I am asking that any discussion of Margaret Sanger stay on this thread.  There are serious issues in our community and none of them have one damn thing to do with Margaret Sanger.

I think it is important to note that all historical figures must be evaluated in their own place and time.  Additionally, the language changes over time.  Let’s start with Thomas Jefferson, one of my favorite historical figures.

I grew up in the shadow of Thomas Jefferson, in Charlottesville, Virginia.  I lived in a house off of Rugby Road less than three blocks from Mr. Jefferson’s University.  In Charlottesville, everything is Jefferson.  He is our hometown hero.  He, Jack Joutte and Paul Goodloe McIntire are the three most mentioned town heroes.   Jefferson’s influence is certainly national in scope.  He is the author of the Declaration of Independence, Revolution visionary, one of the most prominent thinkers of his time, inventor, statesman, diplomat, first secretary of state and president  for two terms.

Yet to some, Jefferson was a racist, a pedophile, a debtor, heathen , and a welcher.  He owned slaves, allegedly had a child by one of his slaves who he had relations with when she was still a fairly young teenager.  He went into debt to the point that his possessions had to be sold.  He was not a Christian in the traditional sense of the word and he went back on his word to many people.

So what is he?  Devil or angel?

Much the same can be said of Sanger.  Devil or Angel?  To those of us who celebrate women being in control of their own reproduction, she earns angel marks.  To those who want to vilify her because she was an early intellectual feminist who took on some of the activist movements of her day, she is a devil.   Those who oppose abortion, contraception and Planned Parenthood have attempted to use her correspondence and letters to cast what I consider a skewed picture of a woman who was motivated by ending unplanned pregnancy.  She had watched her  own mother die from the complications of simply too many childbirths.

She was not motivated by racism.  Was she racist?  I would guess that most people at the turn of the century would probably be considered racist by today’s standards.  I do know she wanted black women to limit their child bearing because she felt  continual childbirth and more children than people could afford kept them in generational  poverty.  It helps to read her autobiography to grasp her intent.  She lacked late 20th century political correctness in her rhetoric.

Did she believe in eugenics?  Definite eugenics.  We practice eugenics every day in this country when we encourage pregnant women to eat healthy for two.  We know that healthy eating creates healthier children.  We also do genetic testing.

What she is not is a person who has anything to do with the Youth for Tomorrow kids.

35 Thoughts to “All about Margaret Sanger…let the discussion rest here”

  1. Wolve

    I recommend the erasure of the word “welcher.” It could be taken as an ethnic slur by those with Welsh ancestry.

  2. Scout

    Or a slap at grape juice producers.

    The Sanger thing is very curious. It seems to have caught fire all at once and was treated, lemming-like, as a great “A ha!” moment in certain circles. (Whenever I see bonehead fads like this my suspicions are always instinctively directed at someone like a 22 year old intern on Hannity’s show). I have no idea why anyone thinks it has any relevance to a present-day discussion of issues related to outfits like Planned Parenthood or any of the even more remote areas it pops up in. It’s as if a memo went ’round telling everyone to hammer on this for a while. Sanger has been dead for decades. I never see her writings on eugenics used as support for anything. As I said in a comment on another thread, eugenics was all the rage in Western Europe in the late 19th/early 20th centuries. Its rise coincided with Mendel’s work in genetics. The Nazis really ran wild with it and, in so doing, quite murderously ran it into the ground forever. We still have genetic diseases and conditions that science is progressing on. But why in the name of Pete would anyone care what Margaret Sanger thought about eugenics?

  3. Censored bybvbl

    Margaret Sanger has replaced Saul Alinsky as the latest demon for the non-thinking mob.

  4. Lyssa

    And again, the non thinking crowd embraces the friend of of the “left” (Angela Davis) in agreement without realizing what they’re doing. Like the guy from Minnesota who was so anti Obama because of government funding to the poor not realizing his Mothers recent Medicaid hip replacement and kids subsidized lunch program were funded… It’s hard to argue with people like that. I just feel sorry for them and glad they’re receiving help anyway. They need it.

  5. Jackson Bills

    “She was not motivated by racism. Was she racist? I would guess that most people at the turn of the century would probably be considered racist by today’s standards.”

    The difference is that most people at the turn of the century were not key note speaks at KKK rallies, Sanger was. Was the KKK not a racist group?

  6. Lyssa

    Yep, racist and MORE. Hard to believe but the KKK did evolve. When it revived itself in the early 1900’s their focus expanded to include immigrants and the rise of organized labor. Anti-immigrant and anti-organized labor…..hmmm by the rules here we could link some posters to the KKK? Of course that’s not what I’m thinking but we have to be careful to avoid applying generalizations or snippets.

  7. @Scout

    That is sure my point, Scout. She is irrelevant in the discussion of eugenics as well as immigration.

    I think your assessment is correct. It’s a sophomoric attempt to discredit Planned Parenthood which has progressed way beyond its earlier years. I myself have this simplistic thought: Fewer unwanted pregnancy, fewer abortions.

    Interestingly enough, the grab towards something having to do with eugenics might be to deflect any mention of John Tanton who was one of the founders of Zero Population Growth. He did some dabbling in what his enemies could call eugenics. He was a mover and shaker in the anti immigration organization FAIR.

    You are also correct in bringing up the history of eugenics by progressives at the turn of the century. Those people wanted to stamp out diseases, mental incapacity and generational poverty. I don’t think there was malice involved. it was a movement that had good and bad components. The Nazis misuse of the ideas really put the kibosh on eugenics for all eternity.

    My mother always complained that people cared more about who they bred their horses and with than they did about their children.

    She must have been old school.

  8. @Jackson Bills
    So what did she say when she spoke?
    She was invited. What was her motive for doing so? She was telling people how to not get pregnant.

    You want more KKK women?

    All sorts of people knew and talked to members of the KKK. Not saying its good. Just saying it didn’t have the social stigma it has today.

    Jackson, why are you obsessed with Margaret Sanger? Do you also hate Thomas Jefferson? How about George Washington? How about Warren G. Harding and Harry Truman? The last two were suspected of KKK member ship before their public careers.

  9. Jackson Bills

    Sanger is ‘linked’ to the KKK precisely because of her views. As far as I know she was never a member of the KKK, but she did attend rallies where she was the main attraction.

    Also, being critical of Sanger isn’t something new either. It’s been going on for quite some time especially since PP still to this day gives out an annual Margaret Sanger award (Nancy Pelosi was this years winner).

    It’s also brought up when PP gives out their annual awards to abortion clinics who surpass their abortion quotas (almost always in predominately black neighborhoods, just as Sanger would have wanted).

    1. So do we defrock Thomas Jefferson of his status because of his nefarious relationship with Sally Hemmings at a very young age? If we excoriate Sanger who really did nothing worth mentioning other than her work in birth control, then we really need to hold the same standard to some of the male leaders of much greater significance.

      Are you ready to throw Washington and Jefferson both under the bus for being slave holders?

  10. Jackson Bills

    As was Robert Byrd Moon, a KKK grand wizard even, but that didn’t stop our nations first black President from giving the eulogy at his funeral.

    As for her KKK speeches, are you saying that she was invited to speak to KKK members to educate them about birth control so THEY (the KKK members) didn’t procreate? That is a possibility I suppose, but for some reason the KKK stenographer was either off that day or they don’t keep transcripts of speeches.

    I think it may have had more to do with her writings at the time about her views of minorities, gays, the disabled, and all other “undesirables” as she called them.

    1. I don’t think he was a grand wizard but he was a rank and file member. Operative word, think.
      “Undesirables” was a word used back then. I am not sure she was talking about minorities. I think she was talking about people with afflictions. It was undesirable to have people with physical and mental afflictions.

      I believe that was just one of the words used back in the day. Remember there was no political correctness.

  11. Steve Thomas

    Censored bybvbl :Margaret Sanger has replaced Saul Alinsky as the latest demon for the non-thinking mob.

    Rest assured, Saul Alinsky’s position is secure.

  12. Censored bybvbl

    Scout is right that Sanger as the latest demon du jour is mere fad. Her name is parroted about by the same folks who suddenly became constitutional lawyers after discovering the Tea Party. Saul Alinsky probably drew a big “Duh…” when they first received their email blast with the latest subject about which to become hysterical. But after a few pointers, he, like Sanger, became their answer to why they hate community organizers (read Obama) or Planned Parenthood – the organization about which most of them probably know nothing. I’m always suspicious of soundbites which are repeated verbatim here, in the small Southern town where I grew up, in coastal California and in the reply section of Midwestern newspapers. These snippets seem to be repeated by dimwits who hope to avoid the present.

  13. Steve Thomas

    Well, here’s an interview she gave to Mike Wallace, back in the 1960’s. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HsrOPDdbTzM

  14. Censored bybvbl

    @Steve Thomas

    You should have finished that statement this way in order to avoid political hackery:

    Rest assured, Saul Alinsky’s position is secure as is Lee Atwater’s and Karl Rove’s.

    See, this is more objective.

  15. @Jackson Bills

    When I was in college homosexuality was listed under abnormal and there were treatments for it. Schizophrenia was thought to be because of poor parenting and potty training.

    I tend to put things in their historical context.

    Frankly, I would hope that the President would speak at Robert Byrd’s funeral. He changed. Hell, the man was a million years old and I believe the oldest member of the senate ever.

    What if I treated you like that? You are now on this blog sailing through, not in moderation. You have, in the past, been very rude here. I eventually gave you another chance. Perhaps I should have just done the one screw up lasts forever thing?

    I personally don’t give a rat’s ass if Senator Byrd was a KKK member. He stopped being one. Saul stopped torturing Christians. Point made.

    I could care less who Margaret Sanger addressed or didn’t address. She is an interesting historical figure who dedicated a great part of her life to educating people about contraception. That is something I am a great believer in also.

    I also honor Thomas Jefferson. You have not yet even acted like you have read a word about him. I understand that is a very painful admission to make, that in many ways Jefferson was a real dirt bag, if we judge him by today’s standards.

    Ignoring my questions on famous men speaks volumes.

  16. @Steve Thomas

    Are you going to ignore the dirt-bag components of Thomas Jefferson also?

    You would be surprised how much we have progressed since the 60’s. (I am happy to say)

    Cultural stuff that unless you really lived it –you might not be aware of.

  17. @Steve Thomas

    So far I am loving it. Thank you for this post. I haven’t heard all of it but so far so good. I am sure she will have some ideas I don’t like but that’s life.

  18. Steve Thomas

    Moon-howler :@Steve Thomas
    So far I am loving it. Thank you for this post. I haven’t heard all of it but so far so good. I am sure she will have some ideas I don’t like but that’s life.

    And not to go off topic intentionally, what I found amusing was Mike Wallace’s hawking cigarettes…talk about “product placement”…and to think in 1995 Wallace would be grilling tobacco executives as part of a 60 minutes expose.

  19. Steve Thomas

    Moon-howler :@Steve Thomas
    Are you going to ignore the dirt-bag components of Thomas Jefferson also?
    You would be surprised how much we have progressed since the 60′s. (I am happy to say)
    Cultural stuff that unless you really lived it –you might not be aware of.

    What was that I was lectured about yesterday? Ah, yes…”context”. Jefferson doesn’t get a pass. He was a slave owner, and slaves were considered “property” legally, and this 60 or more years before emancipation.. The difference in context is Sanger implemented the Negro project 60 years after emancipation.

  20. Steve Thomas

    Censored bybvbl :@Steve Thomas
    You should have finished that statement this way in order to avoid political hackery:

    Rest assured, Saul Alinsky’s position is secure as is Lee Atwater’s and Karl Rove’s.

    See, this is more objective.

    Your views on objectivity are quite subjective.

  21. Jackson Bills

    “She is an interesting historical figure who dedicated a great part of her life to educating people about contraception.”

    I agree, and like I have said before here, I respect the fact that she was talking about these things in a time when women couldn’t. She was brave in that respect and I give her credit. I also agree with you that one of the driving forces for her was about women and poverty which is admirable.

    However, what I find interesting is that when it comes to Sanger most people cherry pick aspects of her life. They point out all of the ‘good’ things that she did but then ridicule and demonize anyone who dares to point out the bad or questionable.

    As for the founding fathers who were slave owners, I wasn’t avoiding your question. I just think it’s apples and oranges. Do I think owning slaves was deplorable? Yes.

    I don’t think anyone denies or hides the fact that some of our founders were slave owners. It’s in every history book. That’s not entirely true about Sanger, she is held up as a hero but only 1/2 the story is ever told.

    The funny thing to me is that one could be called a racist if they call President Obama by his full name but at the same time dismiss actual racist views or actions by someone like Sanger.

  22. punchak

    @Steve Thomas
    Best/worst part of this – Mike’s spiel about Phillip Morris cigarettes.

  23. Scout

    I loved the Steve Thomas link to Mike Wallace. I was around back then and vaguely remember the show (and others like it). But I had completely forgotten how prevalent the cigarette ads were and the cigs themselves. Talk about product placement. . . . I like it when that little swirl of smoke wafts up on air. Murrow smoked through his interviews, too. It killed him.

    Back to topic: I still don’t get it. You put up a parking place for the Sanger rants. OK. At least you’ve channeled the nonsense into one place. But why is it important? Folks keep hammering away on it and I can’t begin to figure out why.

  24. @Steve Thomas
    I am not sure you understand what she was really trying to do with “the Negro project.”

    The feminists know all about her. I can remember discussing her and writing papers back when I was in Femi-Nazi school on the shores of the Rappahannock.

    I wouldn’t say she is a hero. She is just a person who broke through a fairly tough glass ceiling at a time at a time when women weren’t empowered.

    I don’t judge slave owners by modern standards either. I am a slave owner descendant. It simply isn’t something I have any control over. I can only judge how I behave and how I treat my fellow man.

    I think everyone cherry picks over the lives of people who have gone before us. In fact, I can think of very few heroes who don’t have some dirt bag side of their life.

    Frankly, I think the entire thing over Sanger is silly. If you want to think she is the anti-Christ, nothing I say or don’t say will convince you otherwise.

    Perhaps you might want to at least acknowledge that before Sanger challenged the Comstock Act and went to jail for it, even doctors could not tell women who to prevent conception or mail out anything that mentioned anything the least bit sexual. It was all part of anti obscentity laws.

  25. @Scout
    Scout, you said it best earlier.

    I have no idea. I guess women having access to birth control is still viewed with suspicion?

    The fact that there is so much blow back on the topic of Sanger tells me people are looking for a scape goat.

    They ought to be worrying about John Tanton.

  26. @Jackson Bills
    Jackson, I really think everyone back then was probably racist by modern standards.

    Remember, when I was little Rosa Parks still hadn’t done her thing. Perhaps I judge racism a little less harshly or maybe I don’t want to even use that word. I see much of it on a continuum.

    I do know that while Sanger might have used words and expressions that have become politically incorrect (so did my parents and grandparents) she was driven by a strong desire to stamp out unwanted child birth and the accompanying poverty. To suggest otherwise is just being ill informed.

  27. @Steve Thomas

    I noticed the cigarettes instantly. (speaking of politically incorrect.)

    He was puffing away.

    I used to sit in class and puff away in college.

  28. Wolve

    Funny. The only place I seem to hear about Margaret Sanger is here. I must lead a sheltered life.

    1. And I am not the one bringing her up, Wolve.

      I actually enjoyed Steve’s video. I found myself having more respect for the woman. I am actually aghast at some of the thinking bout matters of public policy in MY life time. You know, you forget.

      Wolve, since we are semi contemporaries, I would be interested in hearing what you thought of the video. I was far more shocked by the mores and HIS tone at her than I was by anything she might or might not espouse.

      She had to be at least 80 years old when that interview was done because she was born in 1879. If that interview was done in 1960 she had to be at least 81 years old. I bet she had seen a lot in her lifetime.

  29. @Steve Thomas

    What does the emancipation proclamation have to do with the issue? Sanger didn’t own slaves, for the record.

    I am not doing a reversal because you refuse to understand what she was really trying to do. “The Negro Project” isn’t a recent discovery. It is a recent “tool ” used to vilify by those who misrepresent the intent which was to get another subgroup of poor women to use birth control. Who could possibly want to besmirch Sanger? Those who oppose Planned Parenthood.

    I cheer on anyone who opposed the Comstock Act and who wanted to make birth control available.

    I never knew my great grandmother because she died early, very much like Sanger’s mother. Too many kids. My ggrandmother would have been about 10 years older than Sanger.

  30. Wolve


    Can’t say that I found anything startling in that particular Sanger interview. Minus the old time laws against contraception, it sounded in some ways like an argument you might get today from someone of her general mindset. At only one point did I catch a whiff of the business about controlling the “evils” in the populace by controlling births. In any case, I don’t find myself going back to Sanger’s life and writings on birth control, abortion, race, poverty, or whatever, as this tends to cause arguments which seem to have no end. Nor have I run into this subject as a current “fad.” That includes pro-life sites and blogs I have perused. I would opine that Alinsky has got Sanger all beaten as a “fad” and may continue to do so as we move toward 2016, since Hillary wrote her undergrad senior thesis on that fellow.

    As a recent ex-smoker, I was about gagging over those cigarette commercials, as well as Sanger’s apparently scripted decision at the end to take up smoking because of the ads. Were we so stupid as to be taken in by that crap way back when? Guess so. Kick me in the ass.

    1. Congrats on being an ex. So am I. How long have you been free? I have been about 6.5 years. I still miss it and quit cold turkey after millions of years. I love second hand smoke and ask people to blow it in my face. I also know if I smoke one I will have to go out and buy a carton. Addict here. Sigh. `

      I have never gotten involved in studying Saul Alinsky. He bores me. Margaret Sanger is just more interesting to me from a biography point of view and also because I believe very strongly that women should be in total control of their own reproduction. Oddly enough, I found out my mother was also right before she died. She came from the era where things like that just weren’t discussed. She did tell me that when we lived in NJ when I was a kid that she had to come to Virginia to buy birth control and how furious it made her. I nearly dropped my teeth. I was very surprised that she even told me that.

      I find it amazing that we would allow churches to dictate that sort of thing to the general population and also that MIke Wallace would act so prissy about the topic of contraception. He also talked down to Sanger. He would be run up a flag pole if he did that to a woman nowadays. Then I remind myself that Griswald wasn’t decided until 1966 or something like that. Scary.

      Sometimes I think we have gone to far in our public discussions. Watching lunch you get learn about what to take for Low T, erectile dysfunction, post menopausal sex, incontinence, and a host of other maladies no one used to discuss publically. Enough is enough. Isnt there a happy medium?

    2. wolve, I have to confess. I pretty much agree with most of what she said and then some. I guess I just don’t find her that radical in that interview. Granted, in her hayday, yea…she was radical for her times but so were women who wanted to vote.

      In modern times, I just don’t think we have witnessed the ill effects of pregnancy and repeated pregnancies. Many women did die in childbirth and many died because they never really recovered. It was probably the leading cause of death for women.

      We also have to remember that there were no antibiotics back then and people had a fairly limited amount of information about genetics and medicine in general. They sure didn’t know much about nutrition either.

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