Jump to content
The Education Forum

Marie Stopes, Margaret Sanger & Eugenics

Steve Rymer

Recommended Posts

I wanted to tell you after reading a couple of articles on spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk how disappointed I was with the rather sanitised and polictically correct viewpoints expressed in articles relating to Marie Stopes and Margaret Sanger. The fact that they were, fanatical eugenicists and began 'birth control' centres to deal with what they referred to as "weeds ... overrunning the human garden" and "morons, misfits, and the maladjusted" seems to have been completely missed by the very feminist article listed on your site. Both Ms. Stopes and Ms. Sanger are listed in some detail on the 'Eugenics Watch' website. Their views were even bold enough to come to the attention of Adolf Hitler who expressed 'an admiration' for their work.

Ms. Stopes used her clinics to provide funding to the UK Eugenics Society, having founded the 'Society for Constructive Birth Control and Racial Progress' and 'Mothers' Clinic for Constructive Birth Control'. She published numerous books on Eugenics and a 'Eugenics Review' for the society itself and was a 'life fellow' until her death. 'Radiant Motherhood' called for the "compulsory sterilization of the insane, feebleminded ... revolutionaries ... half castes."

Upon her death in 1958 she left her clinic and a substantial part of her assets to the Eugenics Society.

It disappoints me that in the fanatical clammer to unearth 'feminist' icons that the truth can be so easily disregarded or erased by the very people charged with teaching our children to think for themselves (or is that out of date?). It quite frankly scares me to think that this unchallenged, one-sided, sanitised clap-trap is being fed to our children via the NGFL and sites such as yours. (I know it's not your site)

No doubt you have already dismissed my objections as the misguided and therefore unimportant 'attitudes' of someone outside the politically correct world of education. Let me help you with the commonly used and abused terminology - I know how the system works. I am a male and not willing to accept these blatant distortions, therefore a sexist, mysogenist moron.

I do not expect for one minute that you will bother to reply.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am sorry you did not like my pages on Marie Stopes and Margaret Sanger. It is true that I admire both women. This is because of they spent their life campaigning for equal rights for women. Both are known for their fight to make sure that reliable contraceptive information was available to women. Sanger became involved in the campaign while working as a public health nurse in the slums of New York.

In 1921 Sanger established America's first birth-control clinic. The clinic in Brooklyn was closed by the police and Sanger was imprisoned for 30 days.

Marie Stopes was influenced by Sanger’s work and she also opened the first of her birth-control clinics in Holloway, North London in 1921. Unlike Sanger she was not prosecuted. However, two of her friends, Guy and Rose Aldred, who published a pamphlet written by Margaret Sanger, were found guilty of selling an obscene publication.

I believe both women contributed a great deal to reducing the suffering of women. Although, I admit that did severely damage the credibility of the Roman Catholic Church.

Sanger and Stopes were not single issue political figures. Both were involved in a whole range of campaigns to improve the quality of life of women. They got most of these issues right. However, as you point out they were both involved with the Eugenics movement. You fail to point out what these two women meant by this. At the time Eugenics meant the study of improving hereditary qualities by socially controlling human reproduction. It was something that was believed in by a great number of progressive thinkers during the 1920s and '30s, when treatments for many hereditary and disabling conditions were unknown.

For example, why have you only concentrated on these two women. What about people like H. G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw who were also supporters of this movement? I have not mentioned they supported Eugenics in the 1920s on their web pages. Nor did I mention it on my pages on Oliver Wendell Holmes and Louis Brandeis, two great men who supported Eugenics in the 1920s.

It is a common trick of those opposed to birth control and the liberation of women to associate these women with the views of Adolf Hitler. It might interest you to know that Sanger's books were among the very first burned by the Nazis. He was opposed to both her socialism and her belief in birth control.

Hitler’s views on Eugenics was very different from those of Sanger and Stopes. This is what Sanger has to say about this in The Birth Control Review of February 1919:

Eugenists imply or insist that a woman's first duty is to the state; we contend that her duty to herself is her first duty to the state. We maintain that a woman possessing an adequate knowledge of her reproductive functions is the best judge of the time and conditions under which her child should be brought into the world. We further maintain that it is her right, regardless of all other considerations, to determine whether she shall bear children or not, and how many children she shall bear if she chooses to become a mother.

Sanger and Stopes always believed that reproductive decisions should be made on an individual and not a social or cultural basis, and she consistently repudiated any racial application of eugenics principles. For example, Sanger vocally opposed the racial stereotyping that effected passage of the Immigration Act of 1924, on the grounds that intelligence and other inherited traits vary by individual and not by group.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would agree with your comments on the contribution both women made to improving the lives of women in their respective countries.

My reasons to single out these women were not intentional. The articles came to light following some research I was doing into eugenics. My concern is, that amost every article on the web (apart from 826 out of 112,000+) fails to mention eugenics or for the most part any of the books written by Ms. Stopes or Ms. Sanger which even mentioned eugenics. I accept your point regarding other famous supporters of eugenics, but would say that none of them (to my knowledge) started birth control clinics.

I would also agree that eugenics in the pre-genetics and pre-Hitler era meant something very different to today, but no-one can be unsure as to the intent behind the quotes I included.

Ms. Stopes' support and involvement in eugenics continued until her death in 1957, long after the German attrocities of the 1930's and 40's. She even sought to support her ideas after her death.

I am unsure as the whether your statement "It is a common trick of those opposed to birth control and the liberation of women to associate these women with the views of Adolf Hitler" was directed towards me or protractors in general, but will respond anyway. Who says I am opposed to either birth control or women's rights / liberation. As it happens I am not. I see myself as someone who would fight for justice and truth regardless of the battlelines. It is a common trick of those who wish to suppress debate to lump all opponents into groups with which no-one would wish to be associated - racist, sexist and worse. Therefore, someone who does not wholly and completely support the aspirations or desires of all women (or any individual woman) is labelled a sexist - and dismissed. This is the kind of politically correct suppression of free-speech that I will no longer submit to. Having read other postings submitted by yourself - I do not cosider you to be an opponent of free-speech - quite the opposite.

My concern regarding these articles, and you are by no means alone, is the one-sided nature of the story-telling. Yes, they made huge contributions to women's rights, but they also believed in the elimination of undesirable elements of society through birth-control and enforced sterilisation. This does not appear to be in keeping with the individual reproductive rights of women for which she is 'now' famous. Has this current image been created retrospectively by feminists or was she genuinely concerned with reproductive choice?

My point(s):

History should reflect the truth - regardless of how distasteful.

Were Ms. Stopes and Ms. Sangers motivations for starting these clinics, and let's call them what they are - abortion clinics, out of a desire to improve the lives of women or a desire to eliminate undesirables. These clinics concentrated on the termination of the unwanted babies of the very people they described as 'human weeds'.

Opinions / discussions / debate regarding such politically correct subjects as feminism, racism etc. should not be the sole domain of those who support those groups. In my experience/opinion a curtain is being drawn around these subjects and opposition has almost been eliminated. This is a frightening thought and does not make for a fair and balanced society...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in

Sign In Now
  • Create New...