4

Margaret Sanger gave a speech titled My Way to Peace 17 January 1932 to the New History Society, in New York.

I don't know how much to include in my question, but an excerpt is:

c) keep the doors of Immigration closed to the entrance of certain aliens whose condition is known to be detrimental to the stamina of the race, such as feeble-minded, idiots, morons, insane, syphiletic, epileptic, criminal, professional prostitutes, and others in this class barred from entrance by the Immigration Laws of 1924.

(d) apply a stern and rigid policy of sterilization, and segregation to that grade of population whose progeny is already tainted or whose inheritance is such that objectionable traits may be transmitted to offspring.

(e) to insure the country against future burdens of maintenance for numerous offspring as may be born of feeble-minded parents, the government would pension all persons with transmissible disease who voluntarily consent to sterilization.

(f) the whole dysgenic population would have its choice of segregation or sterilization.

(g) there would be farm lands and homesteads where these segregated persons would be taught to work under competent instructors for the period of their entire lives.

The first step would thus be to control the intake and output on morons, mental defectives, epileptics.

The second step would be to take an inventory of the secondary group such as illiterates, paupers, unemployables, criminals, prostitutes, dope-fiends; classify them in special departments under government medical protection and segregate on farms and open spaces as long as necessary for the strengthening and development of moral conduct.

Having coralled this enormous part of our population and placed it on a basis of health not punishment, it is safe to say that about fifteen or twenty millions of our population would then be organized into soldiers of defense–defending the unborn against their own disabilities.

...

With the future citizens safeguarded from hereditary taints, with five million mental and moral degenerates segregated, with ten million women and ten million children receiving adequate attention, we could then turn our attention to the basic needs for international peace.

...

There was also a recorded question and answer session afer the speech.

Who are these 15-20 million soldiers? Are they literal soldiers enforcing the "stern and rigid policy of sterilization and segregation"? or are they the people prevented from reproducing? or are they the people allowed to reproduce? or something else that I can't think of?

  • 2
    This certainly is a side of Margaret Sanger that I was not aware of! – AllInOne Dec 21 '16 at 20:03
  • 3
    "this" in the last sentence/paragraph appears to be referring back to the subject of the previous sentence/paragraph: "the secondary group". Not all of the meanings of the word "Army" are military in nature. – T.E.D. Dec 21 '16 at 21:28
  • @T.E.D. so are you thinking that 15-20 million is the population of the secondary group? Later in the speech she says "with five million mental and moral degenerates segregated". – DavePhD Dec 21 '16 at 21:35
  • This might be a better fit for Politics SE. There are some questions about Sanger;s political views on that site. – Tom Au Dec 27 '16 at 6:25
  • 1
    @TomAu I see one question about Sanger on PoliticsSE, but I'm looking more for an answer form a historical-critical literature point of view what she means by "having coralled this enormous part of our population and placed it on a basis of health not punishment, it is safe to say about fifteen or twenty millions of our population would then be organized into soldiers of defense" considering that later she says "with five million mental and moral degenerates segregated". I want the answer to be as unbiased and non-politcal as possible. – DavePhD Dec 27 '16 at 12:23
2

Who are these 15-20 million soldiers? Are they literal soldiers enforcing the "stern and rigid policy of sterilization and segregation"? or are they the people prevented from reproducing? or are they the people allowed to reproduce? or something else that I can't think of?

It seems crystal clear to me that she is talking about the previously mentioned categories of undesirable people, which she estimates at about 15 to 20 million. They are not literal soldiers; she is just using military language and symbolism. These 20 million people would form a figurative army to wage war on society's ills by... not passing their undesirable traits on to any children. To quote Wikipedia:

During the Progressive Era of the late 19th and early 20th century, eugenics was considered a method of preserving and improving the dominant groups in the population

...

Early proponents of eugenics believed that, through selective breeding, the human species should direct its own evolution. They tended to believe in the genetic superiority of Nordic, Germanic and Anglo-Saxon peoples; supported strict immigration and anti-miscegenation laws; and supported the forcible sterilization of the poor, disabled and "immoral".[12]

So the basic idea was to improve society by preventing undesirable people from having children who would inherit their parents undesirable traits. And, lest we judge Mary Sanger too harshly, this form of Eugenic ideology was wildly popular at this time in the US, and found its way into legislation, supreme court decisions and even scientific journals and studies, and advocates were not always content to give anyone a choice, or confine their methods to birth control. I'll end on a couple excerpts from the same Wikipedia page I quoted above.

Eugenics was widely accepted in the U.S. academic community.[7] By 1928 there were 376 separate university courses in some of the United States' leading schools, enrolling more than 20,000 students, which included eugenics in the curriculum.[17]

...

One of the most prominent feminists to champion the eugenic agenda was Margaret Sanger, the leader of the American birth control movement. Margaret Sanger saw birth control as a means to prevent unwanted children from being born into a disadvantaged life, and incorporated the language of eugenics to advance the movement.[24][25] Sanger also sought to discourage the reproduction of persons who, it was believed, would pass on mental disease or serious physical defect. She advocated sterilization in cases where the subject was unable to use birth control.[24] Unlike other eugenicists, she rejected euthanasia.[26] For Sanger, it was individual women and not the state who should determine whether or not to have a child.[27][28]

  • So when she says 5 million is that just a narrower category of undesirables? – DavePhD Dec 27 '16 at 20:31
  • 1
    @DavePhD Right, a narrower group that was viewed by society of the time with some degree of disgust or contempt. The line of thinking went something along the lines of poor and the feeble are that way through no fault of their own, so they ought to be cared for, in exchange for agreeing not to burden a child with their defects... but those moral and mental degenerates brought it on themselves, and deserve their lot, so they ought to be segregated, as the rest of society shouldn't have to be exposed to their perversion. – HopelessN00b Dec 27 '16 at 20:45

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.