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MARGARET SANGER; AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY. ***




Produced by Richard Tonsing and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net (This file was
produced from images generously made available by The
Internet Archive)









MARGARET SANGER

[Illustration]


[Illustration: _Margaret Sanger_]




MARGARET
SANGER

_An Autobiography_


NEW YORK W·W·NORTON & COMPANY PUBLISHERS




Copyright, 1938, by
W. W. NORTON & COMPANY, INC.
70 Fifth Avenue, New York

_First Edition_


PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
FOR THE PUBLISHERS BY THE VAIL-BALLOU PRESS

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -




TO ALL THE PIONEERS
OF NEW AND BETTER WORLDS TO COME




ACKNOWLEDGMENTS


_My thanks are due especially to Rackham Holt for her discerning aid in
organizing material and for her untiring and inspired advice during the
preparation of this book; as well as to Walter S. Hayward whose able
assistance has helped to make the task lighter._

_In the course of preparing this narrative many books have been
consulted. I trust their authors will agree with me that a bibliography
in a personal history is cumbersome and accept a general but none the
less grateful acknowledgment._

_My admiration has always gone out to the person who can put himself in
print and set down for historical purposes an exact record of his honest
feelings and thoughts, even though they may seem to reflect upon many of
his friends and helpers. I have not in this story hurt any one by
intent. Because its thread has, of necessity, followed dramatic
highlights, many people who played prominent parts have not been
mentioned. These I have not forgotten, nor those numerous others who
made smaller offerings. Some have pioneered in their special fields and
localities; some have given generously and unfailingly of their
financial help; some have volunteered in full measure their time and
efforts as officers and Committee members; some have fought and labored
by my side throughout the years; some have stepped in for only a brief
but significant role. Although on the outskirts of the army, it is to
these last as well as to those in the vanguard that the advance has been
made. And particularly do I wish to thank those co-workers and members
of the various staffs whose contributions can in no way be measured by
their duties, and whose indefatigable, loyal devotion has been a bulwark
of strength to me at all times._

_It has been impossible to carry out my sincere desire to give personal
and individual recognition and expression of gratitude to all. Neither a
history of the birth control movement nor the part I have taken in it
could be complete, however, did I not pay tribute to the integrity,
valiance, courage, and clarity of vision of the men and women who, year
after year, maintained their principles, and never swerved from them in
a cause which belongs to all of us._




TABLE OF CONTENTS


I. FROM WHICH I SPRING 11

II. BLIND GERMS OF DAYS TO BE 24

III. BOOKS ARE THE COMPASSES 33

IV. DARKNESS THERE AND NOTHING MORE 46

V. CORALS TO CUT LIFE UPON 58

VI. FANATICS OF THEIR PURE IDEALS 68

VII. THE TURBID EBB AND FLOW OF MISERY 86

VIII. I HAVE PROMISES TO KEEP 93

IX. THE WOMAN REBEL 106

X. WE SPEAK THE SAME GOOD TONGUE 121

XI. HAVELOCK ELLIS 133

XII. STORK OVER HOLLAND 142

XIII. THE PEASANTS ARE KINGS 153

XIV. O, TO BE IN ENGLAND 169

XV. HIGH HANGS THE GAUNTLET 179

XVI. HEAR ME FOR MY CAUSE 192

XVII. FAITH I HAVE BEEN A TRUANT IN THE LAW 210

XVIII. LEAN HUNGER AND GREEN THIRST 224

XIX. THIS PRISON WHERE I LIVE 238

XX. A STOUT HEART TO A STEEP HILL 251

XXI. THUS TO REVISIT 268

XXII. DO YE HEAR THE CHILDREN WEEPING? 280

XXIII. IN TIME WE CAN ONLY BEGIN 292

XXIV. LAWS WERE LIKE COBWEBS 306

XXV. ALIEN STARS ARISE 316

XXVI. THE EAST IS BLOSSOMING 327

XXVII. ANCIENTS OF THE EARTH 337

XXVIII. THE WORLD IS MUCH THE SAME EVERYWHERE 349

XXIX. WHILE THE DOCTORS CONSULT 358

XXX. NOW IS THE TIME FOR CONVERSE 369

XXXI. GREAT HEIGHTS ARE HAZARDOUS 376

XXXII. CHANGE IS HOPEFULLY BEGUN 392

XXXIII. OLD FATHER ANTIC, THE LAW 398

XXXIV. SENATORS, BE NOT AFFRIGHTED 413

XXXV. A PAST WHICH IS GONE FOREVER 431

XXXVI. FAITH IS A FINE INVENTION 447

XXXVII. WHO CAN TAKE A DREAM FOR TRUTH? 461

XXXVIII. DEPTH BUT NOT TUMULT 478

XXXIX. SLOW GROWS THE SPLENDID PATTERN 493

INDEX 497




MARGARET SANGER




_Chapter One_

FROM WHICH I SPRING

“_‘Where shall I begin, please your Majesty?’ he asked.
‘Begin at the beginning,’ the King said, very gravely,
‘and go on till you come to the end: then stop.’_”

LEWIS CARROLL


The streets of Corning, New York, where I was born, climb right up from
the Chemung River, which cuts the town in two; the people who live there
have floppy knees from going up and down. When I was a little girl the
oaks and the pines met the stone walks at the top of the hill, and there
in the woods my father built his house, hoping mother’s “congestion of
the lungs” would be helped if she could breathe the pure, balsam-laden
air.

My mother, Anne Purcell, always had a cough, and when she braced herself
against the wall the conversation, which was forever echoing from room
to room, had to stop until she recovered. She was slender and straight
as an arrow, with head well set on sloping shoulders, black, wavy hair,
skin white and spotless, and with wide-apart eyes, gray-green, flecked
with amber. Her family had been Irish as far back as she could trace;
the strain of the Norman conquerors had run true throughout the
generations, and may have accounted for her unfaltering courage.

Mother’s sensitivity to beauty found some of its expression in flowers.
We had no money with which to buy them, and she had no time to grow
them, but the woods and fields were our garden. I can never remember
sitting at a table not brightened with blossoms; from the first spring
arbutus to the last goldenrod of autumn we had an abundance.

Although this was the Victorian Age, our home was almost free from
Victorianism. Father himself had made our furniture. He had even cut and
polished the slab of the big “marble-topped table,” as it was always
called. Only in the spare room stood a piece bought at a store—a
varnished washstand. The things you made yourself were not considered
quite good enough for guests. Sometimes father’s visitors were doctors,
teachers, or perhaps the village priest, but mostly they were the
artisans of the community—cabinet makers, masons, carpenters who admired
his ideas as well as shared his passion for hunting. In between tramping
the woods and talking they had helped to frame and roof the house,
working after hours to do this.

Father, Michael Hennessy Higgins, born in Ireland, was a nonconformist
through and through. All other men had beards or mustaches—not he. His
bright red mane, worn much too long according to the family, swept back
from his massive brow; he would not clip it short as most fathers did.
Actually it suited his finely-modeled head. He was nearly six feet tall
and hard-muscled; his keen blue eyes were set off by pinkish, freckled
skin. Homily and humor rippled unceasingly from his generous mouth in a
brogue which he never lost. The jokes with which he punctuated every
story were picked up, retold, and scattered about. When I was little
they were beyond me, but I could hear my elders laughing.

The scar on father’s forehead was his badge of war service. When Lincoln
had called for volunteers against the rebellious South, he had taken his
only possessions, a gold watch inherited from his grandfather and his
own father’s legacy of three hundred dollars, and had run away from his
home in Canada to enlist. But he had been told he was not old enough,
and was obliged to wait impatiently a year and a half until, on his
fifteenth birthday, he had joined the Twelfth New York Volunteer Cavalry
as a drummer boy.

One of father’s adventures had been the capture of a Confederate captain
on a fine mule, the latter being counted the more valuable acquisition
to the regiment. We were brought up in the tradition that he had been
one of three men selected by Sherman for bravery. That made us very
proud of him. Better not start anything with father; he could beat
anybody! But he himself had been appalled by the brutalities of war;
never thereafter was he interested in fighting, unless perhaps his Irish
sportsmanship cropped out when two well-matched dogs were set against
each other.

Immediately upon leaving the Army father had studied anatomy, medicine,
and phrenology, but these had been merely for perfecting his skill in
modeling. He made his living by chiseling angels and saints out of huge
blocks of white marble or gray granite for tombstones in cemeteries. He
was a philosopher, a rebel, and an artist, none of which was calculated
to produce wealth. Our existence was like that of any artist’s
family—chickens today and feathers tomorrow.

Christmases were on the poverty line. If any of us needed a new winter
overcoat or pair of overshoes, these constituted our presents. I was the
youngest of six, but after me others kept coming until we were eleven.
Our dolls were babies—living, wriggling bodies to bathe and dress
instead of lifeless faces that never cried or slept. A pine beside the
door was our Christmas tree. Father liked us to use natural things and
we had to rely upon ingenuity rather than the village stores, so we
decorated it with white popcorn and red cranberries which we strung
ourselves. Our most valuable gift was that of imagination.

We had little time for recreation. School was five miles away and we had
to walk back and forth twice a day as well as perform household duties.
The boys milked the cow, tended the chickens, and took care of Tom, the
old white horse which pulled our sleigh up and down the hill. The girls
helped put the younger children to bed, mended clothes, set the table,
cleaned the vegetables, and washed the dishes. We accepted all this with
no sense of deprivation or aggrievement, being, if anything, proud of
sharing responsibility.

And we made the most of our vacations. There were so many of us that we
did not have to depend upon outsiders, and Saturday afternoons used to
put on plays by ourselves in the barn. Ordinarily we were shy about
displaying emotions; we looked upon tears and temper in other homes with
shocked amazement as signs of ill-breeding. Play-acting, however, was
something else again. Here we could find outlet for histrionic talent
and win admiration instead of lifted eyebrows. I rather fancied myself
as an actress, and often mimicked some of the local characters, to the
apparent pleasure of my limited audience of family and neighbors. It was
not long before I slipped into declaiming. _The Lady of Lyons_ was one
of my specialties:

This is thy palace, where the perfumed light
Steals through the mist of alabaster lamps,
And every air is heavy with the sighs
Of orange groves, and music from the sweet lutes
And murmurs of low fountains, that gush forth
I’ the midst of roses!

All outdoors was our playground, but I was not conscious at the time of
my love for the country. Things in childhood change perspective. What
was taken for granted then assumes great significance in later life. I
knew how the oak tree grew and where the white and yellow violets could
be found, and with a slight feeling of superiority I showed and
expounded these mysteries to town children. Not until pavements were my
paths did I realize how much a part of me the country was, and how I
missed it.

We were all, brothers and sisters alike, healthy and strong, vigorous
and active; our appetites were curtailed only through necessity. We
played the same games together and shared the same sports—baseball,
skating, swimming, hunting. Nevertheless, except that we all had red
hair, shading from carrot to bronze, we were sharply distinct
physically. The girls were small and feminine, the boys husky and
brawny. When I went out into the world and observed men, otherwise
admirable, who could not pound a nail or use a saw, pick, shovel, or ax,
I was dumfounded. I had always taken for granted that any man could make
things with his hands.

I expected this even of women. My oldest sister, Mary, possessed, more
than the rest of us, an innate charm and gentleness. She could do
anything along domestic lines—embroidery, dress making, tailoring,
cooking; she could concoct the most delicious and unusual foods, and mix
delicate pastries. But she was also an expert at upholstering,
carpentry, painting, roofing with shingles or with thatch. When Mary was
in the house, we never had to send for a plumber. She rode gracefully
and handled the reins from the carriage seat with equal dexterity; she
could milk a cow and deliver a baby; neighbors called her to tend their
sick cattle, or, when death came, to lay out the body; she tutored in
mathematics and Latin, and was well-read in the classics, yet she liked
most the theater, and was a dramatic critic whose judgment was often
sought. In all that she did her sweetness and dearness were apparent,
though she performed her many kindnesses in secret. She left the home
roof while I was still a child, but she never failed to send Christmas
boxes in which every member of the family shared, each gift beautifully
wrapped and decorated with ribbons and cards.

My brothers were ardent sportsmen, although they might not have been
outstanding scholars. They could use their fists and were as good shots
as their father. For that matter, we all knew how to shoot; any normal
person could manage a gun. Father was a great hunter. Our best times
were when friends of his came to spend the night, talking late, starting
early the next morning for the heavy woods which were full of foxes,
rabbits, partridge, quail, and pheasant.

Someone was always cleaning and oiling a gun in the kitchen or carrying
food to the kennels. The boys were devoted to their fox and rabbit
hounds, but father lavished his affection on bird dogs. Our favorite
came to us unsought, unbought, and I had a prideful part in his joining
the family. One afternoon I was sitting alone by the nameless brook
which ran by our house, clear and cool, deep enough in some places to
take little swims on hot summer days. I was engaged in pinning together
with thorns a wreath of leaves to adorn my head when a large, white dog
ambled up, sniffed, wagged his tail, and seemed to want to belong. This
was no ordinary cur, but a well-bred English setter which had evidently
been lost. How father would love him!

Even though the dog had no collar, I was slightly uneasy as to my right
of ownership. One conspicuous brown-red spot on the back of his neck
simplified my problem. Unobtrusively I slipped him into the barn, tied
him up, selected a brush, dipped it in one of the cans of paint always
on hand, and multiplied the one spot by ten. For a day, waiting for them
to dry, I fed him well with food filched from the rations of the other
kennel occupants, then led him forth, his hairy dots stiffened with
paint, and offered him to father as a special present.

Accepting the gift in the spirit in which it was intended, father
admired the dog’s points, and, with an unmistakable twinkle, lent
himself to a deception which, of course, could deceive nobody. When
Saturday night came, the neighborhood looked the animal over; none knew
him so we named him Toss and admitted him to the house. Later he bred
with an Irish setter of no importance, and one of the resultant puppies,
Beauty, shared his privileges.

Toss, as well as everybody else, subscribed to the idea that the
“artist” in father must be catered to. With the first sound of his
clearing his throat in the morning Toss picked up the shoes which had
been left out to be cleaned, and carried them one at a time to the
bedroom door, then stood wagging his tail, waiting to be patted.
Father’s shoes were always polished, his trousers always creased. Every
day, even when going to work, he put on spotless white shirts with
starched collars and attachable cuffs; these were something of a luxury,
because they had to be laundered at home, but they got done somehow.

Father took little or no responsibility for the minute details of the
daily tasks. I can see him when he had nothing on hand, laughing and
joking or reading poetry. Mother, however, was everlastingly busy
sewing, cooking, doing this and that. For so ardent and courageous a
woman he must have been trying, and I still wonder at her patience. She
loved her children deeply, but no one ever doubted that she idolized her
husband, and through the years of her wedded life to her early death
never wavered in her constancy. Father’s devotion to mother, though
equally profound, never evidenced itself in practical ways.

The relation existing between our parents was unusual for its day; they
had the idea of comradeship and not merely loved but liked and respected
each other. There was no quarreling or bickering; none of us had to take
sides, saying, “Father is right,” or, “Mother is right.” We knew that if
we pleased one we pleased the other, and such an atmosphere leaves its
mark; we felt secure from emotional uncertainty, and were ourselves
guided towards certainty in our future. We were all friends together,
though not in the modern sense of familiarity. A little dignity and
formality were always maintained and we were invariably addressed by our
full names. The century of the child had not yet been ushered in.

In those days young people, unless invited to speak, were seen and not
heard. But as soon as father considered us old enough to have ideas or
opinions, we were given full scope to express them, no matter how
adolescent. He hated the slavery of pattern and following of examples
and believed in the equality of the sexes; not only did he come out
strongly for woman suffrage in the wake of Susan B. Anthony, but he
advocated Mrs. Bloomer’s bloomers as attire for women, though his wife
and daughters never wore them. He fought for free libraries, free
education, free books in the public schools, and freedom of the mind
from dogma and cant. Sitting comfortably with his feet on the table he
used to say, “You should give something back to your country because you
as a child were rocked in the cradle of liberty and nursed at the breast
of the goddess of truth.” Father always talked like that.

Although the first Socialist in the community, father also took single
tax in his stride and became the champion and friend of Henry George.
_Progress and Poverty_ was one of the latest additions to our meager
bookshelf. He laughed and rejoiced when he came upon what to him were
meaty sentences, reading them aloud to mother, who accepted them as fine
because he said they were fine. The rest of us all had to plow through
the book in order, as he said, to “elevate the mind.” To me it still
remains one of the dullest ever written.

Mother’s loyalty to father was tested repeatedly. Hers were the
responsibilities of feeding and clothing and managing on his income,
combined with the earnings of the oldest children. But father’s
generosity took no cognizance of fact. Once he was asked to buy a dozen
bananas for supper. Instead, he purchased a stalk of fifteen dozen, and
on his way home gave every single one to schoolboys and girls playing at
recess. On another occasion he showed up with eight of a neighbor’s
children; the ninth had been quarantined for diphtheria. They lived with
us for two months, crowded into our beds, tucked in between us at the
table. Mother welcomed them as she did his other guests. The house was
always open. She was not so much social-minded as inherently hospitable.
But with her frail body and slim pocketbook, it took courage to smile.

Once only that I can remember did mother’s patience give way. That was
when father invaded her realm too drastically and invited Henry George
to lecture at the leading hotel—with banquet thrown in. From the money
saved for the winter coal he had taken enough to entertain fifty men
whose children were well-fed and well-clothed. This was the sole time I
ever knew my parents to be at odds, though even then I heard no
quarreling words. Whatever happened between them I was not sure, but
father spent several days wooing back the smile and light to her eyes.

After Henry George’s visit we had to go without coal most of the winter.

With more pleasure than _Progress and Poverty_ I recall a _History of
the World_, _Lalla Rookh_, _Gulliver’s Travels_, and _Aesop’s Fables_.
The last-named touched a sympathetic, philosophical chord in father.
“Wolf! Wolf!” and “Sour Grapes” were often used to exemplify the
trifling imperfections to which all human beings were subject. For his
parables he drew also on the Bible, the most enormous volume you ever
laid eyes on, brass bound, with heavy clasps, which was the repository
of the family statistics; every birth, marriage, death was entered
there. The handbooks to father’s work were the physiologies, one of
which was combined with a materia medica. These were especially
attractive to me, perhaps because they were illustrated with vivid
plates, mostly red and blue, and described the fascinating, unknown
interior of the human body.

Neighbors were constantly coming to father for help. “What do you think
is the matter with this child?” Even without a thermometer he could tell
by feeling the skin whether you were feverish. He prescribed bismuth if
the diagnosis were “summer complaint,” castor oil if you had eaten
something which had disagreed with you, and always sulphur and molasses
in the spring “to clean the blood.”

Father’s cure-all was whiskey—“good whiskey,” which “liberated the
spirit.” There was nothing from a deranged system to a depressed mind
that it could not fix up. He never drank alone, but no masculine guest
ever entered the door or sat down to pass the time of day without his
producing the bottle. “Have a little shtimulant?”

The chief value of whiskey to father, however, was medicinal. If mumps
turned into a large, ugly abscess, he put the blade of his jackknife in
the fire, lanced the gland, and cleaned the wound with whiskey—good
whiskey. When my face was swollen with erysipelas, he painted it
morning, afternoon, and evening with tincture of iodine; the doctor had
so ordered. I was held firmly in place each time this torture was
inflicted, and, as soon as released, jumped and ran screaming and
howling into the cellar, where I plunged my burning face into a pan of
cool buttermilk until the pain subsided. This went on for several days,
and I was growing exhausted from the dreaded iodine. Finally father



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