header by Emerson Taymor, 2005
1. The Colonial Era: 1607-1763
2. The Revolutionary Era:
3. The Early National Period:
4. Jacksonian America: 1824-1848
5. Antebellum America: 1848-1860
6. The Civil War Era: 1861-1877
7. The Gilded Age: 1877-1901
8. Progressivism: 1901-1920
9. The Twenties
10. Depression and New Deal: 1929-1939
11. World War II: 1939-1945
12. Early Cold War: 1945-1963
13. Social Ferment: 1945-1960
14. The Sixties
15. The Seventies and After
Margaret Sanger, "The Case for Birth Control" (1924)
Everywhere we look, we see poverty and large families going hand in hand.
We see hordes of children whose parents cannot feed, clothe, or educate
even one half of the number born to them. We see sick, harassed, broken
mothers whose health and nerves cannot bear the strain of further child-bearing.
We see fathers growing despondent and desperate, because their labor
cannot bring the necessary wage to keep their growing families. We see
that those parents who are least fit to reproduce the race are having
the largest number of children; while people of wealth, leisure, and
education are having small families.
It is generally conceded by sociologists and scientists that a nation cannot
go on indefinitely multiplying without eventually reaching the point when
population presses upon means of subsistence. While in this country there
is perhaps no need for immediate alarm on this account, there are many
other reasons for demanding birth control. At present, for the poor mother,
there is only one alternative to the necessity of bearing children year
after year, regardless of her health, of the welfare of the children she
already has, and of the income of the family. This alternative is abortion,
which is so common as to be almost universal, especially where there are
rigid laws against imparting information for the prevention of conception.
It has been estimated that there are about one million abortions in the
United States each year.
To force poor mothers to resort to this dangerous and healthdestroying
method of curtailing their families is cruel, wicked, and heartless, and
it is often the mothers who care most about the welfare of their children
who are willing to undergo any pain or risk to prevent the coming of infants
for whom they cannot properly care.
There are definite reasons when and why parents should not have children,
which will be conceded by most thoughtful people.
First -- Children should not be born when either parent has an inheritable
disease, such as insanity, feeble-mindedness, epilepsy, or syphilis.
Second -- When the mother is suffering from tuberculosis, kidney disease,
heart disease, or pelvic deformity.
Third -- When either parent has gonorrhea. This disease in the mother is
the cause of 90 percent of blindness in newborn babies.
Fourth -- When children already born are not normal, even though both parents
are in good physical and mental condition.
Fifth -- Not until the woman is twenty-three years old and the man twenty-five.
Sixth -- Not until the previous baby is at least three years old. This
gives a year to recover from the physical ordeal of the birth of the baby,
a year to rest, be normal and enjoy her motherhood, and another year to
prepare for the coming of the next.
We want mothers to be fit. We want them to conceive in joy and gladness.
We want them to carry their babies during the nine months in a sound and
healthy body and with a happy, joyous, hopeful mind. It is almost impossible
to imagine the suffering caused to women, the mental agony they endure,
when their days and nights are haunted by the fear of undesired pregnancy.
Seventh -- Children should not be born to parents whose economic circumstances
do not guarantee enough to provide the children with the necessities of
A couple who can take care of two children and bring them up decently in
health and comfort, give them an education and start them fairly in life,
do more for their country and for mankind than the couple who recklessly
reproduce ten or twelve children, some of them to die in infancy, others
to survive but to enter the mill or factory at an early age, and all to
sink to that level of degradation where charity, either state or private,
is necessary to keep them alive. The man who cannot support three children
should not have ten, notwithstanding all pleas of the militarists for numbers.
Eighth -- A woman should not bear children when exhausted from labor. This
especially applies to women who marry after spending several years in industrial
or commercial life. Conception should not take place until she is in good
health and has overcome her fatigue.
Ninth -- Not for two years after marriage should a couple undertake the
great responsibility of becoming parents. Thousands of young people enter
marriage without the faintest idea of what marriage involves. They do not
know its spiritual responsibilities. If children are born quickly and plentifully,
people consider that the marriage is justified. I claim that this is barbaric
and wrong. It is wrong for the wife, for the man, for the children.
It is impossible for two young people to really know each other until they
have lived together in marriage. After the closeness and intimacy of that
relation there often comes to the woman a rude awakening; the devoted lover
becomes careless and dissatisfied. If she becomes pregnant immediately,
she becomes physically disturbed, nervous, and irritable. The girl has
changed, and the boy who knew her as a happy smiling sweetheart finds her
disagreeable and disgruntled. Of course thousands of people learn to adjust
themselves. Nevertheless, I maintain that young people should marry early
and wait at least two years to adjust their own lives, to play and read
together and to build up a cultural and spiritual friendship. Then will
come the intense desire to call into being a little child to share their
love and happiness. When children are conceived in love and born into an
atmosphere of happiness, then will parenthood be a glorious privilege,
and the children will grow to resemble gods. This can only be obtained
through the knowledge and practice of Birth Control.
P.S. -- The American Birth Control League desires that the instruction
in birth control should be given by the medical profession. Only through
individual care and treatment can a woman be given the best and safest
means of controlling her offspring. We do not favor the indiscriminate
diffusion of unreliable and unsafe birth control advice.