Books Sep 25, 2013 at 4:00 am

A New Cartoon Biography Reinvestigates a Birth Control Pioneer


" I wish to take advantage of the present opportunity to point out that the unbalance between the birth rate of the "unfit" and the "fit", admittedly the greatest present menace to civilization, can never be rectified by the inauguration of a cradle competition between these two classes. In this matter, the example of the inferior classes, the fertility of the feeble-minded, the mentally defective, the poverty-stricken classes, should not be held up for emulation to the mentally and physically fit though less fertile parents of the educated and well-to-do classes. On the contrary, the most urgent problem today is how to limit and discourage the over-fertility of the mentally and physically defective."

Margaret Sanger, "The Eugenic Value of Birth Control Propaganda," Oct 1921.…

Sanger believed that lighter-skinned races were superior to darker-skinned races, and admitted to speaking at KKK rallies...

See p. 45, The selected papers of Margaret Sanger, Volume 1
Our Dear Sib is absolutely correct. Unless a person is absolutely ideologically pure and with a spotless moral record - particularly when compared to today's values - anything they advocate for is completely illegitimate.

Another gem by her:

"The lower down in the scale of human development we go the less sexual control we find. It is said that the aboriginal Australian, the lowest known species of the human family, just a step higher than the chimpanzee in brain development, has so little sexual control that police authority alone prevents him from obtaining sexual satisfaction on the streets."

Margaret Sanger was an arch-racist, plain and simple. No other merits of her can erase this fact.
Which does not mean that she can not be honored in the way Paul suggests here - a lot of people have such mixed records, including some whose heads are on money, but glossing over these parts of hers, denouncing them as charges trumped up by pro-lifers, isn't helpful.
I'm not sure Sanger was much more of a racist than the average person of her times. Not much more of a eugenicist either. Most states had mandatory sterilization so her views were plenty mainstream. She argued with other eugenicists because she opposed euthanizing the "unfit". Which was relatively enlightened.

We should learn about historical figures in context, but probably not put any eugenicists on the $20 bill. But then we should also remove all the slaveholders from our money. And anyone with a policy of genocide against the Cherokee. And so on.

If it were up to me we'd put pretty flowers and trees on our money. And read history better.
Well worth remembering too, that Sanger's first real exposure to radical politics was in the Labor Movement, she was clubbed by the police in Lawrence Mass, during the Bread and Roses Strike,

Of course our money lacks pictures of Mary Harris (Mother) Jones, too, sadly few know that Mother Jones was a real person.

Then there's Lucy Parsons and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn to name just two more names you won't read about in school
A product of her time. Just like Santa Claus, slave owner/master NSA-like spy/serial home invader and yet he gets his own $5 bank note and national holiday.…
No eugenicists on money. Have we forgotten that this movement led to one of the greatest crimes in history? For fucks sake. And take off the slaveholders as well. Put an eagle, an astronaut on the Moon, or other equivalent icons on it. Lincoln can stay.
Right wants to dilute labor as much as possible with high immigration and birth rates.

Left wants to cram its cities full of slave voters so it can centralize control and land grab.

Apparently Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood are attempting genocide of black people. Or so says my (Democratic) state rep. (Also, adoptive parents can't love their children as well as biological parents.)
@9: Then you'll just have people complaining that Nazi rocket scientists put us on the moon. One can never win the race for moral superiority in this manner.
Yeah, sorry, but no sale. You can honor Sanger for her pioneering work in making contraception and abortion available without trying to whitewash her virulent racism.

"She was of her time" is no goddamn excuse: plenty of her peers managed to get this shit right.
The Mormon church whitewashes all the time, @13. Why not Margaret Sanger?
Even Lincoln thought blacks were inferior. The old timey times weren't that great. Neither are the new times. Ya gotta take the bad with the good.
#1, 13

From 1939 to 1942 Sanger was an honorary delegate of the Birth Control Federation of America, which included a supervisory role — alongside Mary Lasker and Clarence Gamble — in the Negro Project, an effort to deliver birth control to poor blacks.

Sanger wanted the Negro Project to include black ministers in leadership roles, but other supervisors did not. To emphasize the benefits of involving black community leaders, she wrote to Gamble "we do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members."…
Oh its one of THOSE discussions again the ones that seems to end up with only two sides available:
The side that thinks that any misdoing or problem is forgiven if its far removed. Or the side that thinks that historical people who made something relevant HAD to be able to distance themselves from the rest of society and be some kind of magical saints.

Yay for historical fiction debates!
@16: Yes, she said that she did not want word to go out that she wanted to exterminate the Negro population, because she did not want to exterminate the Negro population.

There is absolutely zero evidence that she believed in racial eugenics other than that specific quote that is always, always ripped out of context.

Birth control is not eugenics. Making birth control available to people who need it--the urban poor, who were and are disproportionately African-American--is not an attempt at racial cleansing.

Margaret Sanger had unenlightened views on race. She bought into ideas that are anathema to us today because we have the benefit of hindsight to see where they led us. That does not make her Hitler in a dress.

"...she wrote to Gamble "we do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population..."

Two ways to read that.

#18 explained it better so I'll save my typing.

Please wait...

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