses (or nuns).
Now what the early Christians did was to strike the male out of the
definition of man, and human being out of the definition of woman. Man
was a human being made to serve the highest and noblest purposes;
woman was a female, made to serve only one."

Thus the position attained by women of Greece and Rome through the
exercise of family limitation, and in a considerable degree of
voluntary motherhood, was swept away by the rising tide of
Christianity. It would seem that this pernicious result was
premeditated, and that from the very early days of Christianity, there
were among the hierarchy those who recognized the creative power of
the feminine spirit, the force of which they sought to turn to their
own uses. Certain it is that the hierarchy created about the whole
love life of woman an atmosphere of degradation.

Fear and shame have stood as grim guardians against the gate of
knowledge and constructive idealism. The sex life of women has been
clouded in darkness, restrictive, repressive and morbid. Women have
not had the opportunity to know themselves, nor have they been
permitted to give play to their inner natures, that they might create
a morality practical, idealistic and high for their own needs.

On the other hand, church and state have forbidden women to leave
their legal mates, or to refuse to submit to the marital embrace, no
matter how filthy, drunken, diseased or otherwise repulsive the man
might be--no matter how much of a crime it might be to bring to birth
a child by him.

Woman was and is condemned to a system under which the lawful rapes
exceed the unlawful ones a million to one. She has had nothing to say
as to whether she shall have strength sufficient to give a child a
fair physical and mental start in life; she has had as little to do
with determining whether her own body shall be wrecked by excessive
child-bearing. She has been adjured not to complain of the burden of
caring for children she has not wanted. Only the married woman who has
been constantly loved by the most understanding and considerate of
husbands has escaped these horrors. Besides the wrongs done to women
in marriage, those involved in promiscuity, infidelities and rapes
become inconsequential in nature and in number.

Out of woman's inner nature, in rebellion against these conditions, is
rising the new morality. Let it be realized that this creation of new
sex ideals is a challenge to the church. Being a challenge to the
church, it is also, in less degree, a challenge to the state. The
woman who takes a fearless stand for the incoming sex ideals must
expect to be assailed by reactionaries of every kind. Imperialists and
exploiters will fight hardest in the open, but the ecclesiastic will
fight longest in the dark. He understands the situation best of all;
he best knows what reaction he has to fear from the morals of women
who have attained liberty. For, be it repeated, the church has always
known and feared the spiritual potentialities of woman's freedom.

And in this lies the answer to the question why the opponent of birth
control raises the moral issue. Sex morals for women have been
one-sided; they have been purely negative, inhibitory and repressive. They
have been fixed by agencies which have sought to keep women enslaved;
which have been determined, even as they are now, to use woman solely
as an asset to the church, the state and the man. Any means of freedom
which will enable women to live and think for themselves first, will
be attacked as immoral by these selfish agencies.

What effect will the practice of birth control have upon woman's moral
development? As we have seen in other chapters, it will break her
bonds. It will free her to understand the cravings and soul needs of
herself and other women. It will enable her to develop her love nature
separate from and independent of her maternal nature.

It goes without saying that the woman whose children are desired and
are of such number that she can not only give them adequate care but
keep herself mentally and spiritually alive, as well as physically
fit, can discharge her duties to her children much better than the
overworked, broken and querulous mother of a large, unwanted family.

Thus the way is open to her for a twofold development; first, through
her own full rounded life, and next, through her loving, unstrained,
full-hearted relationship with her offspring. The bloom of mother love
will have an opportunity to infuse itself into her soul and make her,
indeed, the fond, affectionate guardian of her offspring that
sentiment now pictures her but hard facts deny her the privilege of
being. She will preserve also her love life with her mate in its
ripening perfection. She will want children with a deeper passion, and
will love them with a far greater love.

In spite of the age-long teaching that sex life in itself is unclean,
the world has been moving to a realization that a great love between a
man and woman is a holy thing, freighted with great possibilities for
spiritual growth. The fear of unwanted children removed, the assurance
that she will have a sufficient amount of time in which to develop her
love life to its greatest beauty, with its comradeship in many
fields--these will lift woman by the very soaring quality of her innermost
self to spiritual heights that few have attained. Then the coming of
eagerly desired children will but enrich life in all its avenues,
rather than enslave and impoverish it as do unwanted ones to-day.

What healthier grounds for the growth of sound morals could possibly
exist than the ample spiritual life of the woman just depicted? Free
to follow the feminine spirit, which dwells in the sanctuary of her
nature, she will, in her daily life, give expression to that high
idealism which is the fruit of that spirit when it is unhampered and
unviolated. The love for her mate will flower in beauty of deeds that
are pure because they are the natural expression of her physical,
mental and spiritual being. The love for desired children will come to
blossom in a spirituality that is high because it is free to reach the

The moral force of woman's nature will be unchained--and of its own
dynamic power will uplift her to a plane unimagined by those holding
fast to the old standards of church morality. Love is the greatest
force of the universe; freed of its bonds of submission and unwanted
progeny, it will formulate and compel of its own nature observance to
standards of purity far beyond the highest conception of the average
moralist. The feminine spirit, animated by joyous, triumphant love,
will make its own high tenets of morality. Free womanhood, out of the
depths of its rich experiences, will observe and comply with the inner
demands of its being. The manner in which it learns to do this best
may be said to be the moral law of woman's being. So, in whatever
words the new morality may ultimately be expressed, we can at least be
sure that it will meet certain needs.

First of all, it will meet the physical and psychic requirements of
the woman herself, for she cannot adequately perform the feminine
functions until these are met. Second, it will meet the needs of the
child to be conceived in a love which is eager to bring forth a new
life, to be brought into a home where love and harmony prevail, a home
in which proper preparation has been made for its coming.

This situation implies in turn a number of conditions. Foremost among
them is woman's knowledge of her sexual nature, both in its physiology
and its spiritual significance. She must not only know her own body,
its care and its needs, but she must know the power of the sex force,
its use, its abuse, as well as how to direct it for the benefit of the
race. Thus she can transmit to her children an equipment that will
enable them to break the bonds that have held humanity enslaved for

To achieve this she must have a knowledge of birth control. She must
also assert and maintain her right to refuse the marital embrace
except when urged by her inner nature.

The truth makes free. Viewed in its true aspect, the very beauty and
wonder of the creative impulse will make evident its essential purity.
We will then instinctively idealize and keep holy that physical-spiritual
expression which is the foundation of all human life, and in that
conception of sex will the race he exalted.

What can we expect of offspring that are the result of "accidents"--who
are brought into being undesired and in fear? What can we hope for
from a morality that surrounds each physical union, for the woman,
with an atmosphere of submission and shame? What can we say for a
morality that leaves the husband at liberty to communicate to his wife
a venereal disease?

Subversion of the sex urge to ulterior purposes has dragged it to the
level of the gutter. Recognition of its true nature and purpose must
lift the race to spiritual freedom. Out of our growing knowledge we
are evolving new and saner ideas of life in general. Out of our
increasing sex knowledge we shall evolve new ideals of sex. These
ideals will spring from the innermost needs of women. They will serve
these needs and express them. They will be the foundation of a moral
code that will tend to make fruitful the impulse which is the source,
the soul and the crowning glory of our sexual natures.

When women have raised the standards of sex ideals and purged the
human mind of its unclean conception of sex, the fountain of the race
will have been cleansed. Mothers will bring forth, in purity and in
joy, a race that is morally and spiritually free.



One of the important duties before those women who are demanding birth
control as a means to a New Race is the changing of our so-called
obscenity laws. This will be no easy undertaking; it is usually much
easier to enact statutes than to revise them. Laws are seldom exactly
what they seem, rarely what their advocates claim for them. The
"obscenity" statutes are particularly deceptive.

Enacted, avowedly, to protect society against the obscene and the
lewd, they make no distinction between the scientific works of human
emancipators like Forel and Ellis and printed matter such as they are
ostensibly aimed at. Naturally enough, then, detectives and
narrow-minded judges and prosecutors who would chuckle over pictures that
would make a clean-minded woman shudder, unite to suppress the
scientific works and the birth-control treatises which would enable
men and women to attain higher physical, mental, moral and spiritual

Woman, bent upon her freedom and seeking to make a better world, will
not permit the indecent and unclean forces of reaction to mask
themselves forever behind the plea that it is necessary to keep her in
ignorance to preserve her purity. In the birth-control movement, she
has already begun to fight for her right to have, without legal
interference, all knowledge pertaining to her sex nature. This is the
third and most important of the epoch-making battles for general
liberty upon American soil. It is most important because it is to
purify the very fountain of the race and make the race completely

The first and most dramatic of the three great struggles for liberty
reached its apex, as we know, in the American Revolution. It had for
its object the right to hold such political beliefs as one might
choose, and to act in accordance with those beliefs. If this political
freedom is now lost to us, it is because we did not hold strongly
enough to those liberties fought for by our forefathers.

Nearly a hundred years after the Revolution the battle for religious
liberty came to a climax in the career of Robert G. Ingersoll. His
championship of the much vaunted and little exercised freedom of
religious opinion swept the blasphemy laws into the lumber room of
outworn tyrannies. Those yet remaining upon the statute books are
invoked but rarely, and then the effort to enforce them is ridiculous.

Within a few years the tragic combination of false moral standards and
infamous obscenity laws will be as ridiculous in the public mind as
are the now all but forgotten blasphemy laws. If the obscenity laws
are not radically revised or repealed, few reactionaries will dare to
face the public derision that will greet their attempts to use them to
stay woman's progress.

The French have a saying concerning "mort main"--the dead hand. This
hand of the past reaches up into the present to smother the rising
flame of modern ideals, to reforge our chains when we have broken
them, to arrest progress. It is the hand of such as have lived on
earth but have not loved humanity. At the call of those who fear
progress and freedom, it rises from the gloom of forgotten things to
oppress the living.

It is the dead hand that holds imprisoned within the obscenity laws
all direct information concerning birth control. It is the dead hand
that thus compels millions of American women to remain in the bondage
of maternity.

Previous to the year 1868, the obscenity laws of the various states in
the Union contained no specific prohibition of information concerning
contraceptives. In that year, however, the General Assembly of New
York passed an act which specifically included the subject of
contraceptives. The act made it exactly as great an offense to give
such information as to exhibit the sort of pictures and writings at
which the legislation was ostensibly aimed.

In 1873, the late Anthony Comstock, who with a list of contributors,
most of whom did not realize the real effects of his work, constituted
the so-called Society for the Suppression of Vice, succeeded in
obtaining the passage of the federal obscenity act. This act was
presented as one to prevent the circulation of pornographic literature
and pictures among school children. As such, it was rushed through
with two hundred sixty other acts in the closing hours of the
Congress. This act made it a crime to use the mails to convey
contraceptives or information concerning contraceptives. Other acts
later made the original law applicable to express companies and other
common carriers, as well as to the mails.

With this precedent established--a precedent which a majority of the
congressmen could hardly have understood because of the hasty passage
of the act--Comstock secured the enactment of state laws to the same
effect. Meanwhile, the provisions regarding contraceptives had been
dropped from the amended New York State law of 1872. In 1873, however,
a new section, said to have been drafted by Comstock himself, was
substituted for the one enacted in 1872, and that section is
essentially the substance of the present law. None of these acts made
it an offense to prevent conception--all of them provided punishment
for anyone disseminating information concerning the prevention of
conception. In the federal statutes, the maximum penalties were fixed
at a fine of $5,000 or five years imprisonment, or both. The usual
maximum penalty under a state law is a fine of $1,000 or one year's
imprisonment, or both.

Comstock has passed out of public notice. His body has been entombed
but the evil that he did lives after him. His dead hand still reaches
forth to keep the subject of prevention of conception where he placed
it--in the same legal category with things unclean and vile. Forty
years ago the laws were changed and the chief work of Comstock's life
accomplished. Those laws still live, legal monuments to ignorance and
to oppression. Through those laws reaches the dead hand to bring to
the operating table each year hundreds of thousands of women who
undergo the agony of abortion. Each year this hand reaches out to
compel the birth of hundreds of thousands of infants who must die
before they are twelve months old.

Like many laws upon our statute books, these are being persistently
and intelligently violated. Few members of the well-to-do and wealthy
classes think for a single moment of obeying them. They limit their
families to one, two or three well-cared-for children. Usually the
prosecutor who presents the case against a birth-control advocate,
trapped by a detective hired by the Comstock Society, has no children
at all or a small family. The family of the judge who passes upon the
case is likely to be smaller still. The words "It is the law" sums it
all up for these officials when they pass sentence in court. But these
words, so magical to the official mind, have no weight when these same
officials are adjusting their own private lives. They then obey the
higher laws of their own beings--they break the obsolete statutes for
themselves while enforcing them for others.

This is not the situation with the poorer people of the United States,
however. Millions of them know nothing of reliable contraceptives.
When women of the impoverished strata of society do not break these
laws against contraceptives, they violate those laws of their inner
beings which tell them not to bring children into the world to live in
want, disease and general misery. They break the first law of nature,
which is that of self preservation. Bound by false morals, enchained
by false conceptions of religion, hindered by false laws, they endure
until the pressure becomes so great that morals, religion and laws
alike fail to restrain them. Then they for a brief respite resort to
the surgeon's instruments.

For many years the semi-official witch hunting of the Comstock
organization had a remarkable and a deadly effect. Everyone, whether
it was novelist, essayist, publicist, propagandist or artist, who
sought to throw definite light upon the forbidden subject of sex, or
upon family limitation, was prosecuted if detected. Among the many
books suppressed were works by physicians designed to warn young men
and women away from the pitfalls of venereal diseases and sexual
errors. The darkness that surrounded the whole field of sex was made
as complete as possible.

Since then the feeling of the awakened women of America has
intensified. The rapidity with which women are going into industry,
the increasing hardship and poverty of the lower strata of society,
the arousing of public conscience, have all operated to give force and
volume to the demand for woman's right to control her own body that
she may work out her own salvation.

Those who believe in strictly legal measures, as well as those who
believe both in legal measures and in open defiance of these brutal
and unjust laws, are demanding amendments to the obscenity statutes,
which shall remove information concerning contraceptives from its
present classification among things filthy and obscene.

An amendment typical of those offered is that drawn up for the New
York statutes under the direction of Samuel McClure Lindsey, of
Columbia University. The words and sentences in italics are those
which it proposed to add:

"(Section 1145.) Physicians' instruments _and information_. An article
or instrument used or applied by physicians lawfully practicing, or by
their direction or prescription, for the cure or prevention of
disease, is not an article of indecent or immoral nature or use,
within this article. The supplying of such articles to such physicians
or by their direction or prescription, is not an offense under this
article. _The giving by a duly licensed physician or registered nurse
lawfully practicing, of information or advice in regard to, or the
supplying to any person of any article or medicine for the prevention
of, conception is not a violation of any provision of this article._"

This proposed amendment should without doubt include midwives as well
as nurses. There are thousands of women who never see a nurse or a
physician. Under this section, even as it now stands, physicians have
a right to prescribe contraceptives, but few of them have claimed that
right or have even known that it has existed. It does exist, however,
and was specifically declared by the New York State Court of Appeals,
as we shall see when we consider that court's opinion in the Sanger
case, farther on in the book. It can do no harm to make the intent of
the law as regards physicians plainer, and it would be an immense step
forward to include nurses and midwives in the section. With this
addition it would remove one of the most serious obstacles to the
freedom and advancement of American womanhood. Every woman interested
in the welfare of women in general should make it her business to
agitate for such a change in the obscenity laws.

The above provision would take care of the case of the woman who is
ill, or who is plainly about to become ill, but it does not take care
of the vast body of women who have not yet ruined their health by
childbearing and who are not yet suffering from diseases complicated
by pregnancy. If this amendment had been attached to the laws in all
the states, there would still remain much to be done.

Shall we go on indefinitely driving the now healthy mother of two
children into the hands of the abortionist, where she goes in
preference to constant ill health, overwork and the witnessing of
dying and starving babies? It is each woman's duty to herself and to
society to hasten the repeal of all laws against the communication of
birth-control information now that she has the vote, she should use
her political influence to strike, first of all, at these restrictive
statutes. It is not to her credit that a district attorney, arguing
against a birth control advocate, is able to show that women have made
no effort to wipe out such laws in states where they have had the
ballot for years.

It is time that women assert themselves upon this fundamental right,
and the first and best use they can make of the ballot is in this
direction. These laws were made by men and have been instruments of
martyrdom and death for unnumbered thousands of women. Women now have
the opportunity to sweep them into the trash heap. They will do it at
once unless, like men, they use the ballot for those political honors
which many years of experience have taught men to be hollow.

It is only a question of how long it will take women to make up their
minds to this result. The law of woman's being is stronger than any
statute, and the man-made law must sooner or later give way to it. Man
has not protected woman in matters most vital to her--but she is
awaking and will sooner or later realize this and assert herself. If
she acts in mass now, it will be another cheering evidence that she is
moving consciously toward her goal.



[Footnote: This chapter, in substance, and largely in language,
appeared under the present title in the March, 1920, issue of American
Medicine (New York) and is incorporated in this book by courtesy of
that publication.]

The absurd cruelty of permitting thousands of women each year to go
through abortions to prevent the aggravation of diseases for which
they are under treatment assuredly cannot be much longer ignored by
the medical profession. Responsibility for the inestimable damage done
by the practice of permitting patients suffering from certain ailments
to become pregnant, because of their ignorance of contraceptives, when
the physician knows that if pregnancy goes to its full term it will
hasten the disease and lead to the patient's death, must in all
fairness be laid at his door.

What these diseases are and what dangers are involved in pregnancy are
known to every practitioner of standing. Specialists have not been
negligent in pointing out the situation. Eager to enhance or protect
their reputations in the profession, they continually call out to one
another: "Don't let the patient bear a child--don't let pregnancy

The warning has been sounded most often, perhaps, in the cases of
tubercular women. "In view of the fact that the tubercular process
becomes exacerbated either during pregnancy or after childbirth, most
authorities recommend that abortion be induced as a matter of routine
in all tubercular women," says Dr. J. Whitridge Williams,
obstetrician-in-chief to the Johns Hopkins Hospital, in his treatise
on _Obstetrics_. Dr. Thomas Watts Eden, obstetrician and gynecologist
to Charing Cross Hospital and member of the staffs of other notable
British hospitals, extends but does not complete the list in this
paragraph on page 652 of his _Practical Obstetrics_: "Certain of the
conditions enumerated form absolute indications for the induction of
abortion. These are nephritis, uncompensated valvular lesions of the
heart, advanced tuberculosis, insanity, irremediable malignant tumors,
hydatidiform mole, uncontrollable uterine hemorrhage, and acute

We know that abortion, when performed by skilled hands, under right
conditions, brings almost no danger to the life of the patient, and we
also know that particular diseases can be more easily combatted after
such an abortion than during a pregnancy allowed to come to full term.
But why not adopt the easier, safer, less repulsive course and prevent
conception altogether? Why put these thousands of women who each year
undergo such abortions to the pain they entail and in whatever danger
attends them?

Why continue to send home women to whom pregnancy is a grave danger
with the futile advice: "Now don't get this way again!" They are sent
back to husbands who have generations of passion and passion's claim
to outlet. They are sent back without being given information as to
how to prevent the dangerous pregnancy and are expected, presumably,
to depend for their safety upon the husband's continence. The wife and
husband are thrown together to bring about once more the same
condition. Back comes the patient again in a few months to be aborted
and told once more not to do it again.

Does any physician believe that the picture is overdrawn? I have known
of many such cases. A recent one that came under my observation was
that of a woman who suffered from a disease of the kidneys. Five times
she was taken to a maternity hospital in an ambulance after falling in
offices or in the street. One of the foremost gynecologists of America
sent her out three times without giving her information as to the
contraceptive means which would have prevented a repetition of this

Why does this situation exist? We do not question the good intent nor
the high purposes of these physicians. We know that they observe a
high standard of ethics and that they are working for the uplift of
the race. But here is a situation that is absurd--hideously absurd.
What is the matter?

Several factors contribute to this state of affairs. First, the
subject of contraception has been kept in the dark, even in medical
colleges and in hospitals. Abortion has been openly discussed as a
necessity under certain conditions, but the subject of contraception,
as any physician will admit, has not yet been brought to the front. It
has escaped specialized attention in the laboratories and the research
departments. Thus there has been no professional stamp of approval by
great bodies of experimenters. The result is that the average
physician has felt that contraceptive methods are not yet established
as certainties and has, for that reason, refused to direct _their

Specialists are so busy with their own particular subjects and general
practitioners are so taken up with their daily routine that they
cannot give to the problem of contraception the attention it must
have. Consultation rooms in charge of reputable physicians who have
specialized in contraception, assisted by registered nurses--in a
word, clinics designed for this specialty, would meet this crying
need. Such clinics should deal with each woman individually, taking
into account her particular disease, her temperament, her mentality
and her condition, both physical and economic. Their sole function
should be to prevent pregnancy. In accomplishing this purpose, a
higher standard of hygiene is attained. Not only would a burden be
removed from the physician who sends a woman to such a clinic, but
there would be an improvement in the woman's general condition which
would in a number of ways reflect itself in benefit to her family.

All this for the diseased woman. But every argument that can be made
for preventive medicine can be made for birth-control clinics for the
use of the woman who has not yet lost her health. Sound and vigorous
at the time of her marriage, she could remain so if given advice as to
by what means she could space her children and limit their number.
When she is not given such information, she is plunged blindly into
married life and a few years is likely to find her with a large
family, herself diseased and damaged, an unfit breeder of the unfit,
and still ignorant!

What are the fruits of this woeful ignorance in which women have been
kept? First, a tremendous infant mortality--hundreds of thousands of
babies dying annually of diseases which flourish in poverty and

Next, the rapid increase of the feebleminded, of criminal types and of
the pathetic victims of toil in the child-labor factories. Another
result is the familiar overcrowding of tenements, the forcing of the
children into the street, the ensuing prostitution, alcoholism and
almost universal physical and moral unfitness.

Those abhorrent conditions point to a blunder upon the part of those
to whom we have entrusted the care of the health of the individual,
the family and the race. The medical profession, neglecting the
principle involved in preventive medicine, has permitted these
conditions to come about. If they were unavoidable, we should have to
bear with them, but they are not unavoidable, as shown by facts and
figures from other countries where contraceptive information is

In Holland, for instance, where the information concerning
contraceptives has been accessible to the people, through clinics and
pamphlets, since 1881, the general death rate and the infant mortality
rate have fallen until they are the lowest in Europe. Amsterdam and
The Hague have the lowest infant mortality rates of any cities in the

It is good to know that the first of the birth-control clinics of
Holland followed shortly after a thorough and enthusiastic discussion
of the subject at an international medical congress in Amsterdam in
1878. The Dutch Neo-Malthusian League was founded in 1881. The first
birth-control clinic in the world was opened in 1885 by Dr. Aletta
Jacobs in Amsterdam. So great were the results obtained that there has
been a remarkable increase in the wealth, stamina, stature and
longevity of the people, as well as a gradual increase in the

These clinics must not be confused with the white enameled rooms which
we associate with the term in America. They are ordinary offices with
the necessary equipment, or rooms in the homes of the nurses, fitted
out for the work. They are places for consultation and examination,
opened by specially trained nurses who have been instructed by Dr. J.
Rutgers, of The Hague, secretary of the Neo-Malthusian League, who has
devoted his life to this work. There have been more than fifty nurses
trained specially for this work by Dr. Rutgers. As a nurse completes
her course of training, she establishes herself in a community and her
place of consultation is called a clinic.

The general results of this service are best judged by tables included
in the _Annual Summary of Marriages, Births and Deaths in England,
Wales, Etc., for 1912_. [Footnote: (See table on page 208.)]

In Amsterdam, the birth rate dropped from 37.1 for the period of
1881-85 to 24.7 for 1906 and 23.3 in 1912. During the same periods, the
death rate fell from 25.1 to 13.1, and in 1912 to 11.2. Infant
mortality for the same period fell from 203 for each thousand living
births to 90, and in 1912 to 64. Illegitimate fertility also
decreased. Results in other cities, as shown by the table at the end
of this chapter, are exactly similar.

In the Australian Commonwealth, where birth control is taken as a
matter of course, and information concerning contraceptives is
available to the masses, the births were so well distributed in 1915
that while the birth rate was 27.3, there was an infant death rate of
only 10.7. New Zealand, which is also one of the typical birth-control
countries, had a birth rate of 25.3 and an infant death rate of only
9.1 for the same year. These figures are in marked and happy contrast
with those for the birth registration of the United States, where the
reports for 1916 show a birth rate of 24.8, but an infant death rate
of 14.7. A similar comparison may be made with the German Empire in
1913, where there was a birth rate of 27.5 in 1913 and an infant
mortality rate of 15. In these countries, birth control information is
not so generally within the reach of the masses and, consequently, the
largest percentage of births come to that class least able to bring
children to full maturity, as indicated in the infant mortality rates.

In conclusion, I am going to make a statement which may at first seem
exaggerated, but which is, nevertheless, carefully considered. The
effort toward racial progress that is being made to-day by the medical
profession, by social workers, by the various charitable and
philanthropic organizations and by state institutions for the
physically and mentally unfit, is practically wasted. All these forces
are in a very emphatic sense marking time. They will continue to mark
time until the medical profession recognizes the fact that the ever
increasing tide of the unfit is overwhelming all that these agencies
are doing for society. They will continue to mark time until they get
at the source of these destructive conditions and apply a fundamental
remedy. That remedy is birth control.


[Footnote: Amsterdam [Malthusian (Birth Control) League started 1881;
Dr. Aletta Jacobs gave advice to poor women, 1885]:

                    1881-85   1906-10   1912

Birth rate.........  37.1      27.7     23.3 per 1,000 of population
Death rate.........  25.1      13.1     11.2 per 1,000 of population


Deaths in first
year................ 203        90      64 per thousand living births

The Hague [now headquarters of the Neo-Malthusian (Birth Control) League]:

                     1881-85   1906-10   1912

Birth rate........... 38.7     27.5     23.6 per 1,000 of population
Death rate........... 23.3     13.2     10.9 per 1,000 of population


Deaths in first
year................. 214      99       66 per thousand living births

These figures are the lowest in the whole list of death rates and
infantile mortalities in the summary of births and deaths in cities in
this report.


                    1881-85   1906-10   1912

Birth rate.......... 37.4      32.0     29.0 per 1,000 of population
Death rate.......... 24.2      13.4     11.3 per 1,000 of population


Deaths in first
year................ 209       105      79 per thousand living births

Fertility and Illegitimacy Rates:

                      1880-2  1890-2  1900-2   (Legitimate births per
                                                1,000 married women
Legitimate fertility.. 306.4   296.5   252.7    aged 15 to 45.)

                      1880-2  1890-2  1900-2  (Illegitimate births per
                                               1,000 unmarried women,
Illegitimate fertility..16.1   16.3    11.3    aged 15 to 45.)

The Hague:

                        1880-2    1890-2    1900-2

Legitimate fertility.... 346.5     303.9     255.0
Illegitimate fertility... 13.4      13.6       7.7


                         1880-2   1890-2   1900-2

Legitimate fertility.... 331.4    312.0    299.0
Illegitimate fertility... 17.4     16.5     13.1]



The silence of the centuries has been broken. The wrongs of woman and
the rights of woman have found voices. These voices differ from all
others that have been raised in woman's behalf. They are not the
individual protests of great feminine minds, nor the masculine
remedies for masculine oppression suggested by the stricken
consciences of a few men. Great voices are heard, both of women and of
men, but intermingled with them are millions of voices demanding

Let it be repeated that movements mothered by emancipated women are
often deceptive in character. The demand for suffrage, the agitation
against child labor, the regulation of working hours for women, the
insistence upon mothers' pensions are palliatives all. Yet as woman's
understanding develops and she learns to think at the urgence of her
own inner nature, rather than at the dictates of men, she moves on
from these palliatives to fundamental remedies. So at the crest of the
wave of woman's revolt comes the movement for voluntary motherhood--not
a separate, isolated movement, but the manifestation of a cosmic
force--the force that moves the wave itself.

The walls of the cloister have fallen before the cries of a rising
womanhood. The barriers of prurient puritanism are being demolished.
Free woman has torn the veil of indecency from the secrets of life to
reveal them in their power and their purity. Womanhood yet bound has
beheld and understood. A public whose thoughts and opinions had been
governed by men and by women engulfed in the old order has been
shocked awake.

Sneers and jests at birth control are giving way to a reverent
understanding of the needs of woman. They who to-day deny the right of
a woman to control her own body speak with the hardihood of invincible
ignorance or with the folly of those blind ones who in all ages have
opposed the light of progress. Few there are to insist openly that
woman remain a passive instrument of reproduction. The subject of
birth control is being lifted out of the mire into which it was cast
by puritanism and given its proper place among the sciences and the
ideals of this generation. With this effort has come an illumination
of all other social problems. Society is beginning to give ear to the
promise of modern womanhood: "When you have ceased to chain me, I
shall by the virtue of a free motherhood remake the world."

It would be miraculous indeed if that victory which has been won, had
been gained without great toil, insufferable anguish and sacrifice
such as all persons experience when they dare to brave the conventions
of the dead past or blaze a trail for a new order.

But where the vision is clear, the faith deep, forces unseen rally to
assist and carry one over barriers which would otherwise have been
insurmountable. No part of this wave of woman's emancipation has won
its way without such vision and faith.

This is the one movement in which pioneering was unnecessary. The cry
for deliverance always goes up. It is its own pioneer. The facts have
always stared us in the face. No one who has worked among women can be
ignorant of them. I remember that ever since I was a child, the idea
of large families associated itself with poverty in my mind. As I grew
to womanhood, and found myself working in hospitals and in the homes
of the rich and the poor, the association between the two ideas grew

In every home of the poor, women asked me the same question. As far
back as 1900, I began to inquire of my associates among the nurses
what one could tell these worried women who asked constantly: "What
can I do?" It is the voice of the elemental urge of woman--it has
always been there; and whether we have heeded it or neglected it, we
have always heard it. Out of this cry came the birth control movement.

Economic conditions have naturally made this elemental need more
plain; sometimes they have lent a more desperate voice to woman's cry
for freedom. Men and women have arisen since Knowlton and Robert Dale
Owen, to advocate the use of contraceptives, but aside from these two
none has come forward to separate it from other issues of _sex_
freedom. But the birth control movement as a movement for woman's
_basic_ freedom was born of that unceasing cry of the socially
repressed, spiritually stifled woman who is constantly demanding:
"What can I do to avoid more children?"

When it came time to arouse new public interest in birth control and
organize a movement, it was found expedient to employ direct and
drastic methods to awaken a slumbering public. The Woman Rebel, a
monthly magazine, was established to proclaim the gospel of revolt.
When its mission was accomplished and the words "birth control" were
on their way to be a symbol of woman's freedom in all civilized
tongues, it went out of existence.

The deceptive "obscenity law," invoked oftener to repress womanhood
and smother scientific knowledge than to restrain the distribution of
verbal and pictorial pornography, was deliberately challenged. This
course had two purposes. It challenged the constitutionality of the
law and thereby brought knowledge of contraceptives to hundreds of
thousands of women.

The first general, organized effort reached in various ways to all
parts of the United States. Particular attention was paid to the
mining districts of West Virginia and Montana, the mill towns of New
England and the cotton districts of the Southern states. Men and women
from all these districts welcomed the movement. They sent letters
pledging their loyalty and their active assistance. They participated
directly and indirectly in the protest which awakened the country.

As time went on, the work was extended to various foreign elements of
the population, this being made possible by the enthusiastic
cooperation of workers who speak the foreign languages.

Leagues were formed to organize those who favored changing the laws.
Lectures were delivered throughout the United States. Articles were
written by eminent physicians, scientists, reformers and
revolutionists. Debates were arranged. Newspapers and magazines of all
kinds, classes and languages gave the subject of birth control serious
attention, taking one side or the other of the discussion that was
aroused. New books on the subject began to appear. Books by foreign
authors were reprinted and distributed in the United States. The Birth
Control Review, edited by voluntary effort and supported by a stock
company of women who make contributions instead of taking dividends,
was founded and continues its work.

After a year's study in foreign countries for the purpose of
supplementing the knowledge gained in my fourteen years as a nurse, I
came back to the United States determined to open a clinic. I had
decided that there could be no better way of demonstrating to the
public the necessity of birth control and the welcome it would receive
than by taking the knowledge of contraceptive methods directly to
those who most needed it.

A clinic was opened in Brooklyn. There 480 women received information
before the police closed the consulting rooms and arrested Ethel
Byrne, a registered nurse, Fania Mindell, a translator, and myself.
The purpose of this clinic was to demonstrate to the public the
practicability and the necessity of such institutions. All women who
came seeking information were workingmen's wives. All had children. No
unmarried girls came at all. Men came whose wives had nursing children
and could not come. Women came from the farther parts of Long Island,
from cities in Massachusetts and Connecticut and even more distant
places. Mothers brought their married daughters. Some whose ages were
from 25 to 35 looked fifty, but the clinic gave them new hope to face
the years ahead. These women invariably expressed their love for
children, but voiced a common plea for means to avoid others, in order
that they might give sufficient care to those already born. They
wanted them "to grow up decent."

For ten days the two rooms of this clinic were crowded to their
utmost. Then came the police. We were hauled off to jail and
eventually convicted of a "crime."

Ethel Byrne instituted a hunger strike for eleven days, which
attracted attention throughout the nation. It brought to public notice
the fact that women were ready to die for the principle of voluntary
motherhood. So strong was the sentiment evoked that Governor Whitman
pardoned Mrs. Byrne.

No single act of self-sacrifice in the history of the birth-control
movement has done more to awaken the conscience of the public or to
arouse the courage of women, than did Ethel Byrne's deed of
uncompromising resentment at the outrage of jailing women who were
attempting to disseminate knowledge which would emancipate the
motherhood of America.

Courage like hers and like that of others who have undergone arrest
and imprisonment, or who night after night and day after day have
faced street crowds to speak or to sell literature--the faith and the
untiring labors of still others who have not come into public notice--have
given the movement its dauntless character and assure the final victory.

One dismal fact had become clear long before the Brownsville clinic
was opened. The medical profession as a whole had ignored the tragic
cry of womanhood for relief from forced maternity. The private
practitioners, one after another, shook their heads and replied: "It
cannot be done. It is against the law," and the same answer came from
clinics and public hospitals.

The decision of the New York State Court of Appeals has disposed of
that objection, however, though as yet few physicians have cared to
make public the fact that they take advantage of the decision. While
the decision of the lower courts in my own case was upheld, partly
because I was a nurse and not a physician, the court incidentally held
that under the laws as they now stand in New York, any physician has a
right to impart information concerning contraceptives to women as a
measure for curing or preventing disease. The United States Supreme
Court threw out my appeal without consideration of the merits of the
case. Therefore, the decision of the New York State Court of Appeals
stands. And under that decision, a physician has a right, and it is
therefore his duty, to prescribe contraceptives in such cases, at
least, as those involving disease.

It is true that Section 1142 of the Penal Code of New York State does
not except the medical man, and does not allow him to instruct his
patient in birth control methods, even though she is suffering from
tuberculosis, syphilis, kidney disorders or heart disease. Without
looking farther, the physicians had let that section go at its face
value. No doctor had questioned either its purpose or its legal scope.
The medical profession was content to let this apparent limitation
upon its rights stand, and it remained for a woman to go to jail to
demonstrate the fact that under another section of the same code--1145--the
physician had the vital right just described.

It is safe to say that many physicians do not even yet know of their
legal rights in this matter.

But here is what the New York State Court of Appeals said on January
8, 1918, in an opinion thus far unquestioned and which is the law of
the state:

"Secondly, by section 1145 of the Penal Law, physicians are excepted
from the provisions of this act under circumstances therein mentioned.
This section reads: 'An article or instrument, used or applied by
physicians lawfully practicing, or by their direction or prescription,
for the cure or prevention of disease, is not an article of indecent
or immoral nature or use, within this article. The supplying of such
articles to such physicians or by their direction or prescription, is
not an offense under this article.'

"This exception in behalf of physicians does not permit advertisements
regarding such matters, nor promiscuous advice to patients
irrespective of their condition, but it is broad enough to protect the
physician who in good faith gives such help or advice to a married
person to cure or prevent disease. 'Disease,' by Webster's
International Dictionary, is defined to be, 'an alteration in the
state of the body, or of some of its organs, interrupting or
disturbing the performance of the vital functions, and causing or
threatening pain and sickness; illness, disorder.'

"The protection thus afforded the physician would also extend to the
druggist, or vendor, acting upon the physician's prescription or

Section 1142, which shamelessly classes contraceptive information with
abortion and things obscene, still stands, but under the decision of
the Court of Appeals, it is the law of New York State that physicians
have the right which they were seemingly denied. Such is probably the
fact, also, in many other states, for the so-called "obscenity" laws
are modelled more or less, after the same pattern.

One of the chief results of the Brownsville clinic was that of
establishing for physicians a right which they neglected to establish
for themselves, but which they are bound, in the very nature of
things, to exercise to an increasing degree. Similar tests by women in
other states would doubtless establish the right elsewhere in America.

We know of some thirty-five arrests of women and men who have dared
entrenched prejudice and the law to further the cause of birth
control. The persistent work in behalf of the movement, attended as it
was by danger of fines and jail sentences, seemed to puzzle the
authorities. Sometimes they dismissed the arrested persons, sometimes
they fined them, sometimes they imprisoned them. But the protests went
on, and through these self-sacrifices, word of the movement went
constantly to more and more people.

Each of these arrests brought added publicity. Each became a center of
local agitation. Each brought a part of the public, at least, face to
face with the issue between the women of America and this barbarous

Many thousands of letters have been answered and thousands of women
have been given personal consultations. Each letter and each
consultation means another center of influence from which the gospel
of voluntary motherhood spreads.

Forced thus to the front, the problems of birth control and the right
of voluntary motherhood have been brought more and more to the
attention of medical students, nurses, midwives, physicians,
scientists and sociologists. A new literature, ranging all the way
from discussion of the means of preventing conception to the social,
political, ethical, moral and spiritual possibilities of birth
control, is coming into being. Woman's cry for liberty is infusing
itself into the thoughts and the consciences and the aspirations of
the intellectual leaders as well as into the idealism of society.

It is but a few years since it was said of The Woman Rebel that it was
"the first un-veiled head raised in America." It is but a few years
since men as well as women trembled at the temerity of a public
discussion in which the subject of sex was mentioned.

But, measured in progress, it is a far cry from those days. The public
has read of birth control on the first page of its newspapers. It has
discussed it in meetings and in clubs. It has been a favorite topic of
discussion at correct teas. The scientist is giving it reverent and
profound attention. Even the minister, seeking to keep abreast of the
times, proclaims it from the pulpit. And everywhere, serious-minded
women and men, those with the vision, with a comprehension of present
and future needs of society, are working to bring this message to
those who have not yet realized its immense and regenerating import.

The American public, in a word, has been permeated with the message of
birth control. Its reaction to that message has been exceedingly
encouraging. People by the thousands have flocked to the meetings.
Only the official mind, serving ancient prejudices under the cloak of
"law and order," has been in opposition.

It is plain that puritanism is in the throes of a lingering death. If
anyone doubts it, let it be remembered that the same people who, a few
years ago, formed the official opinion of puritanism have so far
forsaken puritanism as to flood the country with millions of pamphlets
discussing sex matters and venereal disease. This literature was
distributed by the United States Government, by state governments, by
the Y.M.C.A., the Y.W.C.A., and by similar organizations. It treated
the physiology of sex far more definitely than has birth-control
literature. This official educational barrage was at once a splendid
salute to the right of women and men to know their own bodies and the
last heavy firing in the main battle against ignorance in the field of
sex. What remains now is but to take advantage of the victories.

What does it all mean? It means that American womanhood is blasting
its way through the débris of crumbling moral and religious systems
toward freedom. It means that the path is all but clear. It means that
woman has but to press on, more courageously, more confidently, with
her face set more firmly toward the goal.



What is the goal of woman's upward struggle? Is it voluntary
motherhood? Is it general freedom? Or is it the birth of a new race?
For freedom is not fruitless, but prolific of higher things. Being the
most sacred aspect of woman's freedom, voluntary motherhood is
motherhood in its highest and holiest form. It is motherhood
unchained--motherhood ready to obey its own urge to remake the world.

Voluntary motherhood implies a new morality--a vigorous, constructive,
liberated morality. That morality will, first of all, prevent the
submergence of womanhood into motherhood. It will set its face against
the conversion of women into mechanical maternity and toward the
creation of a new race.

Woman's rôle has been that of an incubator and little more. She has
given birth to an incubated race. She has given to her children what
little she was permitted to give, but of herself, of her personality,
almost nothing. In the mass, she has brought forth quantity, not
quality. The requirement of a male dominated civilization has been
numbers. She has met that requirement.

It is the essential function of voluntary motherhood to choose its own
mate, to determine the time of childbearing and to regulate strictly
the number of offspring. Natural affection upon her part, instead of
selection dictated by social or economic advantage, will give her a
better fatherhood for her children. The exercise of her right to
decide how many children she will have and when she shall have them
will procure for her the time necessary to the development of other
faculties than that of reproduction. She will give play to her tastes,
her talents and her ambitions. She will become a full-rounded human

Thus and only thus will woman be able to transmit to her offspring
those qualities which make for a greater race.

The importance of developing these qualities in the mothers for
transmission to the children is apparent when we recall certain
well-established principles of biology. In all of the animal species below
the human, motherhood has a clearly discernible superiority over
fatherhood. It is the first pulse of organic life. Fatherhood is the
fertilizing element. Its development, compared to that of the mother
cell, is comparatively new. Likewise, its influence upon the progeny
is comparatively small. There are weighty authorities who assert that
through the female alone comes those modifications of form, capacity
and ability which constitute evolutionary progress. It was the mothers
who first developed cunning in chase, ingenuity in escaping enemies,
skill in obtaining food, and adaptability. It was they also who
attained unfailing discretion in leadership, adaptation to environment
and boldness in attack. When the animal kingdom as a whole is
surveyed, these stand out as distinctly feminine traits. They stand
out also as the characteristics by which the progress of species is

Why is all this true of the lower species yet not true of human
beings? The secret is revealed by one significant fact--the female's
functions in these animal species are not limited to motherhood alone.
Every organ and faculty is fully employed and perfected. Through the
development of the individual mother, better and higher types of
animals are produced and carried forward. In a word, natural law makes
the female the expression and the conveyor of racial efficiency.

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. Then and then only can the mother cease to be
an incubator and be a mother indeed. Then only can she transmit to her
sons and daughters the qualities which make strong individuals and,
collectively, a strong race.

Voluntary motherhood also implies the right of marriage without
maternity. Two utterly different functions are developed in the two
relationships. In order to give the mate relationship its full and
free play, it is necessary that no woman should be a mother against
her will. There are other reasons, of course--reasons more frequently
emphasized--but the reason just mentioned should never be overlooked.
It is as important to the race as to the woman, for through it is
developed that high love impulse which, conveyed to the child, attunes
and perfects its being.

Marriage, quite aside from parentage, also gives two people invaluable
experience. When parentage follows in its proper time, it is a better
parentage because of the mutual adjustment and development--because of
the knowledge thus gained. Few couples are fitted to understand the
sacred mystery of child life until they have solved some of the
problems arising out of their own love lives.

Maternal love, which usually follows upon a happy, satisfying mate
love, becomes a strong and urgent craving. It then exists for two
powerful, creative functions. First, for its own sake, and then for
the sake of further enriching the conjugal relationship. It is from
such soil that the new life should spring. It is the inherent right of
the new life to have its inception in such physical ground, in such
spiritual atmosphere. The child thus born is indeed a flower of love
and tremendous joy. It has within it the seeds of courage and of
power. This child will have the greatest strength to surmount
hardships, to withstand tyrannies, to set still higher the mark of
human achievement.

Shall we pause here to speak again of the rights of womanhood, in
itself and of itself, to be absolutely free? We have talked of this
right so much in these pages, only to learn that in the end, a free
womanhood turns of its own desire to a free and happy motherhood, a
motherhood which does not submerge the woman, but which is enriched
because she is unsubmerged. When we voice, then, the necessity of
setting the feminine spirit utterly and absolutely free, thought turns
naturally not to rights of the woman, nor indeed of the mother, but to
the rights of the child--of all children in the world. For this is the
miracle of free womanhood, that in its freedom it becomes the race
mother and opens its heart in fruitful affection for humanity.

How narrow, how pitifully puny has become motherhood in its chains!
The modern motherhood enfolds one or two adoring children of its own
blood, and cherishes, protects and loves them. It does not reach out
to all children. When motherhood is a high privilege, not a sordid,
slavish requirement, it will encircle all. Its deep, passionate
intensity will overflow the limits of blood relationship. Its beauty
will shine upon all, for its beauty is of the soul, whose power of
enfoldment is unbounded.

When motherhood becomes the fruit of a deep yearning, not the result
of ignorance or accident, its children will become the foundation of a
new race. There will be no killing of babies in the womb by abortion,
nor through neglect in foundling homes, nor will there be infanticide.
Neither will children die by inches in mills and factories. No man
will dare to break a child's life upon the wheel of toil.

Voluntary motherhood will not be passive, resigned, or weak. Out of
its craving will come forth a fierceness of love for its fruits that
will make such men as remain unawakened stand aghast at its fury when
offended. The tigress is less terrible in defense of her offspring
than will be the human mother. The daughters of such women will not be
given over to injustice and to prostitution; the sons will not perish
in industry nor upon the battle field. Nor could they meet these all
too common fates if an undaunted motherhood were there to defend.
Childhood and youth will be too valuable in the eyes of society to
waste them in the murderous mills of blind greed and hate.

This is the dawn. Womanhood shakes off its bondage. It asserts its
right to be free. In its freedom, its thoughts turn to the race. Like
begets like. We gather perfect fruit from perfect trees. The race is
but the amplification of its mother body, the multiplication of flesh
habitations--beautified and perfected for souls akin to the mother

The relentless efforts of reactionary authority to suppress the
message of birth control and of voluntary motherhood are futile. The
powers of reaction cannot now prevent the feminine spirit from
breaking its bonds. When the last fetter falls the evils that have
resulted from the suppression of woman's will to freedom will pass.
Child slavery, prostitution, feeblemindedness, physical deterioration,
hunger, oppression and war will disappear from the earth.

In their subjection women have not been brave enough, strong enough,
pure enough to bring forth great sons and daughters. Abused soil
brings forth stunted growths. An abused motherhood has brought forth a
low order of humanity. Great beings come forth at the call of high
desire. Fearless motherhood goes out in love and passion for justice
to all mankind. It brings forth fruits after its own kind. When the
womb becomes fruitful through the desire of an aspiring love, another
Newton will come forth to unlock further the secrets of the earth and
the stars. 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.

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