Margaret Sanger’s Message to the Poor

Margaret Sanger’s Message to the Poor

by Mike Sosteric –

Why are there so many poor people? Margaret Sanger was a nurse and eugenicist who believed that the drive for sex was “a factor in the perpetuation of poverty” and that if “civilization [was] to be saved”  (Sanger, 1922, pp. 10-11) we would have to keep them (i.e. the poor) from procreating so we could reduce their numbers and reduce the problem. She came to this conclusion after realizing that “well-defined programs of political and legislative action” (pp. 4) (perhaps like food stamp programs, welfare, training programs, etc.) would not work to reduce the “misery of the world” caused by the “urging power of sex” (pp. 7).  She appreciates lovingly the support she receives from the ‘new-Malthusian movement in Great Britain” (pp. 14) and lays the blame for the misery of the poor squarely on the “lack of balance between the birth rate of the ‘unfit’ and the ‘fit’.” She means by this that the poor and unfit are breeding faster than the rich and educated. As she says, this “imbalance” is the “greatest present menace to civilization” (pp. 25).

The example of the inferior classes (i.e. high rates of procreation), 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 today 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 (p. 25).

The “drastic and Spartan” methods she refers to are horrifying, but given her statements about the over-breeding poor, and her “emergency” alarm at the “ever increasing problem of feeble-mindedness,” which she says is caused by the “unrestrained fecundity in the ‘normal’ members of the population,” and which she calls the “fertile parent of degeneracy, crime, and pauperism,” (p. 81-2), we shouldn’t be surprised. She stops sort of suggesting that the “defective progeny” be sent to the “lethal chamber,”[1] but does come down in favor of “immediate sterilization” so that “parenthood is absolutely prohibited” for “every feeble-minded girl or woman of the hereditary type, especially of the moron class” (pp. 100-2), whom I think it is safe to say she figured, based on research done at the University of Oregon at the time, represent about “ten per cent” of the population (p. 94-5). She doesn’t stop at forced sterilization of the most feeble, however. That is just a first step. Ultimately she argues that the general solution is to encourage the poor to practice birth control. “Birth Control has been accepted by the most clear thinking and far seeing of the Eugenics themselves as the most constructive and necessary means to racial health” (p. 189).

Sanger is often considered a racist, but this is a bit of a (perhaps) intentional distraction. Her concern appeared to be not with specific ethnic groups, but with the poor in general, whom she blames for the descent of the species, regardless of their specific race. That is, she considered the overbreeding poor to be examples of, and the source of, “racial degeneracy.”  She quotes a Dr. Austin Freeman who notes that

Compared with the African negro, the British sub-man is in several respects markedly inferior. He tends to be dull; he is usually quite helpless and unhandy; he has, as a rule, no skill or knowledge of handicraft, or indeed knowledge of any kind… Over-population is a phenomenon connected with the survival of the unfit, and it is a mechanism which has created conditions favorable to the survival of the unfit and the elimination of the fit.

You can read her book and see for yourself who the eugenicists were aiming at. It is available at It is quite instructive.

Notably, Margaret Sanger was instrumental in the emergence of organizations that eventually evolved into Planned Parenthood (birth control!). Note that Planned Parenthood does not espouse these offensive views anymore, and by encouraging reproductive control they have certainly contributed to the emancipation of women from reproductive slavery. Therefore, this little note should not be read as an attack on procreative autonomy and freedom. I write this analysis as I work on an article discussing the implications of recent biological research to our understanding of human potential and human dysfunction (Sosteric, 2018). I include it here simply to show how a concern with population control mixes with eugenics mixes with Nazi-ism mixes with Darwinian theory mixes with apologies for capitalist accumulation. The point is to show suggest that eugenicists are not racist and that their final solution is not a racial solution. Rather, it is a cost saving measure based on the erroneous belief that the feeble poor are the cause of their own unemployment, poverty, and misery. That is of course not true. As noted in my Rocket Scientists Guide to Money and the Economy (Sharp, 2016), poverty is caused by unfettered accumulation, not by bad genes. It is the fact that 62 people have managed to acquire half the world’s wealth that the poor are in such dire straits. This is something to think about as automation threatens to throw billions out of work globally, thereby increasing the “burden” on the capitalist system, and potentially requiring some sort of cost-saving solution. Most may not consider the “lethal chamber” an option, but other measures, like chip sterilization,[2] nuclear war that enlists and kills of the poor, or even a Malthusian program of soft eugenics, where disease and plague amongst the poor are encouraged by government policy,[3] are all strategies one can easily slip through the cracks of a scandal distracted, and racially misdirected, population.

Source: Margaret Sanger’s Message to the Poor – The Socjourn

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