The Pivot of Civilization
by
Margaret Sanger

Part 1 out of 3




By Margaret Sanger




To Alice Drysdale Vickery

Whose prophetic vision of liberated womanhood has been an inspiration

``I dream of a world in which the spirits of women are flames
stronger than fire, a world in which modesty has become courage
and yet remains modesty, a world in which women are as unlike
men as ever they were in the world I sought to destroy, a world
in which women shine with a loveliness of self-revelation as
enchanting as ever the old legends told, and yet a world which
would immeasurably transcend the old world in the self-sacrificing
passion of human service. I have dreamed of that world ever since
I began to dream at all.''

Havelock Ellis




CONTENTS

Introduction By H. G. Wells

Chapter
I A New Truth Emerges
II Conscripted Motherhood
III ``Children Troop Down from Heaven''
IV The Fertility of the Feeble-Minded
V The Cruelty of Charity
VI Neglected Factors of the World Problem
VII Is Revolution the Remedy?
VIII Dangers of Cradle Competition
IX A Moral Necessity
X Science the Ally
XI Education and Expression
XII Woman and the Future

Appendix: Principles and Aims of the American Birth Control League



INTRODUCTION

Birth control, Mrs. Sanger claims, and claims rightly, to be a
question of fundamental importance at the present time. I do not know
how far one is justified in calling it the pivot or the corner-stone
of a progressive civilization. These terms involve a criticism of
metaphors that may take us far away from the question in hand. Birth
Control is no new thing in human experience, and it has been practised
in societies of the most various types and fortunes. But there can be
little doubt that at the present time it is a test issue between two
widely different interpretations of the word civilization, and of what
is good in life and conduct. The way in which men and women range
themselves in this controversy is more simply and directly indicative
of their general intellectual quality than any other single
indication. I do not wish to imply by this that the people who oppose
are more or less intellectual than the people who advocate Birth
Control, but only that they have fundamentally contrasted general
ideas,--that, mentally, they are DIFFERENT. Very simple, very
complex, very dull and very brilliant persons may be found in either
camp, but all those in either camp have certain attitudes in common
which they share with one another, and do not share with those in the
other camp.

There have been many definitions of civilization. Civilization is a
complexity of count less aspects, and may be validly defined in a
great number of relationships. A reader of James Harvey Robinson's
MIND IN THE MAKING will find it very reasonable to define a
civilization as a system of society-making ideas at issue with
reality. Just so far as the system of ideas meets the needs and
conditions of survival or is able to adapt itself to the needs and
conditions of survival of the society it dominates, so far will that
society continue and prosper. We are beginning to realize that in the
past and under different conditions from our own, societies have
existed with systems of ideas and with methods of thought very widely
contrasting with what we should consider right and sane to-day. The
extraordinary neolithic civilizations of the American continent that
flourished before the coming of the Europeans, seem to have got along
with concepts that involved pedantries and cruelties and a kind of
systematic unreason, which find their closest parallels to-day in the
art and writings of certain types of lunatic. There are collections
of drawings from English and American asylums extraordinarily parallel
in their spirit and quality with the Maya inscriptions of Central
America. Yet these neolithic American societies got along for
hundreds and perhaps thousands of years. they respected seed-time and
harvest, they bred and they maintained a grotesque and terrible order.
And they produced quite beautiful works of art. Yet their surplus of
population was disposed of by an organization of sacrificial slaughter
unparalleled in the records of mankind. Many of the institutions that
seemed most normal and respectable to them, filled the invading
Europeans with perplexity and horror.

When we realize clearly this possibility of civilizations being based
on very different sets of moral ideas and upon different intellectual
methods, we are better able to appreciate the profound significance of
the schism in our modern community, which gives us side by side,
honest and intelligent people who regard Birth Control as something
essentially sweet, sane, clean, desirable and necessary, and others
equally honest and with as good a claim to intelligence who regard it
as not merely unreasonable and unwholesome, but as intolerable and
abominable. We are living not in a simple and complete civilization,
but in a conflict of at least two civilizations, based on entirely
different fundamental ideas, pursuing different methods and with
different aims and ends.

I will call one of these civilizations our Traditional or
Authoritative Civilization. It rests upon the thing that is, and upon
the thing that has been. It insists upon respect for custom and
usage; it discourages criticism and enquiry. It is very ancient and
conservative, or, going beyond conservation, it is reactionary. The
vehement hostility of many Catholic priests and prelates towards new
views of human origins, and new views of moral questions, has led many
careless thinkers to identify this old traditional civilization with
Christianity, but that identification ignores the strongly
revolutionary and initiatory spirit that has always animated
Christianity, and is untrue even to the realities of orthodox Catholic
teaching. The vituperation of individual Catholics must not be
confused with the deliberate doctrines of the Church which have, on
the whole, been conspicuously cautious and balanced and sane in these
matters. The ideas and practices of the Old Civilization are older
and more widespread than and not identifiable with either Christian or
Catholic culture, and it will be a great misfortune if the issues
between the Old Civilization and the New are allowed to slip into the
deep ruts of religious controversies that are only accidentally and
intermittently parallel.

Contrasted with the ancient civilization, with the Traditional
disposition, which accepts institutions and moral values as though
they were a part of nature, we have what I may call--with an evident
bias in its favour--the civilization of enquiry, of experimental
knowledge, Creative and Progressive Civilization. The first great
outbreak of the spirit of this civilization was in republican Greece;
the martyrdom of Socrates, the fearless Utopianism of Plato, the
ambitious encyclopaedism of Aristotle, mark the dawn of a new courage
and a new wilfulness in human affairs. The fear of set limitations,
of punitive and restrictive laws imposed by Fate upon human life was
visibly fading in human minds. These names mark the first clear
realization that to a large extent, and possibly to an illimitable
extent, man's moral and social life and his general destiny could be
seized upon and controlled by man. But--he must have knowledge. Said
the Ancient Civilization--and it says it still through a multitude of
vigorous voices and harsh repressive acts: ``Let man learn his duty
and obey.'' Says the New Civilization, with ever-increasing
confidence: ``Let man know, and trust him.''

For long ages, the Old Civilization kept the New subordinate,
apologetic and ineffective, but for the last two centuries, the New
has fought its way to a position of contentious equality. The two go
on side by side, jostling upon a thousand issues. The world changes,
the conditions of life change rapidly, through that development of
organized science which is the natural method of the New Civilization.
The old tradition demands that national loyalties and ancient
belligerence should continue. The new has produced means of
communication that break down the pens and separations of human life
upon which nationalist emotion depends. The old tradition insists
upon its ancient blood-letting of war; the new knowledge carries that
war to undreamt of levels of destruction. The ancient system needed
an unrestricted breeding to meet the normal waste of life through war,
pestilence, and a multitude of hitherto unpreventable diseases. The
new knowledge sweeps away the venerable checks of pestilence and
disease, and confronts us with the congestions and explosive dangers
of an over-populated world. The old tradition demands a special
prolific class doomed to labor and subservience; the new points to
mechanism and to scientific organization as a means of escape from
this immemorial subjugation. Upon every main issue in life, there is
this quarrel between the method of submission and the method of
knowledge. More and more do men of science and intelligent people
generally realize the hopelessness of pouring new wine into old
bottles. More and more clearly do they grasp the significance of the
Great Teacher's parable.

The New Civilization is saying to the Old now: ``We cannot go on
making power for you to spend upon international conflict. You must
stop waving flags and bandying insults. You must organize the Peace of
the World; you must subdue yourselves to the Federation of all
mankind. And we cannot go on giving you health, freedom, enlargement,
limitless wealth, if all our gifts to you are to be swamped by an
indiscriminate torrent of progeny. We want fewer and better children
who can be reared up to their full possibilities in unencumbered
homes, and we cannot make the social life and the world-peace we are
determined to make, with the ill-bred, ill-trained swarms of inferior
citizens that you inflict upon us.'' And there at the passionate and
crucial question, this essential and fundamental question, whether
procreation is still to be a superstitious and often disastrous
mystery, undertaken in fear and ignorance, reluctantly and under the
sway of blind desires, or whether it is to become a deliberate
creative act, the two civilizations join issue now. It is a conflict
from which it is almost impossible to abstain. Our acts, our way of
living, our social tolerance, our very silences will count in this
crucial decision between the old and the new.

In a plain and lucid style without any emotional appeals, Mrs.
Margaret Sanger sets out the case of the new order against the old.
There have been several able books published recently upon the
question of Birth Control, from the point of view of a woman's
personal life, and from the point of view of married happiness, but I
do not think there has been any book as yet, popularly accessible,
which presents this matter from the point of view of the public good,
and as a necessary step to the further improvement of human life as a
whole. I am inclined to think that there has hitherto been rather too
much personal emotion spent upon this business and far too little
attention given to its broader aspects. Mrs. Sanger with her
extraordinary breadth of outlook and the real scientific quality of
her mind, has now redressed the balance. She has lifted this question
from out of the warm atmosphere of troubled domesticity in which it
has hitherto been discussed, to its proper level of a predominantly
important human affair.

H.G. Wells
Easton Glebe,
Dunmow,
Essex., England



THE PIVOT OF CIVILIZATION



CHAPTER I: A New Truth Emerges

Be not ashamed, women, your privilege encloses the
rest, and is the exit of the rest,
You are the gates of the body, and you are the gates of
the soul.

Walt Whitman


This book aims to be neither the first word on the tangled problems of
human society to-day, nor the last. My aim has been to emphasize, by
the use of concrete and challenging examples and neglected facts, the
need of a new approach to individual and social problems. Its central
challenge is that civilization, in any true sense of the word, is
based upon the control and guidance of the great natural instinct of
Sex. Mastery of this force is possible only through the instrument of
Birth Control.

It may be objected that in the following pages I have rushed in where
academic scholars have feared to tread, and that as an active
propagandist I am lacking in the scholarship and documentary
preparation to undertake such a stupendous task. My only defense is
that, from my point of view at least, too many are already studying
and investigating social problems from without, with a sort of
Olympian detachment. And on the other hand, too few of those who are
engaged in this endless war for human betterment have found the time
to give to the world those truths not always hidden but practically
unquarried, which may be secured only after years of active service.

Of late, we have been treated to accounts written by well-meaning
ladies and gentlemen who have assumed clever disguises and have gone
out to work--for a week or a month--among the proletariat. But can we
thus learn anything new of the fundamental problems of working men,
working women, working children? Something, perhaps, but not those
great central problems of Hunger and Sex. We have been told that only
those who themselves have suffered the pangs of starvation can truly
understand Hunger. You might come into the closest contact with a
starving man; yet, if you were yourself well-fed, no amount of
sympathy could give you actual insight into the psychology of his
suffering. This suggests an objective and a subjective approach to all
social problems. Whatever the weakness of the subjective (or, if you
prefer, the feminine) approach, it has at least the virtue that its
conclusions are tested by experience. Observation of facts about you,
intimate subjective reaction to such facts, generate in your mind
certain fundamental convictions,--truths you can ignore no more than
you can ignore such truths as come as the fruit of bitter but valuable
personal experience.

Regarding myself, I may say that my experience in the course of the
past twelve or fifteen years has been of a type to force upon me
certain convictions that demand expression. For years I had believed
that the solution of all our troubles was to be found in well-defined
programmes of political and legislative action. At first, I
concentrated my whole attention upon these, only to discover that
politicians and law-makers are just as confused and as much at a loss
in solving fundamental problems as anyone else. And I am speaking
here not so much of the corrupt and ignorant politician as of those
idealists and reformers who think that by the ballot society may be
led to an earthly paradise. They may honestly desire and intend to do
great things. They may positively glow--before election--with
enthusiasm at the prospect they imagine political victory may open to
them. Time after time, I was struck by the change in their attitude
after the briefest enjoyment of this illusory power. Men are elected
during some wave of reform, let us say, elected to legislate into
practical working existence some great ideal. They want to do big
things; but a short time in office is enough to show the political
idealist that he can accomplish nothing, that his reform must be
debased and dragged into the dust, so that even if it becomes enacted,
it may be not merely of no benefit, but a positive evil. It is
scarcely necessary to emphasize this point. It is an accepted
commonplace of American politics. So much of life, so large a part of
all our social problems, moreover, remains untouched by political and
legislative action. This is an old truth too often ignored by those
who plan political campaigns upon the most superficial knowledge of
human nature.

My own eyes were opened to the limitations of political action when,
as an organizer for a political group in New York, I attended by
chance a meeting of women laundry-workers who were on strike. We
believed we could help these women with a legislative measure and
asked their support. ``Oh! that stuff!'' exclaimed one of these
women. ``Don't you know that we women might be dead and buried if we
waited for politicians and lawmakers to right our wrongs?'' This set
me to thinking--not merely of the immediate problem--but to asking
myself how much any male politician could understand of the wrongs
inflicted upon poor working women.

I threw the weight of my study and activity into the economic and
industrial struggle. Here I discovered men and women fired with the
glorious vision of a new world, of a proletarian world emancipated, a
Utopian world,--it glowed in romantic colours for the majority of
those with whom I came in closest contact. The next step, the
immediate step, was another matter, less romantic and too often less
encouraging. In their ardor, some of the labor leaders of that period
almost convinced us that the millennium was just around the corner.
Those were the pre-war days of dramatic strikes. But even when most
under the spell of the new vision, the sight of the overburdened wives
of the strikers, with their puny babies and their broods of under-fed
children, made us stop and think of a neglected factor in the march
toward our earthly paradise. It was well enough to ask the poor men
workers to carry on the battle against economic injustice. But what
results could be expected when they were forced in addition to carry
the burden of their ever-growing families? This question loomed large
to those of us who came into intimate contact with the women and
children. We saw that in the final analysis the real burden of
economic and industrial warfare was thrust upon the frail, all-too-
frail shoulders of the children, the very babies--the coming
generation. In their wan faces, in their undernourished bodies, would
be indelibly written the bitter defeat of their parents.

The eloquence of those who led the underpaid and half-starved workers
could no longer, for me, at least, ring with conviction. Something
more than the purely economic interpretation was involved. The bitter
struggle for bread, for a home and material comfort, was but one phase
of the problem. There was another phase, perhaps even more
fundamental, that had been absolutely neglected by the adherents of
the new dogmas. That other phase was the driving power of instinct, a
power uncontrolled and unnoticed. The great fundamental instinct of
sex was expressing itself in these ever-growing broods, in the
prosperity of the slum midwife and her colleague the slum undertaker.
In spite of all my sympathy with the dream of liberated Labor, I was
driven to ask whether this urging power of sex, this deep instinct,
was not at least partially responsible, along with industrial
injustice, for the widespread misery of the world.

To find an answer to this problem which at that point in my experience
I could not solve, I determined to study conditions in Europe. Perhaps
there I might discover a new approach, a great illumination. Just
before the outbreak of the war, I visited France, Spain, Germany and
Great Britain. Everywhere I found the same dogmas and prejudices
among labor leaders, the same intense but limited vision, the same
insistence upon the purely economic phases of human nature, the same
belief that if the problem of hunger were solved, the question of the
women and children would take care of itself. In this attitude I
discovered, then, what seemed to me to be purely masculine reasoning;
and because it was purely masculine, it could at best be but half
true. Feminine insight must be brought to bear on all questions; and
here, it struck me, the fallacy of the masculine, the all-too-
masculine, was brutally exposed. I was encouraged and strengthened in
this attitude by the support of certain leaders who had studied human
nature and who had reached the same conclusion: that civilization
could not solve the problem of Hunger until it recognized the titanic
strength of the sexual instinct. In Spain, I found that Lorenzo
Portet, who was carrying on the work of the martyred Francisco Ferrer,
had reached this same conclusion. In Italy, Enrico Malatesta, the
valiant leader who was after the war to play so dramatic a rôle, was
likewise combating the current dogma of the orthodox Socialists. In
Berlin, Rudolph Rocker was engaged in the thankless task of puncturing
the articles of faith of the orthodox Marxian religion. It is quite
needless to add that these men who had probed beneath the surface of
the problem and had diagnosed so much more completely the complex
malady of contemporary society were intensely disliked by the
superficial theorists of the neo-Marxian School.

The gospel of Marx had, however, been too long and too thoroughly
inculcated into the minds of millions of workers in Europe, to be
discarded. It is a flattering doctrine, since it teaches the laborer
that all the fault is with someone else, that he is the victim of
circumstances, and not even a partner in the creation of his own and
his child's misery. Not without significance was the additional
discovery that I made. I found that the Marxian influence tended to
lead workers to believe that, irrespective of the health of the poor
mothers, the earning capacity of the wage-earning fathers, or the
upbringing of the children, increase of the proletarian family was a
benefit, not a detriment to the revolutionary movement. The greater
the number of hungry mouths, the emptier the stomachs, the more
quickly would the ``Class War'' be precipitated. The greater the
increase in population among the proletariat, the greater the
incentive to revolution. This may not be sound Marxian theory; but it
is the manner in which it is popularly accepted. It is the popular
belief, wherever the Marxian influence is strong. This I found
especially in England and Scotland. In speaking to groups of
dockworkers on strike in Glasgow, and before the communist and co-
operative guilds throughout England, I discovered a prevailing
opposition to the recognition of sex as a factor in the perpetuation
of poverty. The leaders and theorists were immovable in their
opposition. But when once I succeeded in breaking through the surface
opposition of the rank and file of the workers, I found that they were
willing to recognize the power of this neglected factor in their
lives.

So central, so fundamental in the life of every man and woman is this
problem that they need be taught no elaborate or imposing theory to
explain their troubles. To approach their problems by the avenue of
sex and reproduction is to reveal at once their fundamental relations
to the whole economic and biological structure of society. Their
interest is immediately and completely awakened. But always, as I
soon discovered, the ideas and habits of thought of these submerged
masses have been formed through the Press, the Church, through
political institutions, all of which had built up a conspiracy of
silence around a subject that is of no less vital importance than that
of Hunger. A great wall separates the masses from those imperative
truths that must be known and flung wide if civilization is to be
saved. As currently constituted, Church, Press, Education seem to-day
organized to exploit the ignorance and the prejudices of the masses,
rather than to light their way to self-salvation.

Such was the situation in 1914, when I returned to America,
determined, since the exclusively masculine point of view had
dominated too long, that the other half of the truth should be made
known. The Birth Control movement was launched because it was in this
form that the whole relation of woman and child--eternal emblem of the
future of society--could be more effectively dramatized. The amazing
growth of this movement dates from the moment when in my home a small
group organized the first Birth Control League. Since then we have
been criticized for our choice of the term ``Birth Control'' to
express the idea of modern scientific contraception. I have yet to
hear any criticism of this term that is not based upon some false and
hypocritical sense of modesty, or that does not arise out of a semi-
prurient misunderstanding of its aim. On the other hand: nothing
better expresses the idea of purposive, responsible, and self-directed
guidance of the reproductive powers.

Those critics who condemn Birth Control as a negative, destructive
idea, concerned only with self-gratification, might profitably open
the nearest dictionary for a definition of ``control.'' There they
would discover that the verb ``control'' means to exercise a
directing, guiding, or restraining influence;--to direct, to regulate,
to counteract. Control is guidance, direction, foresight. it implies
intelligence, forethought and responsibility. They will find in the
Standard Dictionary a quotation from Lecky to the effect that, ``The
greatest of all evils in politics is power without control.'' In what
phase of life is not ``power without control'' an evil? Birth
Control, therefore, means not merely the limitation of births, but the
application of intelligent guidance over the reproductive power. It
means the substitution of reason and intelligence for the blind play
of instinct.

The term ``Birth Control'' had the immense practical advantage of
compressing into two short words the answer to the inarticulate
demands of millions of men and women in all countries. At the time
this slogan was formulated, I had not yet come to the complete
realization of the great truth that had been thus crystallized. It
was the response to the overwhelming, heart-breaking appeals that came
by every mail for aid and advice, which revealed a great truth that
lay dormant, a truth that seemed to spring into full vitality almost
over night--that could never again be crushed to earth!

Nor could I then have realized the number and the power of the
enemies who were to be aroused into activity by this idea. So
completely was I dominated by this conviction of the efficacy of
``control,'' that I could not until later realize the extent of the
sacrifices that were to be exacted of me and of those who supported my
campaign. The very idea of Birth Control resurrected the spirit of
the witch-hunters of Salem. Could they have usurped the power, they
would have burned us at the stake. Lacking that power, they used the
weapon of suppression, and invoked medieval statutes to send us to
jail. These tactics had an effect the very opposite to that intended.
They demonstrated the vitality of the idea of Birth Control, and acted
as counter-irritant on the actively intelligent sections of the
American community. Nor was the interest aroused confined merely to
America. The neo-Malthusian movement in Great Britain with its
history of undaunted bravery, came to our support; and I had the
comfort of knowing that the finest minds of England did not hesitate a
moment in the expression of their sympathy and support.

In America, on the other hand, I found from the beginning until very
recently that the so-called intellectuals exhibited a curious and
almost inexplicable reticence in supporting Birth Control. They even
hesitated to voice any public protest against the campaign to crush us
which was inaugurated and sustained by the most reactionary and
sinister forces in American life. It was not inertia or any lack of
interest on the part of the masses that stood in our way. It was the
indifference of the intellectual leaders.

Writers, teachers, ministers, editors, who form a class dictating, if
not creating, public opinion, are, in this country, singularly
inhibited or unconscious of their true function in the community. One
of their first duties, it is certain, should be to champion the
constitutional right of free speech and free press, to welcome any
idea that tends to awaken the critical attention of the great American
public. But those who reveal themselves as fully cognizant of this
public duty are in the minority, and must possess more than average
courage to survive the enmity such an attitude provokes.

One of the chief aims of the present volume is to stimulate American
intellectuals to abandon the mental habits which prevent them from
seeing human nature as a whole, instead of as something that can be
pigeonholed into various compartments or classes. Birth Control
affords an approach to the study of humanity because it cuts through
the limitations of current methods. It is economic, biological,
psychological and spiritual in its aspects. It awakens the vision of
mankind moving and changing, of humanity growing and developing,
coming to fruition, of a race creative, flowering into beautiful
expression through talent and genius.

As a social programme, Birth Control is not merely concerned with
population questions. In this respect, it is a distinct step in
advance of earlier Malthusian doctrines, which concerned themselves
chiefly with economics and population. Birth Control concerns itself
with the spirit no less than the body. It looks for the liberation of
the spirit of woman and through woman of the child. To-day motherhood
is wasted, penalized, tortured. Children brought into the world by
unwilling mother suffer an initial handicap that cannot be measured by
cold statistics. Their lives are blighted from the start. To
substantiate this fact, I have chosen to present the conclusions of
reports on Child Labor and records of defect and delinquency published
by organizations with no bias in favour of Birth Control. The evidence
is before us. It crowds in upon us from all sides. But prior to this
new approach, no attempt had been made to correlate the effects of the
blind and irresponsible play of the sexual instinct with its deep-
rooted causes.

The duty of the educator and the intellectual creator of public
opinion is, in this connection, of the greatest importance. For
centuries official moralists, priests, clergymen and teachers,
statesmen and politicians have preached the doctrine of glorious and
divine fertility. To-day, we are confronted with the world-wide
spectacle of the realization of this doctrine. It is not without
significance that the moron and the imbecile set the pace in living up
to this teaching, and that the intellectuals, the educators, the
archbishops, bishops, priests, who are most insistent on it, are the
staunchest adherents in their own lives of celibacy and non-fertility.
It is time to point out to the champions of unceasing and
indiscriminate fertility the results of their teaching.

One of the greatest difficulties in giving to the public a book of
this type is the impossibility of keeping pace with the events and
changes of a movement that is now, throughout the world, striking root
and growing. The changed attitude of the American Press indicates
that enlightened public opinion no longer tolerates a policy of
silence upon a question of the most vital importance. Almost
simultaneously in England and America, two incidents have broken
through the prejudice and the guarded silence of centuries. At the
church Congress in Birmingham, October 12, 1921, Lord Dawson, the
king's physician, in criticizing the report of the Lambeth Conference
concerning Birth Control, delivered an address defending this
practice. Of such bravery and eloquence that it could not be ignored,
this address electrified the entire British public. It aroused a
storm of abuse, and yet succeeded, as no propaganda could, in
mobilizing the forces of progress and intelligence in the support of
the cause.

Just one month later, the First American Birth Control Conference
culminated in a significant and dramatic incident. At the close of
the conference a mass meeting was scheduled in the Town Hall, New York
City, to discuss the morality of Birth Control. Mr. Harold Cox,
editor of the Edinburgh Review, who had come to New York to attend the
conference, was to lead the discussion. It seemed only natural for us
to call together scientists, educators, members of the medical
profession, and theologians of all denominations, to ask their opinion
upon this uncertain and important phase of the controversy. Letters
were sent to eminent men and women in different parts of the world.
In this letter we asked the following questions:--

1. Is over-population a menace to the peace of the world?
2. Would the legal dissemination of scientific Birth Control
information, through the medium of clinics by the medical
profession, be the most logical method of checking the problem
of over-population?
3. Would knowledge of Birth Control change the moral attitude of
men and women toward the marriage bond, or lower the moral
standards of the youth of the country?
4. Do you believe that knowledge which enables parents to limit
their families will make for human happiness, and raise the
moral, social and intellectual standards of population?

We sent this questionnaire not only to those who we thought might
agree with us, but we sent it also to our known opponents.

When I arrived at the Town Hall the entrance was guarded by policemen.
They told me there would be no meeting. Before my arrival r
executives had been greeted by Monsignor Dineen, secretary of
Archbishop Hayes, of the Roman Catholic archdiocese, who informed them
that the meeting would be prohibited on the ground that it was
contrary to public morals. The police had closed the doors. When
they opened them to permit the exit of the large audience which had
gathered, Mr. Cox and I entered. I attempted to exercise my
constitutional right of free speech, but was prohibited and arrested.
Miss Mary Winsor, who protested against this unwarranted arrest, was
likewise dragged off to the police station. The case was dismissed
the following morning. The ecclesiastic instigators of the affair
were conspicuous by their absence from the police court. But the
incident was enough to expose the opponents of Birth Control and the
extreme methods they used to combat our progress. The case was too
flagrant, too gross an affront, to pass unnoticed by the newspapers.
The progress of our movement was indicated in the changed attitude of
the American Press, which had perceived the danger to the public of
the unlawful tactics used by the enemies of Birth Control in
preventing open discussion of a vital question.

No social idea has inspired its advocates with more bravery, tenacity,
and courage than Birth Control. From the early days of Francis Place
and Richard Carlile, to those of the Drysdales and Edward Trulove, of
Bradlaugh and Mrs. Annie Besant, its advocates have faced imprisonment
and ostracism. In the whole history of the English movement, there
has been no more courageous figure than that of the venerable Alice
Drysdale Vickery, the undaunted torch-bearer who has bridged the
silence of forty-four years--since the Bradlaugh-Besant trial. She
stands head and shoulders above the professional feminists. Serenely
has she withstood jeers and jests. To-day, she continues to point out
to the younger generation which is devoted to newer palliatives the
fundamental relation between Sex and Hunger.

The First American Birth Control Conference, held at the same time as
the Washington Conference for the Limitation of Armaments, marks a
turning-point in our approach to social problems. The Conference made
evident the fact that in every field of scientific and social
endeavour the most penetrating thinkers are now turning to the
consideration of our problem as a fundamental necessity to American
civilization. They are coming to see that a QUALITATIVE factor as
opposed to a QUANTITATIVE one is of primary importance in dealing with
the great masses of humanity.

Certain fundamental convictions should be made clear here. The
programme for Birth. Control is not a charity. It is not aiming to
interfere in the private lives of poor people, to tell them how many
children they should have, nor to sit in judgment upon their fitness
to become parents. It aims, rather, to awaken responsibility, to
answer the demand for a scientific means by which and through which
each human life may be self-directed and self-controlled. The
exponent of Birth Control, in short, is convinced that social
regeneration, no less than individual regeneration, must come from
within. Every potential parent, and especially every potential
mother, must be brought to an acute realization of the primary and
individual responsibility of bringing children into this world. Not
until the parents of this world are given control over their
reproductive faculties will it be possible to improve the quality of
the generations of the future, or even to maintain civilization at its
present level. Only when given intelligent mastery of the procreative
powers can the great mass of humanity be aroused to a realization of
responsibility of parenthood. We have come to the conclusion, based
on widespread investigation and experience, that education for
parenthood must be based upon the needs and demands of the people
themselves. An idealistic code of sexual ethics, imposed from above,
a set of rules devised by high-minded theorists who fail to take into
account the living conditions and desires of the masses, can never be
of the slightest value in effecting change in the customs of the
people. Systems so imposed in the past have revealed their woeful
inability to prevent the sexual and racial chaos into which the world
has drifted.

The universal demand for practical education in Birth Control is one
of the most hopeful signs that the masses themselves to-day possess
the divine spark of regeneration. It remains for the courageous and
the enlightened to answer this demand, to kindle the spark, to direct
a thorough education in sex hygiene based upon this intense interest.

Birth Control is thus the entering wedge for the educator. In
answering the needs of these thousands upon thousands of submerged
mothers, it is possible to use their interest as the foundation for
education in prophylaxis, hygiene and infant welfare. The potential
mother can then be shown that maternity need not be slavery but may be
the most effective avenue to self-development and self-realization.
Upon this basis only may we improve the quality of the race.

The lack of balance between the birth-rate of the ``unfit'' and the
``fit,'' admittedly the greatest present menace to the civilization,
can never be rectified by the inauguration of a cradle competition
between these two classes. The example of the inferior classes, the
fertility of the feeble-minded, the mentally defective, the poverty-
stricken, should not be held up for emulation to the mentally and
physically fit, and therefore less fertile, parents of the educated
and well-to-do classes. On the contrary, the most urgent problem to-
day is how to limit and discourage the over-fertility of the mentally
and physically defective. Possibly drastic and Spartan methods may be
forced upon American society if it continues complacently to encourage
the chance and chaotic breeding that has resulted from our stupid,
cruel sentimentalism.

To effect the salvation of the generations of the future--nay, of the
generations of to-day--our greatest need, first of all, is the ability
to face the situation without flinching; to cooperate in the formation
of a code of sexual ethics based upon a thorough biological and
psychological understanding of human nature; and then to answer the
questions and the needs of the people with all the intelligence and
honesty at our command. If we can summon the bravery to do this, we
shall best be serving the pivotal interests of civilization.

To conclude this introduction: my initiation, as I have confessed, was
primarily an emotional one. My interest in Birth Control was awakened
by experience. Research and investigation have followed. Our effort
has been to raise our program from the plane of the emotional to the
plane of the scientific. Any social progress, it is my belief, must
purge itself of sentimentalism and pass through the crucible of
science. We are willing to submit Birth Control to this test. It is
part of the purpose of this book to appeal to the scientist for aid,
to arouse that interest which will result in widespread research and
investigation. I believe that my personal experience with this idea
must be that of the race at large. We must temper our emotion and
enthusiasm with the impersonal determination of science. We must
unite in the task of creating an instrument of steel, strong but
supple, if we are to triumph finally in the war for human
emancipation.



CHAPTER II: Conscripted Motherhood

``Their poor, old ravaged and stiffened faces, their poor,
old bodies dried up with ceaseless toil, their patient souls
made me weep. They are our conscripts. They are the venerable
ones whom we should reverence. All the mystery of womanhood
seems incarnated in their ugly being--the Mothers! the Mothers!
Ye are all one!''

From the Letters of William James


Motherhood, which is not only the oldest but the most important
profession in the world, has received few of the benefits of
civilization. It is a curious fact that a civilization devoted to
mother-worship, that publicly professes a worship of mother and child,
should close its eyes to the appalling waste of human life and human
energy resulting from those dire consequences of leaving the whole
problem of child-bearing to chance and blind instinct. It would be
untrue to say that among the civilized nations of the world to-day,
the profession of motherhood remains in a barbarous state. The bitter
truth is that motherhood, among the larger part of our population,
does not rise to the level of the barbarous or the primitive.
Conditions of life among the primitive tribes were rude enough and
severe enough to prevent the unhealthy growth of sentimentality, and
to discourage the irresponsible production of defective children.
Moreover, there is ample evidence to indicate that even among the most
primitive peoples the function of maternity was recognized as of
primary and central importance to the community.

If we define civilization as increased and increasing responsibility
based on vision and foresight, it becomes painfully evident that the
profession of motherhood as practised to-day is in no sense civilized.
Educated people derive their ideas of maternity for the most part,
either from the experience of their own set, or from visits to
impressive hospitals where women of the upper classes receive the
advantages of modern science and modern nursing. From these charming
pictures they derive their complacent views of the beauty of
motherhood and their confidence for the future of the race. The other
side of the picture is revealed only to the trained investigator, to
the patient and impartial observer who visits not merely one or two
``homes of the poor,'' but makes detailed studies of town after town,
obtains the history of each mother, and finally correlates and
analyzes this evidence. Upon such a basis are we able to draw
conclusions concerning this strange business of bringing children into
the world.

Every year I receive thousands of letters from women in all parts of
America, desperate appeals to aid them to extricate themselves from
the trap of compulsory maternity. Lest I be accused of bias and
exaggeration in drawing my conclusions from these painful human
documents, I prefer to present a number of typical cases recorded in
the reports of the United States Government, and in the evidence of
trained and impartial investigators of social agencies more generally
opposed to the doctrine of Birth Control than biased in favor of it.

A perusal of the reports on infant mortality in widely varying
industrial centers of the United States, published during the past
decade by the Children's Bureau of the United States Department of
Labor, forces us to a realization of the immediate need of detailed
statistics concerning the practice and results of uncontrolled
breeding. Some such effort as this has been made by the Galton
Laboratory of National Eugenics in Great Britain. The Children's
Bureau reports only incidentally present this impressive evidence.
They fail to coordinate it. While there is always the danger of
drawing giant conclusions from pigmy premises, here is overwhelming
evidence concerning irresponsible parenthood that is ignored by
governmental and social agencies.

I have chosen a small number of typical cases from these reports.
Though drawn from widely varying sources, they all emphasize the
greatest crime of modern civilization--that of permitting motherhood
to be left to blind chance, and to be mainly a function of the most
abysmally ignorant and irresponsible classes of the community.

Here is a fairly typical case from Johnstown, Pennsylvania. A woman
of thirty- eight years had undergone thirteen pregnancies in seventeen
years. Of eleven live births and two premature stillbirths, only two
children were alive at the time of the government agent's visit. The
second to eighth, the eleventh and the thirteenth had died of bowel
trouble, at ages ranging from three weeks to four months. The only
cause of these deaths the mother could give was that ``food did not
agree with them.'' She confessed quite frankly that she believed in
feeding babies, and gave them everything anybody told her to give
them. She began to give them at the age of one month, bread,
potatoes, egg, crackers, etc. For the last baby that died, this mother
had bought a goat and gave its milk to the baby; the goat got sick,
but the mother continued to give her baby its milk until the goat went
dry. Moreover, she directed the feeding of her daughter's baby until
it died at the age of three months. ``On account of the many children
she had had, the neighbors consider her an authority on baby care.''

Lest this case be considered too tragically ridiculous to be accepted
as typical, the reader may verify it with an almost interminable list
of similar cases.[1] Parental irresponsibility is significantly
illustrated in another case:

A mother who had four live births and two stillbirths in twelve years
lost all of her babies during their first year. She was so anxious
that at least one child should live that she consulted a physician
concerning the care of the last one. ``Upon his advice,'' to quote
the government report, ``she gave up her twenty boarders immediately
after the child's birth, and devoted all her time to it. Thinks she
did not stop her hard work soon enough; says she has always worked too
hard, keeping boarders in this country, and cutting wood and carrying
it and water on her back in the old country. Also says the carrying of
water and cases of beer in this country is a great strain on her.''
But the illuminating point in this case is that the father was furious
because all the babies died. To show his disrespect for the wife who
could only give birth to babies that died, he wore a red necktie to
the funeral of the last. Yet this woman, the government agent reports,
would follow and profit by any instruction that might be given her.

It is true that the cases reported from Johnstown, Pennsylvania, do
not represent completely ``Americanized'' families. This lack does
not prevent them, however, by their unceasing fertility from producing
the Americans of to-morrow. Of the more immediate conditions
surrounding child-birth, we are presented with this evidence, given by
one woman concerning the birth of her last child:

On five o'clock on Wednesday evening she went to her sister's house to
return a washboard, after finishing a day's washing. The baby was
born while she was there. Her sister was too young to aid her in any
way. She was not accustomed to a midwife, she confessed. She cut the
cord herself, washed the new-born baby at her sister's house, walked
home, cooked supper for her boarders, and went to bed by eight
o'clock. The next day she got up and ironed. This tired her out, she
said, so she stayed in bed for two whole days. She milked cows the day
after the birth of the baby and sold the milk as well. Later in the
week, when she became tired, she hired someone to do that portion of
her work. This woman, we are further informed, kept cows, chickens,
and lodgers, and earned additional money by doing laundry and
charwork. At times her husband deserted her. His earnings amounted
to $1.70 a day, while a fifteen-year-old son earned $1.10 in a coal
mine.

One searches in vain for some picture of sacred motherhood, as
depicted in popular plays and motion pictures, something more normal
and encouraging. Then one comes to the bitter realization that these,
in very truth, are the ``normal'' cases, not the exceptions. The
exceptions are apt to indicate, instead, the close relationship of
this irresponsible and chance parenthood to the great social problems
of feeble-mindedness, crime and syphilis.

Nor is this type of motherhood confined to newly arrived immigrant
mothers, as a government report from Akron, Ohio, sufficiently
indicates. In this city, the government agents discovered that more
than five hundred mothers were ignorant of the accepted principles of
infant feeding, or, if familiar with them, did not practise them.
``This ignorance or indifference was not confined to foreign-born
mothers....A native mother reported that she gave her two-weeks-old
baby ice cream, and that before his sixth month, he was sitting at the
table `eating everything.''' This was in a town in which there were
comparatively few cases of extreme poverty.

The degradation of motherhood, the damnation of the next generation
before it is born, is exposed in all its catastrophic misery, in the
reports of the National Consumers' League. In her report of living
conditions among night-working mothers in thirty-nine textile mills in
Rhode Island, based on exhaustive studies, Mrs. Florence Kelley
describes the ``normal'' life of these women:

``When the worker, cruelly tired from ten hours' work, comes home in
the early morning, she usually scrambles together breakfast for the
family. Eating little or nothing herself, and that hastily, she
tumbles into bed--not the immaculate bed in an airy bed-room with dark
shades, but one still warm from its night occupants, in a stuffy
little bed-room, darkened imperfectly if at all. After sleeping
exhaustedly for an hour perhaps she bestirs herself to get the
children off to school, or care for insistent little ones, too young
to appreciate that mother is tired out and must sleep. Perhaps later
in the forenoon, she again drops into a fitful sleep, or she may have
to wait until after dinner. There is the midday meal to get, and, if
her husband cannot come home, his dinner-pail to pack with a hot lunch
to be sent or carried to him. If he is not at home, the lunch is
rather a makeshift. The midday meal is scarcely over before supper
must be thought of. This has to be eaten hurriedly before the family
are ready, for the mother must be in the mill at work, by 6, 6:30 or 7
P.M....Many women in their inadequate English, summed up their daily
routine by, ``Oh, me all time tired. TOO MUCH WORK, TOO MUCH BABY,
TOO LITTLE SLEEP!''

``Only sixteen of the 166 married women were without children; thirty-
two had three or more; twenty had children on year old or under.
There were 160 children under school-age, below six years, and 246 of
school age.''

``A woman in ordinary circumstances,'' adds this impartial
investigator, ``with a husband and three children, if she does her own
work, feels that her hands are full. How these mill-workers, many of
them frail-looking, and many with confessedly poor health, can ever do
two jobs is a mystery, when they are seen in their homes dragging
about, pale, hollow-eyed and listless, often needlessly sharp and
impatient with the children. These children are not only not
mothered, never cherished, they are nagged and buffeted. The mothers
are not superwomen, and like all human beings, they have a certain
amount of strength and when that breaks, their nerves suffer.''

We are presented with a vivid picture of one of these slave-mothers:
a woman of thirty-eight who looks at least fifty with her worn,
furrowed face. Asked why she had been working at night for the past
two years, she pointed to a six-months old baby she was carrying, to
the five small children swarming about her, and answered laconically,
``Too much children!'' She volunteered the information that there had
been two more who had died. When asked why they had died, the poor
mother shrugged her shoulders listlessly, and replied, ``Don't know.''
In addition to bearing and rearing these children, her work would sap
the vitality of any ordinary person. ``She got home soon after four in
the morning, cooked breakfast for the family and ate hastily herself.
At 4.30 she was in bed, staying there until eight. But part of that
time was disturbed for the children were noisy and the apartment was a
tiny, dingy place in a basement. At eight she started the three
oldest boys to school, and cleaned up the debris of breakfast and of
supper the night before. At twelve she carried a hot lunch to her
husband and had dinner ready for the three school children. In the
afternoon, there were again dishes and cooking, and caring for three
babies aged five, three years, and six months. At five, supper was
ready for the family. The mother ate by herself and was off to work
at 5:45.''

Another of the night-working mothers was a frail looking Frenchwoman
of twenty-seven years, with a husband and five children ranging from
eight years to fourteen months. Three other children had died. When
visited, she was doing a huge washing. She was forced into night work
to meet the expenses of the family. She estimated that she succeeded
in getting five hours' sleep during the day. ``I take my baby to bed
with me, but he cries, and my little four-year-old boy cries, too, and
comes in to make me get up, so you can't call that a very good
sleep.''

The problem among unmarried women or those without family is not the
same, this investigator points out. ``They sleep longer by day than
they normally would by night.'' We are also informed that pregnant
women work at night in the mills, sometimes up to the very hour of
delivery. ``It's queer,'' exclaimed a woman supervisor of one of the
Rhode Island mills, ``but some women, both on the day and the night
shift, will stick to their work right up to the last minute, and will
use every means to deceive you about their condition. I go around and
talk to them, but make little impression. We have had several narrow
escapes....A Polish mother with five children had worked in a mill by
day or by night, ever since her marriage, stopping only to have her
babies. One little girl had died several years ago, and the youngest
child, says Mrs. Kelley, did not look promising. It had none of the
charm of babyhood; its body and clothing were filthy; and its lower
lip and chin covered with repulsive black sores.

It should be remembered that the Consumers' League, which publishes
these reports on women in industry, is not advocating Birth Control
education, but is aiming ``to awaken responsibility for conditions
under which goods are produced, and through investigation, education
and legislation, to mobilize public opinion in behalf of enlightened
standards for workers and honest products for all.'' Nevertheless, in
Miss Agnes de Lima's report of conditions in Passaic, New Jersey, we
find the same tale of penalized, prostrate motherhood, bearing the
crushing burden of economic injustice and cruelty; the same blind but
overpowering instincts of love and hunger driving young women into the
factories to work, night in and night out, to support their procession
of uncared for and undernourished babies. It is the married women
with young children who work on the inferno-like shifts. They are
driven to it by the low wages of their husbands. They choose night
work in order to be with their children in the daytime. They are
afraid of the neglect and ill-treatment the children might receive at
the hands of paid caretakers. Thus they condemn themselves to eighteen
or twenty hours of daily toil. Surely no mother with three, four,
five or six children can secure much rest by day.

``Take almost any house''--we read in the report of conditions in New
Jersey--``knock at almost any door and you will find a weary, tousled
woman, half-dressed, doing her housework, or trying to snatch an hour
or two of sleep after her long night of work in the mill. ...The facts
are there for any one to see; the hopeless and exhausted woman, her
cluttered three or four rooms, the swarm of sickly and neglected
children.''

These women claimed that night work was unavoidable, as their husbands
received so little pay. This in spite of all our vaunted ``high
wages.'' Only three women were found who went into the drudgery of
night work without being obliged to do so. Two had no children, and
their husbands' earnings were sufficient for their needs. One of
these was saving for a trip to Europe, and chose the night shift
because she found it less strenuous than the day. Only four of the
hundred women reported upon were unmarried, and ninety-two of the
married women had children. Of the four childless married women, one
had lost two children, and another was recovering from a recent
miscarriage. There were five widows. The average number of children
was three in a family. Thirty-nine of the mothers had four or more.
Three of them had six children, and six of them had seven children
apiece. These women ranged between the ages of twenty-five and forty,
and more than half the children were less than seven years of age.
Most of them had babies of one, two and three years of age.

At the risk of repetition, we quote one of the typical cases reported
by Miss De Lima with features practically identical with the
individual cases reported from Rhode Island. It is of a mother who
comes home from work at 5:30 every morning, falls on the bed from
exhaustion, arises again at eight or nine o'clock to see that the
older children are sent off to school. A son of five, like the rest
of the children, is on a diet of coffee,--milk costs too much. After
the children have left for school, the overworked mother again tries
to sleep, though the small son bothers her a great deal. Besides, she
must clean the house, wash, iron, mend, sew and prepare the midday
meal. She tries to snatch a little sleep in the afternoon, but
explains: ``When you got big family, all time work. Night-time in
mill drag so long, so long; day-time in home go so quick.'' By five,
this mother must get the family's supper ready, and dress for the
night's work, which begins at seven. The investigator further
reports: ``The next day was a holiday, and for a diversion, Mrs. N.
thought she would go up to the cemetery: `I got some children up
there,' she explained, `and same time I get some air. No, I don't go
nowheres, just to the mill and then home.'''

Here again, as in all reports on women in industry, we find the
prevalence of pregnant women working on night-shifts, often to the
very day of their delivery. ``Oh, yes, plenty women, big bellies,
work in the night time,'' one of the toiling mothers volunteered.
``Shame they go, but what can do?'' The abuse was general. Many
mothers confessed that owing to poverty they themselves worked up to
the last week or even day before the birth of their children. Births
were even reported in one of the mills during the night shift. A
foreman told of permitting a night-working woman to leave at 6.30 one
morning, and of the birth of her baby at 7.30. Several women told of
leaving the day-shift because of pregnancy and of securing places on
the nightshift where their condition was less conspicuous, and the
bosses more tolerant. One mother defended her right to stay at work,
says the report, claiming that as long as she could do her work, it
was nobody's business. In a doorway sat a sickly and bloodless woman
in an advanced stage of pregnancy. Her first baby had died of general
debility. She had worked at night in the mill until the very day of
its birth. This time the boss had told her she could stay if she
wished, but reminded her of what had happened last time. So she had
stopped work, as the baby was expected any day.

Again and again we read the same story, which varied only in detail:
the mother in the three black rooms; the sagging porch overflowing
with pale and sickly children; the over-worked mother of seven, still
nursing her youngest, who is two or three months old. Worn and
haggard, with a skeleton-like child pulling at her breast, the women
tries to make the investigator understand. The grandmother helps to
interpret. ``She never sleeps,'' explains the old woman, ``how can
she with so many children?'' She works up to the last moment before
her baby comes, and returns to work as soon as they are four weeks
old.

Another apartment in the same house; another of those night-working
mothers, who had just stopped because she is pregnant. The boss had
kindly given her permission to stay on, but she found the reaching on
the heavy spinning machines too hard. Three children, ranging in age
from five to twelve years, are all sickly and forlorn and must be
cared for. There is a tubercular husband, who is unable to work
steadily, and is able to bring in only $12 a week. Two of the babies
had died, one because the mother had returned to work too soon after
its birth and had lost her milk. She had fed him tea and bread, ``so
he died.''

The most heartrending feature of it all--in these homes of the mothers
who work at night--is the expression in the faces of the children;
children of chance, dressed in rags, undernourished, underclothed, all
predisposed to the ravages of chronic and epidemic disease.

The reports on infant mortality published under the direction of the
Children's Bureau substantiate for the United States of America the
findings of the Galton Laboratory for Great Britain, showing that an
abnormally high rate of fertility is usually associated with poverty,
filth, disease, feeblemindedness and a high infant mortality rate. It
is a commonplace truism that a high birth-rate is accompanied by a
high infant-mortality rate. No longer is it necessary to dissociate
cause and effect, to try to determine whether the high birth rate is
the cause of the high infant mortality rate. It is sufficient to know
that they are organically correlated along with other anti-social
factors detrimental to individual, national and racial welfare. The
figures presented by Hibbs [2] likewise reveal a much higher infant
mortality rate for the later born children of large families.

The statistics which show that the greatest number of children are
born to parents whose earnings are the lowest,[3] that the direst
poverty is associated with uncontrolled fecundity emphasize the
character of the parenthood we are depending upon to create the race
of the future.

A distinguished American opponent of Birth Control some years ago
spoke of the ``racial'' value of this high infant mortality rate among
the ``unfit.'' He forgot, however, that the survival-rate of the
children born of these overworked and fatigued mothers may
nevertheless be large enough, aided and abetted by philanthropies and
charities, to form the greater part of the population of to-morrow. As
Dr. Karl Pearson has stated: ``Degenerate stocks under present social
conditions are not short-lived; they live to have more than the normal
size of family.''

Reports of charitable organizations; the famous ``one hundred neediest
cases'' presented every year by the New York Times to arouse the
sentimental generosity of its readers; statistics of public and
private hospitals, charities and corrections; analyses of pauperism in
town and country--all tell the same tale of uncontrolled and
irresponsible fecundity. The facts, the figures, the appalling truth
are there for all to read. It is only in the remedy proposed, the
effective solution, that investigators and students of the problem
disagree.

Confronted with the ``startling and disgraceful'' conditions of
affairs indicated by the fact that a quarter of a million babies die
every year in the United States before they are one year old, and that
no less than 23,000 women die in childbirth, a large number of experts
and enthusiasts have placed their hopes in maternity-benefit measures.

Such measures sharply illustrate the superficial and fragmentary
manner in which the whole problem of motherhood is studied to-day. It
seeks a LAISSER FAIRE policy of parenthood or marriage, with an
indiscriminating paternalism concerning maternity. It is as though
the Government were to say: ``Increase and multiply; we shall assume
the responsibility of keeping your babies alive.'' Even granting that
the administration of these measures might be made effective and
effectual, which is more than doubtful, we see that they are based
upon a complete ignorance or disregard of the most important fact in
the situation--that of indiscriminate and irresponsible fecundity.
They tacitly assume that all parenthood is desirable, that all
children should be born, and that infant mortality can be controlled
by external aid. In the great world-problem of creating the men and
women of to-morrow, it is not merely a question of sustaining the
lives of all children, irrespective of their hereditary and physical
qualities, to the point where they, in turn, may reproduce their kind.
Advocates of Birth Control offer and accept no such superficial
solution. This philosophy is based upon a clearer vision and a more
profound comprehension of human life. Of immediate relief for the
crushed and enslaved motherhood of the world through State aid, no
better criticism has been made than that of Havelock Ellis:

``To the theoretical philanthropist, eager to reform the world on
paper, nothing seems simpler than to cure the present evils of child-
rearing by setting up State nurseries which are at once to relieve
mothers of everything connected with the men of the future beyond the
pleasure--if such it happens to be--of conceiving them, and the
trouble of bearing the, and at the same time to rear them up
independently of the home, in a wholesome, economical and scientific
manner. Nothing seems simpler, but from the fundamental psychological
point of view nothing is falser. ...A State which admits that the
individuals composing it are incompetent to perform their most sacred
and intimate functions, and takes it upon itself to perform them
itself instead, attempts a task that would be undesirable, even if it
were possible of achievement.[4]'' It may be replied that maternity
benefit measures aim merely to aid mothers more adequately to fulfil
their biological and social functions. But from the point of view of
Birth Control, that will never be possible until the crushing
exigencies of overcrowding are removed--overcrowding of pregnancies as
well as of homes. As long as the mother remains the passive victim of
blind instinct, instead of the conscious, responsible instrument of
the life-force, controlling and directing its expression, there can be
no solution to the intricate and complex problems that confront the
whole world to-day. This is, of course, impossible as long as women
are driven into the factories, on night as well as day shifts, as long
as children and girls and young women are driven into industries to
labor that is physically deteriorating as a preparation for the
supreme function of maternity.

The philosophy of Birth Control insists that motherhood, no less than
any other human function, must undergo scientific study, must be
voluntarily directed and controlled with intelligence and foresight.
As long as we countenance what H. G. Wells has well termed ``the
monstrous absurdity of women discharging their supreme social
function, bearing and rearing children, in their spare time, as it
were, while they `earn their living' by contributing some half-
mechanical element to some trivial industrial product'' any attempt to
furnish ``maternal education'' is bound to fall on stony ground.
Children brought into the world as the chance consequences of the
blind play of uncontrolled instinct, become likewise the helpless
victims of their environment. It is because children are cheaply
conceived that the infant mortality rate is high. But the greatest
evil, perhaps the greatest crime, of our so-called civilization of to-
day, is not to be gauged by the infant-mortality rate. In truth,
unfortunate babies who depart during their first twelve months are
more fortunate in many respects than those who survive to undergo
punishment for their parents' cruel ignorance and complacent
fecundity. If motherhood is wasted under the present regime of
``glorious fertility,'' childhood is not merely wasted, but actually
destroyed. Let us look at this matter from the point of view of the
children who survive.

[1] U.S. Department of Labor: Children's Bureau. Infant Mortality Series,
No. 3, pp. 81, 82, 83, 84.
[2] Henry H. Hibbs, Jr. Infant Mortality: Its Relation to Social and
Industrial Conditions, p. 39. Russell Sage Foundation, New York, 1916.
[3] Cf. U. S. Department of Labor. Children's Bureau: Infant Mortality
Series, No. 11. p. 36.
[4] Havelock Ellis, Sex in Relation to Society, p. 31.



CHAPTER III: ``Children Troop Down From Heaven....''

Failure of emotional, sentimental and so-called idealistic efforts,
based on hysterical enthusiasm, to improve social conditions, is
nowhere better exemplified than in the undervaluation of child-life.
A few years ago, the scandal of children under fourteen working in
cotton mills was exposed. There was muckraking and agitation. A wave
of moral indignation swept over America. There arose a loud cry for
immediate action. Then, having more or less successfully settled this
particular matter, the American people heaved a sigh of relief,
settled back, and complacently congratulated itself that the problem
of child labor had been settled once and for all.

Conditions are worse to-day than before. Not only is there child labor
in practically every State in the Union, but we are now forced to
realize the evils that result from child labor, of child laborers now
grown into manhood and womanhood. But we wish here to point out a
neglected aspect of this problem. Child labor shows us how cheaply we
value childhood. And moreover, it shows us that cheap childhood is
the inevitable result of chance parenthood. Child labor is
organically bound up with the problem of uncontrolled breeding and the
large family.

The selective draft of 1917--which was designed to choose for military
service only those fulfiling definite requirements of physical and
mental fitness--showed some of the results of child labor. It
established the fact that the majority of American children never got
beyond the sixth grade, because they were forced to leave school at
that time. Our overadvertised compulsory education does not compel--
and does not educate. The selective-draft, it is our duty to
emphasize this fact, revealed that 38 per cent. of the young men (more
than a million) were rejected because of physical ill-health and
defects. And 25 per cent. were illiterate.

These young men were the children of yesterday. Authorities tell us
that 75 per cent. of the school-children are defective. This means
that no less than fifteen million schoolchildren, out of 22,000,000 in
the United States, are physically or mentally below par.

This is the soil in which all sorts of serious evils strike root. It
is a truism that children are the chief asset of a nation. Yet while
the United States government allotted 92.8 per cent. of its
appropriations for 1920 toward war expenses, three per cent. to public
works, 3.2 per cent. to ``primary governmental functions,'' no more
than one per cent. is appropriated to education, research and
development. Of this one per cent., only a small proportion is devoted
to public health. The conservation of childhood is a minor
consideration. While three cents is spent for the more or less
doubtful protection of women and children, fifty cents is given to the
Bureau of Animal Industry, for the protection of domestic animals. In
1919, the State of Kansas appropriated $25,000 to protect the health
of pigs, and $4,000 to protect the health of children. In four years
our Federal Government appropriated--roughly speaking--$81,000,000 for
the improvement of rivers; $13,000,000 for forest conservation;
$8,000,000 for the experimental plant industry; $7,000,000 for the
experimental animal industry; $4,000,000 to combat the foot and mouth
disease; and less than half a million for the protection of child
life.

Competent authorities tell us that no less than 75 per cent. of
American children leave school between the ages of fourteen and
sixteen to go to work. This number is increasing. According to the
recently published report on ``The Administration of the First Child
Labor Law,'' in five states in which it was necessary for the
Children's Bureau to handle directly the working certificates of
children, one-fifth of the 25,000 children who applied for
certificates left school when they were in the fourth grade; nearly a
tenth of them had never attended school at all or had not gone beyond
the first grade; and only one-twenty-fifth had gone as far as the
eighth grade. But their educational equipment was even more limited
than the grade they attended would indicate. Of the children applying
to go to work 1,803 had not advanced further than the first grade even
when they had gone to school at all; 3,379 could not even sign their
own names legibly, and nearly 2,000 of them could not write at all.
The report brings automatically into view the vicious circle of child-
labor, illiteracy, bodily and mental defect, poverty and delinquency.
And like all reports on child labor, the large family and reckless
breeding looms large in the background as one of the chief factors in
the problem.

Despite all our boasting of the American public school, of the equal
opportunity afforded to every child in America, we have the shortest
school-term, and the shortest school-day of any of the civilized
countries. In the United States of America, there are 106 illiterates
to every thousand people. In England there are 58 per thousand,
Sweden and Norway have one per thousand.

The United States is the most illiterate country in the world--that
is, of the so-called civilized countries. Of the 5,000,000
illiterates in the United States, 58 per cent. are white and 28 per
cent. native whites. Illiteracy not only is the index of inequality
of opportunity. It speaks as well a lack of consideration for the
children. It means either that children have been forced out of
school to go to work, or that they are mentally and physically
defective.[1]

One is tempted to ask why a society, which has failed so lamentably to
protect the already existing child life upon which its very
perpetuation depends, takes upon itself the reckless encouragement of
indiscriminate procreation. The United States Government has recently
inaugurated a policy of restricting immigration from foreign
countries. Until it is able to protect childhood from criminal
exploitation, until it has made possible a reasonable hope of life,
liberty and growth for American children, it should likewise recognize
the wisdom of voluntary restriction in the production of children.

Reports on child labor published by the National Child Labor Committee
only incidentally reveal the correlation of this evil with that of
large families. Yet this is evident throughout. The investigators
are more bent upon regarding child labor as a cause of illiteracy.

But it is no less a consequence of irresponsibility in breeding. A
sinister aspect of this is revealed by Theresa Wolfson's study of
child-labor in the beet-fields of Michigan.[2] As one weeder put it:
``Poor man make no money, make plenty children--plenty children good
for sugar-beet business.'' Further illuminating details are given by
Miss Wolfson:

``Why did they come to the beet-fields? Most frequently families with
large numbers of children said that they felt that the city was no
place to raise children--things too expensive and children ran wild--
in the country all the children could work.'' Living conditions are
abominable and unspeakably wretched. An old woodshed, a long-abandoned
barn, and occasionally a tottering, ramshackle farmer's house are the
common types. ``One family of eleven, the youngest child two years,
the oldest sixteen years, lived in an old country store which had but
one window; the wind and rain came through the holes in the walls, the
ceiling was very low and the smoke from the stove filled the room.
Here the family ate, slept, cooked and washed.''

``In Tuscola County a family of six was found living in a one-room
shack with no windows. Light and ventilation was secured through the
open doors. Little Charles, eight years of age, was left at home to
take care of Dan, Annie and Pete, whose ages were five years, four
years, and three months, respectively. In addition, he cooked the
noonday meal and brought it to his parents in the field. The filth and
choking odors of the shack made it almost unbearable, yet the baby was
sleeping in a heap of rags piled up in a corner.''

Social philosophers of a certain school advocate the return to the
land--it is only in the overcrowded city, they claim, that the evils
resulting from the large family are possible. There is, according to
this philosophy, no overcrowding, no over-population in the country,
where in the open air and sunlight every child has an opportunity for
health and growth. This idyllic conception of American country life
does not correspond with the picture presented by this investigator,
who points out:

``To promote the physical and mental development of the child, we
forbid his employment in factories, shops and stores. On the other
hand, we are prone to believe that the right kind of farm-work is
healthful and the best thing for children. But for a child to crawl
along the ground, weeding beets in the hot sun for fourteen hours a
day--the average workday--is far from being the best thing. The law of
compensation is bound to work in some way, and the immediate result of
this agricultural work is interference with school attendance.''

How closely related this form of child-slavery is to the over-large
family, is definitely illustrated: ``In the one hundred and thirty-
three families visited, there were six hundred children. A
conversation held with a ``Rooshian-German' woman is indicative of the
size of most of the families:

``How many children have you?'' inquired the investigator.

``Eight--Julius, und Rose, und Martha, dey is mine; Gottlieb und
Philip, und Frieda, dey is my husband's;--und Otto und Charlie--dey
are ours.''

Families with ten and twelve children were frequently found, while
those of six and eight children are the general rule. The advantage
of a large family in the beet fields is that it does the most work.
In the one hundred thirty-three families interviewed, there were one
hundred eighty-six children under the age of six years, ranging from
eight weeks up; thirty-six children between the ages of six and eight,
approximately twenty-five of whom had never been to school, and eleven
over sixteen years of age who had never been to school. One ten-year-
old boy had never been to school because he was a mental defective;
one child of nine was practically blinded by cataracts. This child
was found groping his way down the beet-rows pulling out weeds and
feeling for the beet-plants--in the glare of the sun he had lost all
sense of light and dark. Of the three hundred and forty children who
were not going or had never gone to school, only four had reached the
point of graduation, and only one had gone to high school. These
large families migrated to the beet-fields in early spring. Seventy-
two per cent. of them are retarded. When we realize that feeble-
mindedness is arrested development and retardation, we see that these
``beet children'' are artificially retarded in their growth, and that
the tendency is to reduce their intelligence to the level of the
congenital imbecile.

Nor must it be concluded that these large ``beet'' families are always
the ``ignorant foreigner'' so despised by our respectable press. The
following case throws some light on this matter, reported in the same
pamphlet: ``An American family, considered a prize by the agent
because of the fact that there were nine children, turned out to be a
`flunk.' They could not work in the beet-fields, they ran up a bill
at the country-store, and one day the father and the eldest son, a boy
of nineteen, were seen running through the railroad station to catch
an out-going train. The grocer thought they were `jumping' their
bill. He telephoned ahead to the sheriff of the next town. They were
taken off the train by the sheriff and given the option of going back
to the farm or staying in jail. They preferred to stay in jail, and
remained there for two weeks. Meanwhile, the mother and her eight
children, ranging in ages form seventeen years to nine months, had to
manage the best way they could. At the end of two weeks, father and
son were set free....During all of this period the farmers of the
community sent in provisions to keep the wife and children from
starving.'' Does this case not sum up in a nutshell the typical
American intelligence confronted with the problem of the too-large
family--industrial slavery tempered with sentimentality!

Let us turn to a young, possibly a more progressive state. Consider
the case of ``California, the Golden'' as it is named by Emma Duke, in
her study of child-labor in the Imperial Valley, ``as fertile as the
Valley of the Nile.''[3] Here, cotton is king, and rich ranchers,
absentee landlords and others exploit it. Less than ten years ago
ranchers would bring in hordes of laboring families, but refuse to
assume any responsibility in housing them, merely permitting them to
sleep on the grounds of the ranch. Conditions have been somewhat
improved, but, sometimes, we read, ``a one roomed straw house with an
area of fifteen by twenty feet will serve as a home for an entire
family, which not only cooks but sleeps in the same room.'' Here, as
in Michigan among the beets, children are ``thick as bees.'' All kinds
of children pick, Miss Duke reports, ``even those as young as three
years! Five-year-old children pick steadily all day.... Many white
American children are among them--pure American stock, who have
gradually moved from the Carolinas, Tennessee, and other southern
states to Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, and on into the Imperial
Valley.'' Some of these children, it seems, wanted to attend school,
but their fathers did not want to work; so the children were forced to
become bread-winners. One man whose children were working with him in
the fields said, ``Please, lady, don't send them to school; let them
pick a while longer. I ain't got my new auto paid for yet.'' The
native white American mother of children working in the fields proudly
remarked: ``No; they ain't never been to school, nor me nor their
poppy, nor their granddads and grandmoms. We've always been
pickers!''--and she spat her tobacco over the field in expert fashion.

``In the Valley one hears from townspeople,'' writes the
investigator, ``that pickers make ten dollars a day, working the whole
family. With that qualification, the statement is ambiguous. One
Mexican in the Imperial Valley was the father of thirty-three
children--`about thirteen or fourteen living,' he said. If they all
worked at cotton-picking, they would doubtless altogether make more
than ten dollars a day.''

One of the child laborers revealed the economic advantage--to the
parents--in numerous progeny: ``Us kids most always drag from forty to
fifty pounds of cotton before we take it to be weighed. Three of us
pick. I'm twelve years old and my bag is twelve feet long. I can
drag nearly a hundred pounds. My sister is ten years old, and her bag
is eight feet long. My little brother is seven and his bag is five
feet long.''

Evidence abounds in the publications of the National Child Labor
Committee of this type of fecund parenthood.[4] It is not merely a
question of the large family versus the small family. Even
comparatively small families among migratory workers of this sort have
been large families. The high infant mortality rate has carried off
the weaker children. Those who survive are merely those who have been
strong enough to survive the most unfavorable living conditions. No;
it is a situation not unique, nor even unusual in human history, of
greed and stupidity and cupidity encouraging the procreative instinct
toward the manufacture of slaves. We hear these days of the
selfishness and the degradation of healthy and well-educated women who
refuse motherhood; but we hear little of the more sinister selfishness
of men and women who bring babies into the world to become child-
slaves of the kind described in these reports of child labor.

The history of child labor in the English factories in the nineteenth
century throws a suggestive light on this situation. These child-
workers were really called into being by the industrial situation.
The population grew, as Dean Inge has described it, like crops in a
newly irrigated desert. During the nineteenth century, the numbers
were nearly quadrupled. ``Let those who think that the population of a
country can be increased at will, consider whether it is likely that
any physical, moral, or psychological change came over the nation co-
incidentally with the inventions of the spinning jenny and the steam
engine. It is too obvious for dispute that it was the possession of
capital wanting employment, and of natural advantages for using it,
that called those multitudes of human beings into existence, to eat
the food which they paid for by their labor.''[5]

But when child labor in the factories became such a scandal and such a
disgrace that child-labor was finally forbidden by laws that possessed
the advantage over our own that they were enforced, the proletariat
ceased to supply children. Almost by magic the birth rate among the
workers declined. Since children were no longer of economic value to
the factories, they were evidently a drug in the home. This movement,
it should not be forgotten however, was coincident with the agitation
and education in Birth Control stimulated by the Besant-Bradlaugh
trial.

Large families among migratory agricultural laborers in our own
country are likewise brought into existence in response to an
industrial demand. The enforcement of the child labor laws and the
extension of their restrictions are therefore an urgent necessity, not
so much, as some of our child-labor authorities believe, to enable
these children to go to school, as to prevent the recruiting of our
next generation from the least intelligent and most unskilled classes
in the community. As long as we officially encourage and countenance
the production of large families, the evils of child labor will
confront us. On the other hand, the prohibition of child labor may
help, as in the case of English factories, in the decline of the birth
rate.

UNCONTROLLED BREEDING AND CHILD LABOR GO HAND IN HAND. And to-day
when we are confronted with the evils of the latter, in the form of
widespread illiteracy and defect, we should seek causes more deeply
rooted than the enslavement of children. The cost to society is
incalculable, as the National Child Labor Committee points out. ``It
is not only through the lowered power, the stunting and the moral
degeneration of its individual members, but in actual expense, through
the necessary provision for the human junk, created by premature
employment, in poor-houses, hospitals, police and courts, jails and by
charitable organizations.''

To-day we are paying for the folly of the over-production--and its
consequences in permanent injury to plastic childhood--of yesterday.
To-morrow, we shall be forced to pay for our ruthless disregard of our
surplus children of to-day. the child-laborer of one or two decades
ago has become the shifting laborer of to-day, stunted, underfed,
illiterate, unskilled, unorganized and unorganizable. ``He is the
last person to be hired and the first to be fired.'' Boys and girls
under fourteen years of age are no longer permitted to work in
factories, mills, canneries and establishments whose products are to
be shipped out of the particular state, and children under sixteen can
no longer work in mines and quarries. But this affects only one
quarter of our army of child labor--work in local industries, stores,
and farms, homework in dark and unsanitary tenements is still
permitted. Children work in ``homes'' on artificial flowers,
finishing shoddy garments, sewing their very life's blood and that of
the race into tawdry clothes and gewgaws that are the most
unanswerable comments upon our vaunted ``civilization.'' And to-day,
we must not forget, the child-laborer of yesterday is becoming the
father or the mother of the child laborer of to-morrow.

``Any nation that works its women is damned,'' once wrote Woods
Hutchinson. The nation that works its children, one is tempted to
add, is committing suicide. Loud-mouthed defenders of American
democracy pay no attention to the strange fact that, although ``the
average education among all American adults is only the sixth grade,''
every one of these adults has an equal power at the polls. The
American nation, with all its worship of efficiency and thrift,
complacently forgets that ``every child defective in body, education
or character is a charge upon the community,'' as Herbert Hoover
declared in an address before the American Child Hygiene Association
(October, 1920): ``The nation as a whole,'' he added, ``has the
obligation of such measures toward its children...as will yield to
them an equal opportunity at their start in life. If we could grapple
with the whole child situation for one generation, our public health,
our economic efficiency, the moral character, sanity and stability of
our people would advance three generations in one.''

The great irrefutable fact that is ignored or neglected is that the
American nation officially places a low value upon the lives of its
children. The brutal truth is that CHILDREN ARE CHEAP. When over-
production in this field is curtailed by voluntary restriction, when
the birth rate among the working classes takes a sharp decline, the
value of children will rise. Then only will the infant mortality rate
decline, and child labor vanish.

Investigations of child labor emphasize its evils by pointing out that
these children are kept out of school, and that they miss the
advantages of American public school education. They express the
current confidence in compulsory education and the magical benefits to
be derived from the public school. But we need to qualify our faith
in education, and particularly our faith in the American public
school. Educators are just beginning to wake up to the dangers
inherent in the attempt to teach the brightest child and the mentally
defective child at the same time. They are beginning to test the
possibilities of a ``vertical'' classification as well as a
``horizontal'' one. That is, each class must be divided into what are
termed Gifted, Bright, Average, Dull, Normal, and Defective. In the
past the helter-skelter crowding and over-crowding together of all
classes of children of approximately the same age, produced only a
dull leveling to mediocrity.[6]

An investigation of forty schools in New York City, typical of
hundreds of others, reveals deplorable conditions of overcrowding and
lack of sanitation.[7] The worst conditions are to be found in
locations the most densely populated. Thus of Public School No. 51,
located almost in the center of the notorious ``Hell's Kitchen''
section, we read: ``The play space which is provided is a mockery of
the worst kind. The basement play-room is dark, damp, poorly lighted,
poorly ventilated, foul smelling, unclean, and wholly unfit for
children for purposes of play. The drainpipes from the roof have
decayed to such a degree that in some instances as little as a quarter
of the pipe remains. On rainy days, water enters the class-rooms,
hall-ways, corridors, and is thrown against windows because the pipes
have rotted away. The narrow stairways and halls are similar to those
of jails and dungeons of a century ago. The classrooms are poorly
lighted, inadequately equipped, and in some cases so small that the
desks of pupils and teachers occupy almost all of the floor-space.''

Another school, located a short distance from Fifth Avenue, the
``wealthiest street in the world,'' is described as an ``old shell of
a structure, erected decades ago as a modern school building. Nearly
two thousand children are crowded into class-rooms having a total
seating capacity of scarcely one thousand. Narrow doorways, intricate
hallways and antiquated stairways, dark and precipitous, keep ever
alive the danger of disaster from fire or panic. Only the eternal
vigilance of exceptional supervision has served to lessen the fear of
such a catastrophe. Artificial light is necessary, even on the
brightest days, in many of the class-rooms. In most of the
classrooms, it is always necessary when the sky is slightly
overcast.'' There is no ventilating system.

In the crowded East Side section conditions are reported to be no
better. The Public Education Association's report on Public School
No. 130 points out that the site at the corner of Hester and Baxter
Streets was purchased by the city years ago as a school site, but that
there has been so much ``tweedledeeing and tweedleduming'' that the
new building which is to replace the old, has not even yet been
planned! Meanwhile, year after year, thousands of children are
compelled to study daily in dark and dingy class-rooms. ``Artificial
light is continually necessary,'' declares the report. ``The
ventilation is extremely poor. The fire hazard is naturally great.
There are no rest-rooms whatever for the teachers.'' Other schools in
the neighborhood reveal conditions even worse. In two of them, for
example; ``In accordance with the requirements of the syllabus in
hygiene in the schools, the vision of the children is regularly
tested. In a recent test of this character, it was found in Public
School 108, the rate of defective vision in the various grades ranged
from 50 to 64 per cent.! In Public School 106, the rate ranged from
43 to 94 per cent.!''

The conditions, we are assured, are no exceptions to the rule of
public schools in New York, where the fatal effects of overcrowding in
education may be observed in their most sinister but significant
aspects.

The forgotten fact in this case is that efforts for universal and
compulsory education cannot keep pace with the overproduction of
children. Even at the best, leaving out of consideration the public
school system as the inevitable prey and plundering-ground of the
cheap politician and job-hunter, present methods of wholesale and
syndicated ``education'' are not suited to compete with the unceasing,
unthinking, untiring procreative powers of our swarming, spawning
populations.

Into such schools as described in the recent reports of the Public
Education Association, no intelligent parent would dare send his
child. They are not merely fire-traps and culture-grounds of
infection, but of moral and intellectual contamination as well. More
and more are public schools in America becoming institutions for
subjecting children to a narrow and reactionary orthodoxy, aiming to
crush out all signs of individuality, and to turn out boys and girls
compressed into a standardized pattern, with ready-made ideas on
politics, religion, morality, and economics. True education cannot
grow out of such compulsory herding of children in filthy fire-traps.

Character, ability, and reasoning power are not to be developed in
this fashion. Indeed, it is to be doubted whether even a completely
successful educational system could offset the evils of indiscriminate
breeding and compensate for the misfortune of being a superfluous
child. In recognizing the great need of education, we have failed to
recognize the greater need of inborn health and character. ``If it
were necessary to choose between the task of getting children educated
and getting them well born and healthy,'' writes Havelock Ellis, ``it
would be better to abandon education. There have been many great
peoples who never dreamed of national systems of education; there have
been no great peoples without the art of producing healthy and
vigorous children. The matter becomes of peculiar importance in great
industrial states, like England, the United States and Germany,
because in such states, a tacit conspiracy tends to grow up to
subordinate national ends to individual ends, and practically to work
for the deterioration of the race.''[8]

Much less can education solve the great problem of child labor.
Rather, under the conditions prevailing in modern society, child labor
and the failure of the public schools to educate are both indices of a
more deeply rooted evil. Both bespeak THE UNDERVALUATION OF THE
CHILD. This undervaluation, this cheapening of child life, is to
speak crudely but frankly the direct result of overproduction.
``Restriction of output'' is an immediate necessity if we wish to
regain control of the real values, so that unimpeded, unhindered, and
without danger of inner corruption, humanity may protect its own
health and powers.

[1] I am indebted to the National Child Labor Committee for these statistics,
as well as for many of the facts that follow.
[2] ``People Who Go to Beets'' Pamphlet No. 299, National Child Labor Committee.
[3] California the Golden, by Emma Duke. Reprinted from The American Child,
Vol. II, No. 3. November 1920.
[4] Cf. Child Welfare in Oklahoma; Child Welfare in Alabama; Child Welfare
in North Carolina; Child Welfare in Kentucky; Child Welfare in Tennessee.
Also, Children in Agriculture, by Ruth McIntire, and other studies.
[5] W. R. Inge: Outspoken Essays: p. 92
[6] Cf. Tredgold: Inheritance and Educability. Eugenics Review, Vol. Xiii,
No. I, pp. 839 et seq.
[7] Cf. New York Times, June 4, 1921.
[8] ``Studies in the Psychology of Sex,'' Vol. VI. p. 20.



CHAPTER IV: The Fertility of the Feeble-Minded

What vesture have you woven for my year?
O Man and Woman who have fashioned it
Together, is it fine and clean and strong,
Made in such reverence of holy joy,
Of such unsullied substance, that your hearts
Leap with glad awe to see it clothing me,
The glory of whose nakedness you know?

``The Song of the Unborn''
Amelia Josephine Burr


There is but one practical and feasible program in handling the great
problem of the feeble-minded. That is, as the best authorities are
agreed, to prevent the birth of those who would transmit imbecility to
their descendants. Feeble-mindedness as investigations and statistics
from every country indicate, is invariably associated with an
abnormally high rate of fertility. Modern conditions of civilization,
as we are continually being reminded, furnish the most favorable
breeding-ground for the mental defective, the moron, the imbecile.
``We protect the members of a weak strain,'' says Davenport, ``up to
the period of reproduction, and then let them free upon the community,
and encourage them to leave a large progeny of `feeble-minded': which
in turn, protected from mortality and carefully nurtured up to the
reproductive period, are again set free to reproduce, and so the
stupid work goes on of preserving and increasing our socially unfit
strains.''

The philosophy of Birth Control points out that as long as civilized
communities encourage unrestrained fecundity in the ``normal'' members
of the population--always of course under the cloak of decency and
morality--and penalize every attempt to introduce the principle of
discrimination and responsibility in parenthood, they will be faced
with the ever-increasing problem of feeble-mindedness, that fertile
parent of degeneracy, crime, and pauperism. Small as the percentage
of the imbecile and half-witted may seem in comparison with the normal
members of the community, it should always be remembered that feeble-
mindedness is not an unrelated expression of modern civilization. Its
roots strike deep into the social fabric. Modern studies indicate
that insanity, epilepsy, criminality, prostitution, pauperism, and
mental defect, are all organically bound up together and that the
least intelligent and the thoroughly degenerate classes in every
community are the most prolific. Feeble-mindedness in one generation
becomes pauperism or insanity in the next. There is every indication
that feeble-mindedness in its protean forms is on the increase, that
it has leaped the barriers, and that there is truly, as some of the
scientific eugenists have pointed out, a feeble-minded peril to future
generations--unless the feeble-minded are prevented from reproducing
their kind. To meet this emergency is the immediate and peremptory
duty of every State and of all communities.

The curious situation has come about that while our statesmen are busy
upon their propaganda of ``repopulation,'' and are encouraging the
production of large families, they are ignoring the exigent problem of
the elimination of the feeble-minded. In this, however, the
politicians are at one with the traditions of a civilization which,
with its charities and philanthropies, has propped up the defective
and degenerate and relieved them of the burdens borne by the healthy
sections of the community, thus enabling them more easily and more
numerously to propagate their kind. ``With the very highest
motives,'' declares Dr. Walter E. Fernald, ``modern philanthropic
efforts often tend to foster and increase the growth of defect in the
community....The only feeble-minded persons who now receive any
official consideration are those who have already become dependent or
delinquent, many of whom have already become parents. We lock the
barn-door after the horse is stolen. We now have state commissions for
controlling the gipsy-moth and the boll weevil, the foot-and-mouth
disease, and for protecting the shell-fish and wild game, but we have
no commission which even attempts to modify or to control the vast
moral and economic forces represented by the feeble-minded persons at
large in the community.''

How the feeble-minded and their always numerous progeny run the gamut
of police, alms-houses, courts, penal institutions, ``charities and
corrections,'' tramp shelters, lying-in hospitals, and relief afforded
by privately endowed religious and social agencies, is shown in any
number of reports and studies of family histories. We find cases of
feeble-mindedness and mental defect in the reports on infant mortality
referred to in a previous chapter, as well as in other reports
published by the United States government. Here is a typical case
showing the astonishing ability to ``increase and multiply,''
organically bound up with delinquency and defect of various types:

``The parents of a feeble-minded girl, twenty years of age, who was
committed to the Kansas State Industrial Farm on a vagrancy charge,
lived in a thickly populated Negro district which was reported by the
police to be the headquarters for the criminal element of the
surrounding State....The mother married at fourteen, and her first
child was born at fifteen. In rapid succession she gave birth to
sixteen live-born children and had one miscarriage. The first child, a
girl, married but separated from her husband....The fourth, fifth and
sixth, all girls, died in infancy or early childhood. The seventh, a
girl, remarried after the death of her husband, from whom she had been
separated. The eighth, a boy who early in life began to exhibit
criminal tendencies, was in prison for highway robbery and burglary.
The ninth, a girl, normal mentally, was in quarantine at the Kansas
State Industrial Farm at the time this study was made; she had lived
with a man as his common-law wife, and had also been arrested several
times for soliciting. The tenth, a boy, was involved in several
delinquencies when young and was sent to the detention-house but did
not remain there long. The eleventh, a boy...at the age of seventeen
was sentenced to the penitentiary for twenty years on a charge of
first-degree robbery; after serving a portion of his time, he was
paroled, and later was shot and killed in a fight. The twelfth, a
boy, was at fifteen years of age implicated in a murder and sent to
the industrial school, but escaped from there on a bicycle which he
had stolen; at eighteen, he was shot and killed by a woman. The
thirteenth child, feeble-minded, is the girl of the study. The
fourteenth, a boy was considered by police to be the best member of
the family; his mother reported him to be much slower mentally than
his sister just mentioned; he had been arrested several times. Once,
he was held in the detention-home and once sent to the State
Industrial school; at other times, he was placed on probation. The
fifteenth, a girl sixteen years old, has for a long time had a bad
reputation. Subsequent to the commitment of her sister to the Kansas
State Industrial Farm, she was arrested on a charge of vagrancy, found
to by syphilitic, and quarantined in a state other than Kansas. At
the time of her arrest, she stated that prostitution was her
occupation. The last child was a boy of thirteen years whose history
was not secured....''[1]

The notorious fecundity of feeble-minded women is emphasized in
studies and investigations of the problem, coming from all countries.
``The feeble-minded woman is twice as prolific as the normal one.''
Sir James Crichton-Browne speaks of the great numbers of feeble-minded
girls, wholly unfit to become mothers, who return to the work-house
year after year to bear children, ``many of whom happily die, but some
of whom survive to recruit our idiot establishments and to repeat
their mothers' performances.'' Tredgold points out that the number of
children born to the feeble-minded is abnormally high. Feeble-minded
women ``constitute a permanent menace to the race and one which
becomes serious at a time when the decline of the birth-rate
is...unmistakable.'' Dr. Tredgold points out that ``the average
number of children born in a family is four, whereas in these
degenerate families, we find an average of 7.3 to each. Out of this
total only a little more than ONE-THIRD--456 out of a total of 1,269
children--can be considered profitable members of the community, and
that, be it remembered, at the parents' valuation.

Another significant point is the number of mentally defective children
who survive. ``Out of the total number of 526 mentally affected
persons in the 150 families, there are 245 in the present generation--
an unusually large survival.''[2]

Speaking for Bradford, England, Dr. Helen U. Campbell touches another
significant and interesting point usually neglected by the advocates
of mothers' pensions, milk-stations, and maternity-education programs.

``We are also confronted with the problem of the actually mentally
deficient, of the more or less feeble-minded, and the deranged,
epileptic...or otherwise mentally abnormal mother,'' writes this
authority. ``The `bad mothering' of these cases is quite unimprovable
at an infant welfare center, and a very definite if not relatively
very large percentage of our infants are suffering severely as a
result of dependence upon such `mothering.'''[3]

Thus we are brought face to face with another problem of infant
mortality. Are we to check the infant mortality rate among the
feeble-minded and aid the unfortunate offspring to grow up, a menace
to the civilized community even when not actually certifiable as
mentally defective or not obviously imbecile?

Other figures and studies indicate the close relationship between
feeble-mindedness and the spread of venereal scourges. We are
informed that in Michigan, 75 per cent. of the prostitute class is
infected with some form of venereal disease, and that 75 per cent. of
the infected are mentally defective,--morons, imbeciles, or ``border-
line'' cases most dangerous to the community at large. At least 25
per cent. of the inmates of our prisons, according to Dr. Fernald, are
mentally defective and belong either to the feeble-minded or to the
defective-delinquent class. Nearly 50 per cent. of the girls sent to
reformatories are mental defectives. To-day, society treats feeble-
minded or ``defective delinquent'' men or women as ``criminals,''
sentences them to prison or reformatory for a ``term,'' and then
releases them at the expiration of their sentences. They are usually
at liberty just long enough to reproduce their kind, and then they
return again and again to prison. The truth of this statement is
evident from the extremely large proportion in institutions of
neglected and dependent children, who are the feeble-minded offspring
of such feeble-minded parents.

Confronted with these shocking truths about the menace of feeble-
mindedness to the race, a menace acute because of the unceasing and
unrestrained fertility of such defectives, we are apt to become the
victims of a ``wild panic for instant action.'' There is no occasion
for hysterical, ill-considered action, specialists tell us. They
direct our attention to another phase of the problem, that of the so-
called ``good feeble-minded.'' We are informed that imbecility, in
itself, is not synonymous with badness. If it is fostered in a
``suitable environment,'' it may express itself in terms of good
citizenship and useful occupation. It may thus be transmuted into a
docile, tractable, and peaceable element of the community. The moron
and the feeble-minded, thus protected, so we are assured, may even
marry some brighter member of the community, and thus lessen the
chances of procreating another generation of imbeciles. We read
further that some of our doctors believe that ``in our social scale,
there is a place for the good feeble-minded.''

In such a reckless and thoughtless differentiation between the ``bad''
and the ``good'' feeble-minded, we find new evidence of the
conventional middle-class bias that also finds expression among some
of the eugenists. We do not object to feeble-mindedness simply
because it leads to immorality and criminality; nor can we approve of
it when it expresses itself in docility, submissiveness and obedience.
We object because both are burdens and dangers to the intelligence of
the community. As a matter of fact, there is sufficient evidence to
lead us to believe that the so-called ``borderline cases'' are a
greater menace than the out-and-out ``defective delinquents'' who can
be supervised, controlled and prevented from procreating their kind.
The advent of the Binet-Simon and similar psychological tests
indicates that the mental defective who is glib and plausible, bright
looking and attractive, but with a mental vision of seven, eight or
nine years, may not merely lower the whole level of intelligence in a
school or in a society, but may be encouraged by church and state to
increase and multiply until he dominates and gives the prevailing
``color''--culturally speaking--to an entire community.

The presence in the public schools of the mentally defective children
of men and women who should never have been parents is a problem that
is becoming more and more difficult, and is one of the chief reasons
for lower educational standards. As one of the greatest living
authorities on the subject, Dr. A. Tredgold, has pointed out,[4] this
has created a destructive conflict of purpose. ``In the case of
children with a low intellectual capacity, much of the education at
present provided is for all practical purposes a complete waste of
time, money and patience....On the other hand, for children of high
intellectual capacity, our present system does not go far enough. I
believe that much innate potentiality remains undeveloped, even
amongst the working classes, owing to the absence of opportunity for
higher education, to the disadvantage of the nation. In consequence
of these fundamental differences, the catchword `equality of
opportunity' is meaningless and mere claptrap in the absence of any
equality to respond to such opportunity. What is wanted is not
equality of opportunity, but education adapted to individual
potentiality; and if the time and money now spent in the fruitless
attempt to make silk-purses out of sows' ears, were devoted to the
higher education of children of good natural capacity, it would
contribute enormously to national efficiency.''

In a much more complex manner than has been recognized even by
students of this problem, the destiny and the progress of civilization
and of human expression has been hindered and held back by this burden
of the imbecile and the moron. While we may admire the patience and
the deep human sympathy with which the great specialists in feeble-
mindedness have expressed the hope of drying up the sources of this
evil or of rendering it harmless, we should not permit sympathy or
sentimentality to blind us to the fact that health and vitality and
human growth likewise need cultivation. ``A LAISSER FAIRE policy,''
writes one investigator, ``simply allows the social sore to spread.
And a quasi LAISSER FAIRE policy wherein we allow the defective to
commit crime and then interfere and imprison him, wherein we grant the
defective the personal liberty to do as he pleases, until he pleases
to descend to a plane of living below the animal level, and try to
care for a few of his descendants who are so helpless that they can no
longer exercise that personal liberty to do as they please,''--such a
policy increases and multiplies the dangers of the over-fertile
feeble-minded.[5]

The Mental Survey of the State of Oregon recently published by the
United States Health Service, sets an excellent example and should be
followed by every state in the Union and every civilized country as
well. It is greatly to the credit of the Western State that it is one
of the first officially to recognize the primary importance of this
problem and to realize that facts, no matter how fatal to self-
satisfaction, must be faced. This survey, authorized by the state
legislature, and carried out by the University of Oregon, in
collaboration with Dr. C. L. Carlisle of the Public Health service,
aided by a large number of volunteers, shows that only a small
percentage of mental defectives and morons are in the care of
institutions. The rest are widely scattered and their condition
unknown or neglected. They are docile and submissive. they do not
attract attention to themselves as do the criminal delinquents and the
insane. Nevertheless, it is estimated that they number no less than
75,000 men, women, and children, out of a total population of 783,000,
or about ten per cent. Oregon, it is thought, is no exception to
other states. Yet under our present conditions, these people are
actually encouraged to increase and multiply and replenish the earth.

Concerning the importance of the Oregon survey, we may quote Surgeon
General H. C. Cumming: ``the prevention and correction of mental
defectives is one of the great public health problems of to-day. It
enters into many phases of our work and its influence continually
crops up unexpectedly. For instance, work of the Public Health
Service in connection with juvenile courts shows that a marked
proportion of juvenile delinquency is traceable to some degree of
mental deficiency in the offender. For years Public Health officials
have concerned themselves only with the disorders of physical health;
but now they are realizing the significance of mental health also.
The work in Oregon constitutes the first state-wide survey which even
begins to disclose the enormous drain on a state, caused by mental
defects. One of the objects of the work was to obtain for the people
of Oregon an idea of the problem that confronted them and the heavy
annual loss, both economic and industrial, that it entailed. Another
was to enable the legislators to devise a program that would stop much
of the loss, restore to health and bring to lives of industrial
usefulness, many of those now down and out, and above all, to save
hundreds of children from growing up to lives of misery.''

It will be interesting to see how many of our State Legislatures have
the intelligence and the courage to follow in the footsteps of Oregon
in this respect. Nothing could more effectually stimulate discussion,


 


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