Birth Control in America: The Career of Margaret Sanger

By David M. Kennedy | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
Margaret Sanger, Sexuality,
and Feminism

Margaret Sanger, wrote Mabel Dodge Luhan, "was the first person I ever knew who was openly an ardent propagandist for the joys of the flesh." One evening at dinner, while Mrs. Luhan and a companion listened attentively, Mrs. Sanger "sat there, serene and quiet, and unfolded the mysteries and mightiness of physical love [and] it seemed to us we had never known it before as a sacred and at the same time a scientific reality." Margaret Sanger believed, Mrs. Luhan wrote, "that the attitude towards sex in the past of the race was infantile, archaic, and ignorant, and that mature manhood meant accepting the life in the cells, developing it, experiencing it, and enjoying it with a conscious attainment of its possibilities." 1. Mrs. Luhan, whatever the peculiarities of her personal approach to sexual matters, had nevertheless touched on an important aspect of Margaret Sanger's advocacy of birth control.

Mrs. Sanger intended birth control not simply to reduce the suffering of the poor and the number of the unfit, but also to increase the quantity and quality of sexual relationships. The birth control movement, she said, freed the mind from "sexual prejudice and taboo, by demanding the frankest and most unflinching re-examination of sex in its relation to human nature and the bases of human society." That function of the movement, she pointed out, was the "most important of all." 2.

____________________
1.
Mabel Dodge Luhan, Intimate Memories, vol. 3, Movers and Shakers ( New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1936): 69-71.
2.
Margaret Sanger, The Pivot of Civilization ( New York: Brentano's, 1922) p. 244.

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