Margaret Sanger’s “The Pivot of Civilization” Reviewed

Margaret Sanger and the Forced Sterilization of Americans


https://www.ispeech.org

Once we have accomplished the first tentative steps toward the creation of a real civilization, the task of freeing the spirit of mankind from the bondage of ignorance, prejudice and mental passivity which is more fettering now than ever in the history of humanity, will be facilitated a thousand-fold. The great central problem, and one which must be taken first is the abolition of the shame and fear of sex. We must teach men the overwhelming power of this radiant force. We must make them understand that uncontrolled, it is a cruel tyrant, but that controlled and directed, it may be used to transmute and sublimate the everyday world into a realm of beauty and joy. Through sex, mankind may attain the great spiritual illumination which will transform the world, which will light up the only path to an earthly paradise. So must we necessarily and inevitably conceive of sex-expression. The instinct is here. None of us can avoid it. It is in our power to make it a thing of beauty and a joy forever: or to deny it, as have the ascetics of the past, to revile this expression and then to pay the penalty, the bitter penalty that Society to-day is paying in innumerable ways.

If I am criticized for the seeming “selfishness” of this conception it will be through a misunderstanding. The individual is fulfilling his duty to society as a whole by not self-sacrifice but by self- development. He does his best for the world not by dying for it, not by increasing the sum total of misery, disease and unhappiness, but by increasing his own stature, by releasing a greater energy, by being active instead of passive, creative instead of destructive. This is fundamentally the greatest truth to be discovered by womankind at large. And until women are awakened to their pivotal function in the creation of a new civilization, that new era will remain an impossible and fantastic dream. The new civilization can become a glorious reality only with the awakening of woman’s now dormant qualities of strength, courage, and vigor. As a great thinker of the last century pointed out, not only to her own health and happiness is the physical degeneracy of woman destructive, but to our whole race. The physical and psychic power of woman is more indispensable to the well-being and power of the human race than that even of man, for the strength and happiness of the child is more organically united with that of the mother.

Parallel with the awakening of woman’s interest in her own fundamental nature, in her realization that her greatest duty to society lies in self-realization, will come a greater and deeper love for all of humanity. For in attaining a true individuality of her own she will understand that we are all individuals, that each human being is essentially implicated in every question or problem which involves the well-being of the humblest of us. So to-day we are not to meet the great problems of defect and delinquency in any merely sentimental or superficial manner, but with the firmest and most unflinching attitude toward the true interest of our fellow beings. It is from no mere feeling of brotherly love or sentimental philanthropy that we women must insist upon enhancing the value of child life. It is because we know that, if our children are to develop to their full capabilities, all children must be assured a similar opportunity. Every single case of inherited defect, every malformed child, every congenitally tainted human being brought into this world is of infinite importance to that poor individual; but it is of scarcely less importance to the rest of us and to all of our children who must pay in one way or another for these biological and racial mistakes. We look forward in our vision of the future to children brought into the world because they are desired, called from the unknown by a fearless and conscious passion, because women and men need children to complete the symmetry of their own development, no less than to perpetuate the race. They shall be called into a world enhanced and made beautiful by the spirit of freedom and romance—into a world wherein the creatures of our new day, unhampered and unbound by the sinister forces of prejudice and immovable habit, may work out their own destinies. Perhaps we may catch fragmentary glimpses of this new life in certain societies of the past, in Greece perhaps; but in all of these past civilizations these happy groups formed but a small exclusive section of the population. To-day our task is greater; for we realize that no section of humanity can be reclaimed without the regeneration of the whole.

I look, therefore, into a Future when men and women will not dissipate their energy in the vain and fruitless search for content outside of themselves, in far-away places or people. Perfect masters of their own inherent powers, controlled with a fine understanding of the art of life and of love, adapting themselves with pliancy and intelligence to the milieu in which they find themselves, they will unafraid enjoy life to the utmost. Women will for the first time in the unhappy history of this globe establish a true equilibrium and “balance of power” in the relation of the sexes. The old antagonism will have disappeared, the old ill-concealed warfare between men and women. For the men themselves will comprehend that in this cultivation of the human garden they will be rewarded a thousand times. Interest in the vague sentimental fantasies of extra-mundane existence, in pathological or hysterical flights from the realities of our earthliness, will have through atrophy disappeared, for in that dawn men and women will have come to the realization, already suggested, that here close at hand is our paradise, our everlasting abode, our Heaven and our eternity. Not by leaving it and our essential humanity behind us, nor by sighing to be anything but what we are, shall we ever become ennobled or immortal. Not for woman only, but for all of humanity is this the field where we must seek the secret of eternal life.

[1] Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences. Volume XV.

[2] Conklin, The Direction of Human Evolution. “When it isremembered that mental capacity is inherited, that parents of low intelligence generally produce children of low intelligence, and that on the average they have more children than persons of high intelligence, and furthermore, when we consider that the intellectual capacity or ‘mental age’ can be changed very little by education, we are in a position to appreciate the very serious condition which confronts us as a nation.” p. 108.

 

APPENDIX

PRINCIPLES AND AIMS OF THE AMERICAN BIRTH CONTROL LEAGUE

PRINCIPLES:

The complex problems now confronting America as the result of the practice of reckless procreation are fast threatening to grow beyond human control.

Everywhere we see poverty and large families going hand in hand.

Those least fit to carry on the race are increasing most rapidly. People who cannot support their own offspring are encouraged by Church and State to produce large families. Many of the children thus begotten are diseased or feeble-minded; many become criminals. The burden of supporting these unwanted types has to be bourne by the healthy elements of the nation. Funds that should be used to raise the standard of our civilization are diverted to the maintenance of those who should never have been born.

In addition to this grave evil we witness the appalling waste of women’s health and women’s lives by too frequent pregnancies. These unwanted pregnancies often provoke the crime of abortion, or alternatively multiply the number of child-workers and lower the standard of living.

To create a race of well born children it is essential that the function of motherhood should be elevated to a position of dignity, and this is impossible as long as conception remains a matter of chance.

We hold that children should be:

1. Conceived in love;

2. Born of the mother’s conscious desire;

3. And only begotten under conditions whichrender possible the heritage of health.

Therefore we hold that every woman must possess the power and freedom to prevent conception except when these conditions can be satisfied.

Every mother must realize her basic position in human society. She must be conscious of her responsibility to the race in bringing children into the world.

Instead of being a blind and haphazard consequence of uncontrolled instinct, motherhood must be made the responsible and self-directed means of human expression and regeneration.

These purposes, which are of fundamental importance to the whole of our nation and to the future of mankind, can only be attained if women first receive practical scientific education in the means of Birth Control. That, therefore, is the first object to which the efforts of this League will be directed.

AIMS:

The American Birth Control League aims to enlighten and educate all sections of the American public in the various aspects of the dangers of uncontrolled procreation and the imperative necessity of a world program of Birth Control.

The League aims to correlate the findings of scientists, statisticians, investigators, and social agencies in all fields. To make this possible, it is necessary to organize various departments:

RESEARCH: To collect the findings of scientists, concerning the relation of reckless breeding to the evils of delinquency, defect and dependence;

INVESTIGATION: To derive from these scientifically ascertained facts and figures, conclusions which may aid all public health and social agencies in the study of problems of maternal and infant mortality, child-labor, mental and physical defects and delinquence in relation to the practice of reckless parentage.

HYGIENIC AND PHYSIOLOGICAL instruction by the Medical profession to mothers and potential mothers in harmless and reliable methods of Birth Control in answer to their requests for such knowledge.

STERILIZATION of the insane and feebleminded and the encouragement of this operation upon those afflicted with inherited or transmissible diseases, with the understanding that sterilization does not deprive the individual of his or her sex expression, but merely renders him incapable of producing children.

EDUCATIONAL: The program of education includes: The enlightenment of the public at large, mainly through the education of leaders of thought and opinion—teachers, ministers, editors and writers—to the moral and scientific soundness of the principles of Birth Control and the imperative necessity of its adoption as the basis of national and racial progress.

POLITICAL AND LEGISLATIVE: To enlist the support and cooperation of legal advisers, statesmen and legislators in effecting the removal of state and federal statutes which encourage dysgenic breeding, increase the sum total of disease, misery and poverty and prevent the establishment of a policy of national health and strength.

ORGANIZATION: To send into the various States of the Union field workers to enlist the support and arouse the interest of the masses, to the importance of Birth Control so that laws may be changed and the establishment of clinics made possible in every State.

INTERNATIONAL: This department aims to cooperate with similar organizations in other countries to study Birth Control in its relations to the world population problem, food supplies, national and racial conflicts, and to urge upon all international bodies organized to promote world peace, the consideration of these aspects of international amity.

THE AMERICAN BIRTH CONTROL LEAGUE proposes to publish in its official organ “The Birth Control Review,” reports and studies on the relationship of controlled and uncontrolled populations to national and world problems.

The American Birth Control League also proposes to hold an annual Conference to bring together the workers of the various departments so that each worker may realize the inter-relationship of all the various phases of the problem to the end that National education will tend to encourage and develop the powers of self-direction, self-reliance, and independence in the individuals of the community instead of dependence for relief upon public or private charities.dogshit_sanger

 

 

End of Project Gutenberg Etext Pivot of Civilization, By Margaret Sanger

 

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