Quoth The Raven, 09.02.15: Margaret Sanger

Quoth The Raven is a new feature at Kingdom in the Midst. It features interesting or important quotes, speech excerpts, or good writing that catches my attention. It may be fiction or non-fiction from a magazine, book, or online.

“Quoth” is an archaic word meaning “said” or “spoke.” Recognized by English speakers is the refrain “Quoth the Raven ‘Nevermore!'” from Poe’s masterful poem, The Raven. This feature is an homage.

A quote from Margaret Sanger

Longtime critics of Planned Parenthood point to the organization’s founder Margaret Sanger as evidence of an ongoing effort to decrease minority populations through birth control and abortion. Planned Parenthood, for its part, has consistently denied such claims. PPFA has called some of Sanger’s eugenics beliefs “objectionable and outmoded.”

Sanger’s Birth Control Federation of America became Planned Parenthood in 1942 during the time the American driven eugenics movement was being played out in Germany’s Holocaust of European Jewry. (See Edwin Black’s War Against the Weak for the grim history.) Though the pseudoscience eugenics ultimately declined after World War 2, Sanger never wavered in her “fiery determination to eliminate the unfit” (Black, p 143). The eugenics movement with its warped belief that the “feeble minded, insane, epileptic, alcoholic, blind, deaf, deformed, and indigent” had no right to reproduce, had already led to the forced sterilization of 60,000 Americans.

The following is from an acceptance speech given by Margaret Sanger, October 25, 1950, at the 30th anniversary of the Planned Parenthood Federation.

Let us not forget that these billions, millions, thousands of people are increasing, expanding, exploding at a terrific rate ever year. Africa, Asia, South America are made up of more than a billion human beings, miserable, poor, illiterate labor slaves, whether they are called that or not; a billion hungry men and women always in the famine zone yet reproducing themselves in the blind struggle for survival and perpetuation…


The brains, initiative, thrift and progress of the self supporting, creative human being are called upon to support the ever increasing and numerous dependent, delinquent and unbalanced masses…I wonder how many of you realize that the population of the British Isles in Shakespeare’s time was scarcely more than six millions, yet out of these few millions came the explorers, the pioneers, the poets, the Pilgrims and the courageous founders of the United States of America. What is England producing today with her hungry fifty million human beings struggling for survival? She had then a race of quality, not it’s merely quantity. One forgets that the Italy of the Renaissance, of the painters, the scupltors, the architects, was a loose collection of small towns–a tiny population that was yet the nursery of geniuses. There again quality rises supreme above quantity.


[The] suggestion I would offer as one worthy of national consideration is that of decreasing the progeny of those human beings afflicted with transmissable diseases and dysgenic qualities of body and mind. While our present Federal Government Santa Clauses have their hands in the tax-payer’s pockets, why not in their generous giving mood be constructive and provide for sterilizing as well as giving a pension, dole–call it what you may–to the feebleminded and victims of transmissible, congenital diseases? Such a program would be a sound future investment as well as a kindness to the couples themselves by preventing the birth of dozens of their progeny to becomes burdens, even criminals of another generation.

Sanger not only victoriously scaled Mount Ignorance, she also held aloft the banner of privilege. Why should Sanger perceive herself even one iota above an tribesman in the Congo, or a native Ecuadorean Indian? Did she really think the native populations of Africa, Asia and South America with their varied complex and ancient cultures were nothing more than “labor slaves”?  Any propensity for violence was not less than her own. Note her cocksure certainty that descendants of the poor or ill would be burdens to society, if not criminals.

How quickly she forgot the healthy, sound minded corruption of the robber barons, and the white collar criminals of Wall Street. Perhaps not forgotten, since she rubbed shoulders with that class.

Sanger lifts her skirt long enough to show her class bias by highlighting explorers, painters and architects, as superior to other types of inventors and societal influencers. Not only was her genetic science skewed; her sociology was as well.

What of those “hungry fifty million” slobs in Great Britain who were of such low quality they’ve yet to found another country; what have they accomplished since Sanger’s pronouncement? Anything at all? Fattening themselves on fish and chips? As it turns out, they’ve done quite a lot.

In 1953, three Brits teamed with an American to discover the DNA spiral helix, in the 1950s-60s John Charnley invented hip replacements, Colin Murdoch invented, among other things, the childproof cap (though Sanger would likely bristle at the number of poor children saved from accidental overdose by it), Martin Ryle’s team at Cambridge discovered the first quasar (not quite America, but hey), the Leakeys found a plethora of fossils, Higgs and Bosum theorized elementary particles in 1964, and in 1960s James Black invented beta blockers.

That’s just a fraction of advances the two decades after Sanger’s speech. Many of those advances from struggling Brits were during Sanger’s lifetime. The 40+ years since have been no less productive.

Oh, and we lowly Americans with our stubborn refusal to sterilize everyone in Appalachia suffering from “poverty” or a lazy eye managed to invent the personal computer, put men on the moon, put men and women into orbit repeatedly, while advancing medicine, engineering, explored the farthest reaches of our solar system with the Hubbel, invented vaccines, new ways to grow food, literacy rates, and more, all the while increasing in population. Yes, even the “surplus population” Sanger and Ebenezer Scrooge so despised.

For its part, Planned Parenthood still honors the legacy of this eugenics champion every year in the bestowing of its Margaret Sanger Award, the organization’s highest. Little wonder sober-minded people have trouble separating their legacies. She who would mutilate the born begat those who would butcher the unborn. It’s a family legacy.

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Marty Duren

Just a guy writing some things.