* Your assessment is very important for improving the workof artificial intelligence, which forms the content of this project
Download Margaret Sanger:Eugenics vs Feminism
Document related concepts
Subject: Christine Connor-Final Topic: PROJECTS Term PaperMargaret Sanger:Eugenics vs Feminism Author: Christine Date: December 12, 2009 11:06 AM Connor Margaret Sanger: Feminist vs. Eugenics Throughout this paper the theme that will be analyzed is whether or not Margaret Sanger was primarily a pioneer of Feminism or Eugenics. This conflict has stirred up a great amount of controversy. Various sources have been carefully collected representing the diverse outlooks on this topic. This wide spectrum will offer readers a complete understanding of Margaret Sanger’s role in the development of the first Birth Control Clinic Research Bureau, which later developed into Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Birth Control Movement. As a future historian it is important to carefully read and analyze all major historians who are active in this specific field. After cautiously investigating this topic I have chosen a select few historians’ work to evaluate. Feminism is an intellectual commitment and a political movement which main agenda is to allow justice for women and to end sexism in all forms. There are several different forms of feminism, which disagree on what is actually regarded as sexism and how it should be dealt with. Feminist also struggle “with what it means to be a woman or a man and what social and political implications gender has or should have. Nonetheless, motivated by the quest for social justice, feminist inquiry provides a wide range of perspectives on social, cultural, and political phenomena” (Standford). Feminism first began in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and is presently a strong movement. Eugenics movement’s purpose was to create the “perfect” race through the use of selective breeding and sterilization. Eugenicist believed that only allowing individuals to reproduce whose genetic characteristics were deemed valuable and desirable would allow them to achieve a “perfect” race. Eugenics and the Hitler go hand in hand with one another, because this was precisely what he attempting to create. Hitler was a strong supporter and advocate and used genocide as a way to reach his ultimate goal. This movement, Americas dirty little secret, began to take hold in America during the early 1900’s, the same time period as the feminist movement. The book Margaret Sanger’s Eugenic Legacy: The Control of Female Fertility, written by Angela Franks offers an interesting perspective that focuses on the Eugenics viewpoint. Angel Franks has a PhD. in systematic theology at Boston College along with a M.A. in philosophy from the Catholic University of America. She is also the receiver of the Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship for graduate studies. Her experiences volunteering at a Harlem soup kitchen and homeless shelter as a young woman have shaped her humanitarian and feminist vision. In her book she sheds light on the “oppressive ideology of eugenics-which explicitly targets persons with the disabilities and the poor-leads to the actual oppression of women, despite Sanger’s emancipator rhetoric.” (Angela Franks) Franks makes her case that Margaret Sanger’s ideology of control has and still continues to have deleterious effects in America and around the world. She had come to this conclusion after review over twenty original manuscript sources, along with the best historiography on eugenics and women’s history. In the beginning of the book Franks notes “of the fifty clergymen, scientist, and physicians listed on the National Council of Sanger’s American Birth Control League (ABCL) in the 1920’s, at least twenty-three of them were involved at a prominent level in eugenics” (Margaret Sanger’s Eugenic Legacy 5). These individuals were affiliated either as members or as public supporters. Franks suggest this demonstrates that eugenics was deeply routed in Sanger’s foundation. Franks described by Sanger as a “negative eugenicist” because she was concerned with limiting the procreation of “unfit” individuals instead of encouraging “fit” individuals to reproduce and carry on good genes. Franks introduces Margaret Sanger as “the American birth-control and population-control advocate who founded Planned Parenthood” (Margaret Sanger’s Eugenic Legacy 5). Many feminists view Sanger as a pioneer for women’s reproductive rights. Many women see Sanger as a feminist who has allowed them the “freedoms that they enjoy now to a greater degree than ever before, a freedom build on the control of female fertility” (Margaret Sanger’s Eugenic Legacy 6). Franks defends that Margaret Sanger used birth control as a weapon to the solution of women’s and humanity’s problems. In this book Franks focuses on the idea that “birth control was intended from the beginning to control the births of certain kinds of people” (Margaret Sanger’s Eugenic Legacy 7). It can be seen through the information presented in the book as to why Franks believes strongly that Sanger’s main priority was in Eugenics appose to a Feministic approach. To begin with Franks presents an early draft of the “What We Stand for” pamphlet, where it states: "The complex problems now confronting America as the result of the practice of reckless procreation are fast threatening to grow beyond human control. Everywhere we see poverty and large families going hand in hand. Those least fit to carry on the race are increasing rapidly. People who cannot support their own offspring are encouraged by Church and state to produce large families. Many of the children thus begotten are disease or feeble-minded; many become criminals. The burden of supporting these unwanted types has to be borne by the healthy elements of our nation. Funds that should be used to raise the standards of our civilization are diverted to the maintenance of those who should never have been born" (Margaret Sanger’s Eugenic Legacy 34). Franks believes that his statement clearly demonstrates that Sanger was not primarily concerned with the effect on women but more so the effects on taxpayers and the nations economy. Again Franks strengthened her argument by including the headline “WASTED LIVES-WASTED DOLLARS” along with the statement “In a nation, therefore, thousands and thousands of lives are thus being wasted while billions of dollars are spend for carious types of ‘palliative’ relief, while omitting to include essential steps to remove or to reduce some of the major causes of death disease, delinquency, and dependency” made by Henry Havelock Ellis, Sanger’s primary Neo-Malthusian influence. Throughout this book Frank notes that Sanger believed that specific classes of people should not be parents, and that if they could be persuaded to live in this manner, should then be forced too. Sanger states: "To me that seems a very short sighted view of the world situation. I see no wider meaning of family planning that control and as far as restriction there are definitely some families thought the world were there is every indication… that restriction should be an order as [well as] an ideal for the betterment of the family and the race" (Margaret Sanger’s Eugenic Legacy 8). In reaction to this statement Franks argues that Sanger wanted one thing, and that was control, the power to decided whether or not individuals were “fit” to become parents. For this reason Franks finds it her responsibility to shed light in order for individuals to recognize that Sanger “championed an ideology that is much less benign that it first appears, and ideology ultimately destructive of the ideals of female liberation” (Margaret Sanger’s Eugenic Legacy 8). “Unfit” parents are referred to as individuals who have transmittable diseases, are poor, unemployed, sick, diseased, mentally handicap, physically handicap, and feebleminded. Franks also finds in important to define the term “unfit” as evils of the world, that Sanger’s planned to eliminate through the distribution of birth control. While Franks interprets Sanger’s view on “fit” individuals as those who Sanger believed “demonstrated that she was fit to use that freedom appropriately- and the test of fitness was whether or not she recognized her eugenic responsibilities” (Margaret Sanger’s Eugenic Legacy 15). Franks suggest that Sanger believed that “unfit” individuals, who procreated, incurred a debt to their society. Franks understanding of Sanger’s reasoning for her actions has lead her to believe concretely that Sanger was more concerned with the effect on the country itself, appose to women. Franks point out how Sanger’s terms dehumanized women’s reproductive systems, in many cases comparing them to animals. Sanger used the phrases “defective stock” when talking about “unfit” parents. Another common word that was used by Sanger to describe human reproduction was “breeding”. A slogan that was used on the cover of the November 1921 issue of the Birth Control Review stated, “To create a race of thoroughbred” (Margaret Sanger’s Eugenic Legacy 49). In two other examples Sanger refers to the “unfits” as “human weeds”, stating that “Nature eliminates the weeds, but we turn them into parasites and allow them to reproduce” and in the following statement: "In his last book, Mr. [H.G.] Wells speaks of the meaningless, aimless lives which cram this world of ours, hordes of people who are born, who live, who die, yet who have done absolutely nothing to advance the race one iota. Their lives are all hopeless repetitions. All that they have said has been said before; all that they have done had been done better before. Such human weeds clog up the path, drain up the energies and the recourse of this little earth. We must clear the way for a better world; we must cultivate out gardens." (Margaret Sanger’s Eugenic Legacy 48) Again Sanger uses degrading comparisons to dehumanize the female reproductive system in an opening speech to a population conference in 1948 when she said: "We are moreover, becoming a nation of vast homelessness, rootless, uprooted migrants, now sweeping onward toward the Pacific Coast… life a scourge of locus, or a devastating flood of nomadic humanity. Can you imagine the impact of this cast scourge of human grasshoppers upon the settled communities, which are not prepared to welcome them" (Margaret Sanger’s Eugenic Legacy 49). This constant use of demeaning terms Franks believes was a Eugenic tactic, which was used to undermine “unfit” individuals. By debasing women’s reproductive systems it made it easier to persuade individuals to follow in her movement. This book offers a very controversial look at Margaret Sanger and questions her main objective for the birth control movement. One review of this book calls Franks “a pro-life zealot. She is violently anti-choice, and anti-birth control…she views Planned Parenthood and its founder, Margaret Sanger, as Satan incarnate” (Amazon) Where as another stated “this book is thorough and well documented, with over 1,200 footnotes and a bibliography featuring about a thousand books, articles, and interviews on Sanger, her associates, and the organizations they founded and led. The tone is academic, but the language is generally accessible, so that both scholars and activists alike will benefit from the reading of it.” (Amazon) As to whether or not an individuals agree with Franks viewpoint she offers a strong case and any individual interested in understanding Margaret Sanger’s movement should be sure to read this book. In the book Margaret Sanger: Pioneer of the Future, written by Emily Taft Douglas portrays Sanger differently then Franks. Douglas believes that Sanger was significantly affected by her mother’s health conditions. Sanger decided to study medicine after she was called home by her father to care for her bedridden-mother. For as long as Sanger to could remember her “mother had been plagued by a formidable cough” (Margaret Sanger: Pioneer of the Future 13). Due to a lack of funds Sanger was unable to start medical school, instead she enrolled in nursing school in White Plains, New York. After years of working as a nurse and being present for many deliveries, Sanger began understand the struggles that many women were presented with. Sanger saw everything “from herb tea to turpentine and patent medicines. They rolled downstairs or inserted button hooks and knitting needles into their bodies” (Margaret Sanger: Pioneer of the Future 31). Desperate women paid five dollars for illegal abortions, which were preformed quickly with no aftercare, where many bled to death. After begin unable to provide Sadie Sachs with the help she desperately needed, Sanger was forever haunted by Sachs death. Sanger was upset by the lack of options and information provided by doctors. She was tired of hearing male doctors give ignorant advise to desperate women on how to prevent pregnancy. Some statements by male doctors, Douglas provided in her book included, “You want to have your cake and eat it too” and “tell [your husband] to sleep of the roof!” (Margaret Sanger: Pioneer of the Future 33). This triggered Sanger’s movement and the development of journal The Women Rebel, that offered “safe ways for women to prevent excess pregnancies and that in France those ways were freely used. She would teacher wives to insist on their own rights” (Margaret Sanger: Pioneer of the Future 41). In The Margaret Sanger Paper Project it discusses how Sanger became alarmed after realizing the challenges women faced when attempting to obtain birth control. This led Sanger to challenge the 1873 federal Comstock law, which prohibited the distribution of contraceptive information. Sanger “did not invent a freer sexuality for women or discover contraception, but by insisting on raising both as public issues, she did fundamentally alter the social discourse of her times and of our own” (Women of Valor 73). Sanger then went on to open the first birth control clinic in 1917, after running for only nine days the clinic was raided. The staff along with Margaret were arrested and placed in jail. Many women may have given up at this point, feeling defeated and left with little choices, but not Margaret, she continued to dedicate her life to the cause. Due to the struggles Sanger was faced with she was faced with the reality that she would need to find alliances that were politically and financially strong. Ellen Chesler author of Women of Valor: Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control Movement in America is an esteemed lecturer and director of the Eleanor Roosevelt Initiative on Women and Public Life at Roosevelt House, which it the new public policy center of Hunter College of the City University of New York. She was also a finalist for PEN’s 1993 Martha Albrand prize for the year’s best first work of nonfiction for her book Woman of Valor. IN the book it states that Sanger was “convinced” by Edith Ellis that women have been assigned to act as chief enforces and as “critical agents of civilization progress… they alone have the power to produce and nurture fewer, fitter babies” (Women of Valor 123). From this statement it can be seen that Sanger may have been led to believe in something she may not have truly supported because of Ellis manipulative ways. Ellis seems to have used Sanger’s commitment to the welfare of women to gain support for his eugenics movement. On the other hand it also seem that Sanger was aware of the power Ellis had, and used that to her advantage to further her cause. She continued to gain support from wealthy men and women and doctors, which empowered Margaret’s birth control movement. Margaret was an intelligent woman and was fully aware of the adversities ahead of her, and for that reason she needed to gain supporters. During the 1920’s it was challenging for women to gain political support and power, especially when dealing with such a sensitive subject. Margaret was not Ellis only feminist follower, other such as Emma Goldman, Olive Schreiner, and Ellen Key were all strong supporters of him. With great regard for Ellis and his ideas, Sanger began to implement them into her own righting. Due to Margaret’s strong view that the American labor system was depended on women and children, and for this reason she felt it was imperative to “break the cycle of the ‘present economic enslavement” (Women of Valor 125). Above all it seems that Sanger wanted women to be informed about safe contraception and to have a choice in the matter. She wanted to shed light on to this topic that had been tabooed for too long. Margaret stated: "We maintain that it is no more indecent to discuss sexual anatomy, physiology and hygiene in a scientific spirit that it is to discuss function of the stomach, the heart and the liver. We believe that the question as to whether or not, and when, a women should have child, is not a question for the doctors to decide, except in cases where the woman’s life is endangered, or for the state legislators to decided, but a question for the woman herself to decide” (Woman of Valor 154). It was Sanger’s main purpose to allow women to have full control over their reproductive systems, and not to allow others to determine their future. Margaret had gone as far as hunger strikes to demonstrate her commitment to women’s rights. Margaret felt strongly that women should not feel burdened by their children. Also that women should have say in how many children they felt they could raise and that their bodies could bare. Sanger thought that: “A free race cannot be born of slave mothers. A woman enchained cannot choose but give a measure of that bondage o her sons and daughters. No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body. No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother” (Woman of Valor 192). This statement helps to better understand Sanger’s devotion for women’s rights. Margaret was unable to comprehend how a woman could have complete freedom if they were unable to, have control over their own bodies. For thousands of years women have been seen as weak women, because they were unable to control their reproductive system. They have been crucified for their inability to have children, more specifically male children. Margaret was unhappy with the way women’s fertility was viewed, and wanted to offer opportunities to these women who she believed to be slaves to their own bodies. A reviewer of Women of Valor: Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control Movement in America said, “it's a shame that it is out of print, as Margaret Sanger's life story, and her struggle for the reproductive rights of women and female autonomy, make for enlightening reading. Ellen Chesler put in an enormous amount of work, documenting every detail, and weaving the whole into a very readable book” (Amazon). While another review stated, “It got into her personal life, fostering the hero myth but it left out much that is troubling. Ms. Sanger founded Planned Parenthood but was also a proponent of eugenics, advocating selective breeding, sterilization and euthanasia” (Amazon). It is obvious from both reviews that Margaret is and continues to be a controversial individual. Many see her as a prominent Feminist while others see her as a leader of the Eugenics. Many historians and feminist continue to attempt to inform individuals of Sanger’s true motives. When looking at this topic from presentistic point of view it is easy to look back and make quick judgments, but I strongly feel as a future historian it is important to look at both the Presentist and Historicist view. It was a different time, then it is now, and although I do not agree with every decision Margaret Sanger made, I still believe that she truly wanted to offer women information and choice regarding their bodies. There are several conditions that influenced Margaret, which are impossible for present day historians to completely understand. Historians can continue to scrutinize the decisions, actions, and words of Sanger, but I think that Sanger’s influence helped strengthen and further the Feminist movement. I disagree with the fact that Sanger believed that she along with other elite individuals were in the position to decided whether or not an individual was fit to be a parent. I also think that Sanger’s belief that the poor were unfit was based on what she had seen after years of being a nurse. Her view may have been skewed by her experiences seeing many poor and workingwomen frustrated and nearly dying from the side effect of having to many children. I am an advocate of the Planned Parenthood Organization and think that they have helped countless individuals who were in need guidance and help. I will continue to support the Feminist Movement, and the improvements Sanger made. I feel that I have learned a great deal from this assignment. I came in viewing Margaret Sanger as a feminist, without having any knowledge of her eugenic connections. Form the research I have completed I now feel as though I am a well informed historian on this topic. Now that my interest has been stirred I will continue to look at new information and other historians views in the future and reevaluate my stance. Work Cited "Amazon.com: Margaret Sanger's Eugenic Legacy: The Control of Female Fertility eBook: Angela Franks: Kindle Store." Amazon.com: Online Shopping for Electronics, Apparel, Computers, Books, DVDs & more. Web. 11 Dec. 2009. <http://www.amazon.com/Margaret-Sangers-Eugenic-Legacyebook/dp/B002MH41G8/ref=pd_sim_kinc_1?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2>. "Amazon.com: Woman of Valor: Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control Movement in America eBook: Ellen Chesler: Kindle Store." Amazon.com: Online Shopping for Electronics, Apparel, Computers, Books, DVDs & more. Web. 11 Dec. 2009. <http://www.amazon.com/Woman-Valor-Margaret-Movementebook/dp/B000W938D0/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top>. Angela Franks - Author of Margaret Sanger's Eugenic Legacy; The Control of Female Fertility. Web. 11 Dec. 2009. <http://www.angelafranks.com/>. Chesler, Ellen. Woman of valor Margaret Sanger and the birth control movement in America. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992. Print. Douglas, Emily Taft. Margaret Sanger, pioneer of the future. Garrett Park, Md: Garrett Park, 1975. Print. "Ellen Chesler – Author Profile and Information & Video at Simon & Schuster." Author Interviews & Appearances, Authors In the News & More – Simon & Schuster. Web. 11 Dec. 2009. <http://authors.simonandschuster.com/Ellen-Chesler/1371>. Franks, Angela. Margaret Sanger's Eugenic Legacy The Control of Female Fertility. Boston: McFarland & Company, 2005. Print. "MSPP About Margaret Sanger Biographical Sketch." New York University. Web. 11 Dec. 2009. <http://www.nyu.edu/projects/sanger/secure/aboutms/index.html>. "Topics in Feminism ()." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Web. 11 Dec. 2009. <http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/feminism-topics/>.