WOMAN AND THE NEW RACE
With A Preface By Havelock Ellis
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New York 1920
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THE MEMORY OF MY MOTHER, A MOTHER
WHO GAVE BIRTH TO ELEVEN LIVING CHILDREN
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The modern Woman Movement, like the modern Labour Movement, may be said to have begun in the Eighteenth century. The Labour movement arose out of the Industrial Revolution with its resultant tendency to over-population, to unrestricted competition, to social misery and disorder. The Woman movement appeared as an at first neglected by-product of the French Revolution with its impulses of general human expansion, of freedom and of equality.
Since then, as we know, these two movements have each had a great and vigorous career which is still far from completed. On the whole they have moved independently along separate lines, and have at times seemed indeed almost hostile to each other. That has ceased to be the case. Of recent years it has been seen not only that these two movements are not hostile, but that they may work together harmoniously for similar ends.
One final step remained to be taken—it had to be realised not only that the Labour movement could give the secret of success to the woman movement by its method and organization, but that on the other hand, woman held the secret without which labour is impotent to reach its ends. Woman, by virtue of motherhood is the regulator of the birthrate, the sacred disposer of human production. It is in the deliberate restraint and measurement of human production that the fundamental problems of the family, the nation, the whole brotherhood of mankind find their solution. The health and longevity of the individual, the economic welfare of the workers, the general level of culture of the community, the possibility of abolishing from the world the desolating scourge of war—all these like great human needs, depend, primarily and fundamentally, on the wise limitation of the human output. It does not certainly make them inevitable, but it renders them possible of accomplishment; without it they have been clearly and repeatedly proved to be impossible.
These facts have long been known to the few who view the world realistically. But it is not the few who rule the world. It is the masses—the ignorant, emotional, volatile, superstitious masses—who rule the world. It is they who choose the few supreme persons who manage or mismanage the world's affairs. Even the most stupid of us must be able to see how it is done now, for during recent years the whole process has been displayed before us on the very largest scale.
The lesson has not been altogether in vain. It is furnishing a new stimulus to those who are working for the increase of knowledge, and of practical action based on knowledge, among the masses, the masses who alone possess the power to change the force of the world for good or for evil, and by growth in wisdom to raise the human race on to a higher level.
That is why the little book by Margaret Sanger, whose right to speak with authority on these matters we all recognize, cannot be too widely read. To the few who think, though they may here and there differ on points of detail, it is all as familiar as A. B. C. But to the millions who rule the world it is not familiar, and still less to the handful of superior persons whom the masses elect to supreme positions. Therefore, let this book be read; let it be read by every man and woman who can read. And the sooner it is not only read but acted on, the better for the world.
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I WOMAN'S ERROR AND HER DEBT
II WOMAN'S STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM
III THE MATERIAL OF THE NEW RACE
IV TWO CLASSES OF WOMEN
V THE WICKEDNESS OP CREATING LARGE FAMILIES
VI CRIES OF DESPAIR
VII WHEN SHOULD A WOMAN AVOID HAVING CHILDREN?
VIII BIRTH CONTROL—A PARENTS' PROBLEM OR WOMAN'S?
IX CONTINENCE—IS IT PRACTICABLE OR DESIRABLE?
X CONTRACEPTIVES OR ABORTION?
XI ARE PREVENTIVE MEANS CERTAIN?
XII WILL BIRTH CONTROL HELP THE CAUSE OF LABOR?
XIII BATTALIONS OF UNWANTED BABIES THE CAUSE OF WAR
XIV WOMAN AND THE NEW MORALITY
XV LEGISLATING WOMAN'S MORALS
XVI WHY NOT BIRTH CONTROL CLINICS IN AMERICA?
XVII PROGRESS WE HAVE MADE
XVIII THE GOAL
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WOMAN AND THE NEW RACE
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WOMAN'S ERROR AND HER DEBT
The most far-reaching social development of modern times is the revolt of woman against sex servitude. The most important force in the remaking of the world is a free motherhood. Beside this force, the elaborate international programmes of modern statesmen are weak and superficial. Diplomats may formulate leagues of nations and nations may pledge their utmost strength to maintain them, statesmen may dream of reconstructing the world out of alliances, hegemonies and spheres of influence, but woman, continuing to produce explosive populations, will convert these pledges into the proverbial scraps of paper; or she may, by controlling birth, lift motherhood to the plane of a voluntary, intelligent function, and remake the world. When the world is thus remade, it will exceed the dream of statesman, reformer and revolutionist.
Only in recent years has woman's position as the gentler and weaker half of the human family been emphatically and generally questioned. Men assumed that this was woman's place; woman herself accepted it. It seldom occurred to anyone to ask whether she would go on occupying it forever.
Upon the mere surface of woman's organized protests there were no indications that she was desirous of achieving a fundamental change in her position. She claimed the right of suffrage and legislative regulation of her working hours, and asked that her property rights be equal to those of the man. None of these demands, however, affected directly the most vital factors of her existence. Whether she won her point or failed to win it, she remained a dominated weakling in a society controlled by men.
Woman's acceptance of her inferior status was the more real because it was unconscious. She had chained herself to her place in society and the family through the maternal functions of her nature, and only chains thus strong could have bound her to her lot as a brood animal for the masculine civilizations of the world. In accepting her role as the "weaker and gentler half," she accepted that function. In turn, the acceptance of that function fixed the more firmly her rank as an inferior.
Caught in this "vicious circle," woman has, through her reproductive ability, founded and perpetuated the tyrannies of the Earth. Whether it was the tyranny of a monarchy, an oligarchy or a republic, the one indispensable factor of its existence was, as it is now, hordes of human beings—human beings so plentiful as to be cheap, and so cheap that ignorance was their natural lot. Upon the rock of an unenlightened, submissive maternity have these been founded; upon the product of such a maternity have they flourished.
No despot ever flung forth his legions to die in foreign conquest, no privilege-ruled nation ever erupted across its borders, to lock in death embrace with another, but behind them loomed the driving power of a population too large for its boundaries and its natural resources.
No period of low wages or of idleness with their want among the workers, no peonage or sweatshop, no child-labor factory, ever came into being, save from the same source. Nor have famine and plague been as much "acts of God" as acts of too prolific mothers. They, also, as all students know, have their basic causes in over-population.
The creators of over-population are the women, who, while wringing their hands over each fresh horror, submit anew to their task of producing the multitudes who will bring about the next tragedy of civilization.
While unknowingly laying the foundations of tyrannies and providing the human tinder for racial conflagrations, woman was also unknowingly creating slums, filling asylums with insane, and institutions with other defectives. She was replenishing the ranks of the prostitutes, furnishing grist for the criminal courts and inmates for prisons. Had she planned deliberately to achieve this tragic total of human waste and misery, she could hardly have done it more effectively.
Woman's passivity under the burden of her disastrous task was almost altogether that of ignorant resignation. She knew virtually nothing about her reproductive nature and less about the consequences of her excessive child-bearing. It is true that, obeying the inner urge of their natures, some women revolted. They went even to the extreme of infanticide and abortion. Usually their revolts were not general enough. They fought as individuals, not as a mass. In the mass they sank back into blind and hopeless subjection. They went on breeding with staggering rapidity those numberless, undesired children who become the clogs and the destroyers of civilizations.
To-day, however, woman is rising in fundamental revolt. Even her efforts at mere reform are, as we shall see later, steps in that direction. Underneath each of them is the feminine urge to complete freedom. Millions of women are asserting their right to voluntary motherhood. They are determined to decide for themselves whether they shall become mothers, under what conditions and when. This is the fundamental revolt referred to. It is for woman the key to the temple of liberty.
Even as birth control is the means by which woman attains basic freedom, so it is the means by which she must and will uproot the evil she has wrought through her submission. As she has unconsciously and ignorantly brought about social disaster, so must and will she consciously and intelligently undo that disaster and create a new and a better order.
The task is hers. It cannot be avoided by excuses, nor can it be delegated. It is not enough for woman to point to the self-evident domination of man. Nor does it avail to plead the guilt of rulers and the exploiters of labor. It makes no difference that she does not formulate industrial systems nor that she is an instinctive believer in social justice. In her submission lies her error and her guilt. By her failure to withhold the multitudes of children who have made inevitable the most flagrant of our social evils, she incurred a debt to society. Regardless of her own wrongs, regardless of her lack of opportunity and regardless of all other considerations, she must pay that debt.
She must not think to pay this debt in any superficial way. She cannot pay it with palliatives—with child-labor laws, prohibition, regulation of prostitution and agitation against war. Political nostrums and social panaceas are but incidentally and superficially useful. They do not touch the source of the social disease.
War, famine, poverty and oppression of the workers will continue while woman makes life cheap. They will cease only when she limits her reproductivity and human life is no longer a thing to be wasted.
Two chief obstacles hinder the discharge of this tremendous obligation. The first and the lesser is the legal barrier. Dark-Age laws would still deny to her the knowledge of her reproductive nature. Such knowledge is indispensable to intelligent motherhood and she must achieve it, despite absurd statutes and equally absurd moral canons.
The second and more serious barrier is her own ignorance of the extent and effect of her submission. Until she knows the evil her subjection has wrought to herself, to her progeny and to the world at large, she cannot wipe out that evil.
To get rid of these obstacles is to invite attack from the forces of reaction which are so strongly entrenched in our present-day society. It means warfare in every phase of her life. Nevertheless, at whatever cost, she must emerge from her ignorance and assume her responsibility.
She can do this only when she has awakened to a knowledge of herself and of the consequences of her ignorance. The first step is birth control. Through birth control she will attain to voluntary motherhood. Having attained this, the basic freedom of her sex, she will cease to enslave herself and the mass of humanity. Then, through the understanding of the intuitive forward urge within her, she will not stop at patching up the world; she will remake it.
WOMAN'S STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM
Behind all customs of whatever nature; behind all social unrest, behind all movements, behind all revolutions, are great driving forces, which in their action and reaction upon conditions, give character to civilization. If, in seeking to discover the source of a custom, of a movement or of a revolution, we stop at surface conditions, we shall never discern more than a superficial aspect of the underlying truth.
This is the error into which the historian has almost universally fallen. It is also a common error among sociologists. It is the fashion nowadays, for instance, to explain all social unrest in terms of economic conditions. This is a valuable working theory and has done much to awaken men to their injustice toward one another, but it ignores the forces within humanity which drive it to revolt. It is these forces, rather than the conditions upon which they react, that are the important factors. Conditions change, but the animating force goes on forever.
So, too, with woman's struggle for emancipation. Women in all lands and all ages have instinctively desired family limitation. Usually this desire has been laid to economic pressure. Frequently the pressure has existed, but the driving force behind woman's aspiration toward freedom has lain deeper. It has asserted itself among the rich and among the poor, among the intelligent and the unintelligent. It has been manifested in such horrors as infanticide, child abandonment and abortion.
The only term sufficiently comprehensive to define this motive power of woman's nature is the feminine spirit. That spirit manifests itself most frequently in motherhood, but it is greater than maternity. Woman herself, all that she is, all that she has ever been, all that she may be, is but the outworking of this inner spiritual urge. Given free play, this supreme law of her nature asserts itself in beneficent ways; interfered with, it becomes destructive. Only when we understand this can we comprehend the efforts of the feminine spirit to liberate itself.
When the outworking of this force within her is hampered by the bearing and the care of too many children, woman rebels. Hence it is that, from time immemorial, she has sought some form of family limitation. When she has not employed such measures consciously, she has done so instinctively. Where laws, customs and religious restrictions do not prevent, she has recourse to contraceptives. Otherwise, she resorts to child abandonment, abortion and infanticide, or resigns herself hopelessly to enforced maternity.
These violent means of freeing herself from the chains of her own reproductivity have been most in evidence where economic conditions have made the care of children even more of a burden than it would otherwise have been. But, whether in the luxurious home of the Athenian, the poverty-ridden dwelling of the Chinese, or the crude hut of the primitive Australian savage, the woman whose development has been interfered with by the bearing and rearing of children has tried desperately, frantically, too often in vain, to take and hold her freedom.
Individual men have sometimes acquiesced in these violent measures, but in the mass they have opposed. By law, by religious canons, by public opinion, by penalties ranging all the way from ostracism to beheading, they have sought to crush this effort. Neither threat of hell nor the infliction of physical punishment has availed. Women have deceived and dared, resisted and defied the power of church and state. Quietly, desperately, consciously, they have marched to the gates of death to gain the liberty which the feminine spirit has desired.
In savage life as well as in barbarism and civilization has woman's instinctive urge to freedom and a wider development asserted itself in an effort, successful or otherwise, to curtail her family.
"The custom of infanticide prevails or has prevailed," says Westermark in his monumental work, The Origin and Development of the Moral Idea, "not only in the savage world but among the semi-civilized and civilized races."
With the savage mother, family limitation ran largely to infanticide, although that practice was frequently accompanied by abortion as a tribal means. As McLennan says in his "Studies in Ancient History," infanticide was formerly very common among the savages of New Zealand, and "it was generally perpetrated by the mother." He notes much the same state of affairs among the primitive Australians, except that abortion was also frequently employed. In numerous North American Indian tribes, he says, infanticide and abortion were not uncommon, and the Indians of Central America were found by him "to have gone to extremes in the use of abortives."
When a traveller reproached the women of one of the South American Indian tribes for the practice of infanticide, McLennan says he was met by the retort, "Men have no business to meddle with women's affairs."
McLennan ventures the opinion that the practice of abortion so widely noted among Indians in the Western Hemisphere, "must have supervened on a practice of infanticide."
Similar practices have been found to prevail wherever historians have dug deep into the life of savage people. Infanticide, at least, was practiced by African tribes, by the primitive peoples of Japan, India and Western Europe, as well as in China, and in early Greece and Rome. The ancient Hebrews are sometimes pointed out as the one possible exception to this practice, because the Mosaic law, as it has come down to us, is silent upon the subject. Westermark is of the opinion that it "hardly occurred among the Hebrews in historic times. But we have reason to believe that at an earlier period, among them, as among other branches of the Semitic race, child murder was frequently practiced as a sacrificial rite."
Westermark found that "the murder of female infants, whether by the direct employment of homicidal means, or exposure to privation and neglect, has for ages been a common practice or even a genuine custom among various Hindu castes."
Still further light is shed upon the real sources of the practice, as well as upon the improvement of the status of woman through the practice, by an English student of conditions in India. Captain S. Charles MacPherson, of the Madras Army, in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society for 1852, said: "I can here but very briefly advert to the customs and feelings which the practice of infanticide (among the Khonds of Orissa) alternately springs from and produces. The influence and privileges of women are exceedingly great among the Khonds, and are, I believe, greatest among the tribes which practice infanticide. Their opinions have great weight in all public and private affairs; their direct participation is often considered essential in the former."
If infanticide did not spring from a desire within the woman herself, from a desire stronger than motherhood, would it prevail where women enjoy an influence equal to that of men? And does not the fact that the women in question do enjoy such influence, point unmistakably to the motive behind the practice?
Infanticide did not go out of fashion with the advance from savagery to barbarism and civilization. Rather, it became, as in Greece and Rome, a recognized custom with advocates among leaders of thought and action.
So did abortion, which some authorities regard as a development springing from infanticide and tending to supersede it as a means of getting rid of undesired children.
As progress is made toward civilization, infanticide, then, actually increased. This tendency was noted by Westermark, who also calls attention to the conclusions of Fison and Howitt (in Kamilaroi and Kurnai). "Mr. Fison who has lived for a long time among uncivilized races," says Westermark, "thinks it will be found that infanticide is far less common among the lower savages than among the more advanced tribes."
Following this same tendency into civilized countries, we find infanticide either advocated by philosophers and authorized by law, as in Greece and Rome, or widely practiced in spite of the law, civil and ecclesiastical.
The status of infanticide as an established, legalized custom in Greece, is well summed up by Westermark, who says: "The exposure of deformed or sickly infants was undoubtedly an ancient custom in Greece; in Sparta, at least, it was enjoined by law. It was also approved of by the most enlightened among the Greek philosophers. Plato condemns all those children who are imperfect in limbs as well as those who are born of depraved citizens."
Aristotle, who believed that the state should fix the number of children each married pair should have, has this to say in Politics, Book VII, Chapter V:
"With respect to the exposing and nurturing of children, let it be a law that nothing mutilated shall be nurtured. And in order to avoid having too great a number of children, if it be not permitted by the laws of the country to expose them, it is then requisite to define how many a man may have; and if any have more than the prescribed number, some means must be adopted that the fruit be destroyed in the womb of the mother before sense and life are generated in it."
Aristotle was a conscious advocate of family limitation even if attained by violent means. "It is necessary," he says, "to take care that the increase of the people should not exceed a certain number in order to avoid poverty and its concomitants, sedition and other evils."
In Athens, while the citizen wives were unable to throw off the restrictions of the laws which kept them at home, the great number of hetera, or stranger women, were the glory of the "Golden Age." The homes of these women who were free from the burden of too many children became the gathering places of philosophers, poets, sculptors and statesmen. The hetera were their companions, their inspiration and their teachers. Aspasia, one of the greatest women of antiquity, was such an emancipated individuality. True to the urge of the feminine spirit, she, like Sappho, the poetess of Lesbia, sought to arouse the Greek wives to the expression of their individual selves. One writer says of her efforts: "This woman determined to do her utmost to elevate her sex. The one method of culture open to women at that time was poetry. There was no other form of literature, and accordingly she systematically trained her pupils to be poets, and to weave into the verse the noblest maxims of the intellect and the deepest emotions of the heart. Young pupils with richly endowed minds flocked to her from all countries and formed a kind of Woman's College.
"There can be no doubt that these young women were impelled to seek the society of Sappho from disgust with the low drudgery and monotonous routine to which woman's life was sacrificed, and they were anxious to rise to something nobler and better."
Can there be any doubt that the unfortunate "citizen wives" of Athens, bound by law to their homes, envied the brilliant careers of the "stranger women," and sought all possible means of freedom? And can there be any doubt that they acquiesced in the practice of infanticide as a means to that end? Otherwise, how could the custom of destroying infants have been so thoroughly embedded in the jurisprudence, the thought and the very core of Athenian civilization?
As to the Spartan women, Aristotle says that they ruled their husbands and owned two-fifths of the land. Surely, had they not approved of infanticide for some very strong reasons of their own, they would have abolished it.
Athens and Sparta must be regarded as giving very strong indications that the Grecian women not only approved of family limitation by the destruction of unwanted children, but that at least part of their motive was personal freedom.
In Rome, an avowedly militaristic nation, living by conquest of weaker states, all sound children were saved. But the weakly or deformed were drowned. Says Seneca: "We destroy monstrous births, and we also drown our children if they are born weakly or unnaturally formed." Wives of Romans, however, were relieved of much of the drudgery of child rearing by the slaves which Rome took by the thousands and brought home. Thus they were free to attain an advanced position and to become the advisors of their husbands in politics, making and unmaking political careers.
When we come to look into the proverbial infanticide of the Chinese, we find the same positive indications that it grew out of the instinctive purpose of woman to free herself from the bondage of too great reproductivity.
"In the poorest districts of China," says Westermark, "female infants are often destroyed by their parents immediately after their birth, chiefly on account of poverty. Though disapproved of by educated Chinese, the practice is treated with forbearance or indifference by the man of the people and is acquiesced in by the mandarins."
"When seriously appealed to on the subject," says the Rev. J. Doolittle in Social Life of the Chinese, "though all deprecate it as contrary to the dictates of reason and the instincts of nature, many are ready boldly to apologize for it and declare it to be necessary, especially in the families of the excessively poor."
Here again the wide prevalence of the custom is the first and best proof that women are driven by some great pressure within themselves to accede to it. If further proof were necessary, it is afforded by the testimony of Occidentals who have lived in China, that Chinese midwives are extremely skillful in producing early abortion. Abortions are not performed without the consent and usually only at the demand of the woman.
In China, as in India, the religions of the country condemned, even as they to-day condemn, infanticide. Both foreign and native governments have sought to make an end of the custom. But in both countries it still prevails. Nor are these Eastern countries substantially different from their Western neighbors.
The record of Western Europe is summarized by Oscar Helmuth Werner, Ph.D., in his book, "The Unmarried Mother in German Literature." "Infanticide," says Dr. Werner, "was the most common crime in Western Europe from the Middle Ages down to the end of the Eighteenth Century." This fact, of course, means that it was even more largely practiced by the married than the unmarried, the married mothers being far greater in number.
"Another problem which confronted the church," he says in another place, "was the practice of exposure and killing of children by legal parents." A sort of final word from Dr. Werner is this: "Infanticide by legal parents has practically ceased in civilized countries, but abortion, its substitute, has not."
How desperately woman desired freedom to develop herself as an individual, apart from motherhood, is indicated by the fact that infanticide was "the most common crime of Western Europe," in spite of the fact that some of the most terrible punishments ever inflicted by law were meted out to those women who sought this means of escape from the burden of unwanted children. Dr. Werner shows that in Germany, for instance, in the year 1532, it was the law that those guilty of infanticide were "to be buried alive or impaled. In order to prevent desperation, however, they shall be drowned if it is possible to get to a stream or river, in which they shall be torn with glowing tongs beforehand."
Notwithstanding the fact that at one time in Germany, the punishment was that of drowning in a sack containing a serpent, a cat and a dog—in order that the utmost agony might be inflicted—one sovereign alone condemned 20,000 women to death for infanticide, without noticeably reducing the practice.
To-day, in spite of the huge numbers of abortions and the multiplication of foundlings' homes and orphans' asylums, infanticide is still an occasional crime in all countries. As to woman's share in the practice, let us add this word from Havelock Ellis, taken from the chapter on "Morbid Psychic Phenomena" in his book, Man and Woman:
"Infanticide is the crime in which women stand out in the greatest contrast to men; in Italy, for example, for every 100 men guilty of infanticide, there are 477 women." And he remarks later that when a man commits this crime, "he usually does it at the instance of some woman."
Infanticide tends to disappear as skill in producing abortions is developed or knowledge of contraceptives is spread, and only then. One authority, as will be seen in a later chapter, estimates the number of abortions performed annually in the United States at 1,000,000, and another believes that double that number are produced.
"Among the Hindus and Mohammedans, artificial abortion is extremely common," says Westermark. "In Persia every illegitimate pregnancy ends with abortion. In Turkey, both among the rich and the poor, even married women very commonly procure abortion after they have given birth to two children, one of which is a boy."
The nations mentioned are typical of the world, except those countries where information concerning contraceptives has enabled women to limit their families without recourse to operations.
It is apparent that nothing short of contraceptives can put an end to the horrors of abortion and infanticide. The Roman Catholic church, which has fought these practices from the beginning, has been unable to check them; and no more powerful agency could have been brought into play. It took that church, even in the days of its unlimited power, many centuries to come to its present sweeping condemnation of abortion. The severity of the condemnation depended upon the time at which the development of the foetus was interfered with. An illuminating resume of the church's efforts in this direction is given by Dr. William Burke Ryan in his authoritative and exhaustive study entitled "Infanticide; Its Law, Prevalence, Prevention and History". Dr. Ryan says: "Theologians of the church of Rome made a distinction between the inanimate and the animate foetus to which the soul is added by the creation of God, and adopted the opinions of some of the old philosophers, more particularly those of Aristotle, as to animation in the male and female, but the canon law altogether negatived the doctrine of the Stoics, for Innocent II condemned the following proposition:
"'It seems probable that the foetus does not possess a rational soul as long as it is in the womb, and only begins to possess it when born, and consequently in no abortion is homicide committed.' Sextus V inflicted severe penalties for the crime of abortion at any period; these were in some degree mitigated by Gregory XIV, who, however, still held that those producing the abortion of an animated foetus should be subject to them, viz., and excommunication reserved to the bishop and also an 'irregularity' reserved to the Pope himself for absolution."
To-day, the Roman church stands firmly upon the proposition that "directly intended, artificial abortion must be regarded as wrongful killing, as murder." [Footnote: Pastoral Medicine] But it required a long time for it to reach that point, in the face of the demand for relief from large families.
As it was with the fight of the church against abortion, so it is with the effort to prevent abortion in the United States to-day. All efforts to stop the practice are futile. Apparently, the numbers of these illegal operations are increasing from year to year. From year to year more women will undergo the humiliation, the danger and the horror of them, and the terrible record, begun with the infanticide of the primitive peoples, will go on piling up its volume of human misery and racial damage, until society awakens to the fact that a fundamental remedy must be applied.
To apply such a remedy, society must recognize the terrible lesson taught by the innumerable centuries of infanticide and foeticide. If these abhorrent practices could have been ended by punishment and suppression, they would have ceased long ago. But to continue suppression and punishment, and let the matter rest there, is only to miss the lesson—only to permit conditions to go from bad to worse.
What is that lesson? It is this: woman's desire for freedom is born of the feminine spirit, which is the absolute, elemental, inner urge of womanhood. It is the strongest force in her nature; it cannot be destroyed; it can merely be diverted from its natural expression into violent and destructive channels.
The chief obstacles to the normal expression of this force are undesired pregnancy and the burden of unwanted children. These obstacles have always been and always will be swept aside by a considerable proportion of women. Driven by the irresistible force within them, they will always seek wider freedom and greater self-development, regardless of the cost. The sole question that society has to answer is, how shall women be permitted to attain this end?
Are you horrified at the record set down in this chapter? It is well that you should be. You cannot help society to apply the fundamental remedy unless you know these facts and are conscious of their fullest significance.
Society, in dealing with the feminine spirit, has its choice of clearly defined alternatives. It can continue to resort to violence in an effort to enslave the elemental urge of womanhood, making of woman a mere instrument of reproduction and punishing her when she revolts. Or, it can permit her to choose whether she shall become a mother and how many children she will have. It can go on trying to crush that which is uncrushable, or it can recognize woman's claim to freedom, and cease to impose diverting and destructive barriers. If we choose the latter course, we must not only remove all restrictions upon the use of scientific contraceptives, but we must legalize and encourage their use.
This problem comes home with peculiar force to the people of America. Do we want the millions of abortions performed annually to be multiplied? Do we want the precious, tender qualities of womanhood, so much needed for our racial development, to perish in these sordid, abnormal experiences? Or, do we wish to permit woman to find her way to fundamental freedom through safe, unobjectionable, scientific means? We have our choice. Upon our answer to these questions depends in a tremendous degree the character and the capabilities of the future American race.
THE MATERIALS OF THE NEW RACE
Each of us has an ideal of what the American of the future should be. We have been told times without number that out of the mixture of stocks, the intermingling of ideas and aspirations, there is to come a race greater than any which has contributed to the population of the United States. What is the basis for this hope that is so generally indulged in? If the hope is founded upon realities, how may it be realized? To understand the difficulties and the obstacles to be overcome before the dream of a greater race in America can be attained, is to understand something of the task before the women who shall give birth to that race.
What material is there for a greater American race? What elements make up our present millions? Where do they live? How do they live? In what direction does our national civilization bend their ideals? What is the effect of the "melting pot" upon the foreigner, once he begins to "melt"? Are we now producing a freer, juster, more intelligent, more idealistic, creative people out of the varied ingredients here?
Before we can answer these questions, we must consider briefly the races which have contributed to American population.
Among our more than 100,000,000 population are Negroes, Indians, Chinese and other colored people to the number of 11,000,000. There are also 14,500,000 persons of foreign birth. Besides these there are 14,000,000 children of foreign-born parents and 6,500,000 persons whose fathers or mothers were born on foreign soil, making a total of 46,000,000 people of foreign stock. Fifty per cent of our population is of the native white strain.
Of the foreign stock in the United States, the last general census, compiled in 1910, shows that 25.7 per cent was German, 14 per cent was Irish, 8.5 per cent was Russian or Finnish, 7.2 was English, 6.5 per cent Italian and 6.2 per cent Austrian. The Abstract of the same census points out several significant facts. The Western European strains in this country are represented by a majority of native-born children of foreign-born or mixed parentage. This is because the immigration from those sources has been checked. On the other hand, immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe, including Russia and Finland, increased 175.4 per cent from 1900 to 1910. During that period, the slums of Europe dumped their submerged inhabitants into America at a rate almost double that of the preceding decade, and the flow was still increasing at the time the census was taken. So it is more than likely that when the next census is taken it will be found that following 1910 there was an even greater flow from Spain, Italy, Hungary, Austria, Russia, Finland, and other countries where the iron hand of economic and political tyrannies had crushed great populations into ignorance and want. These peoples have not been in the United States long enough to produce great families. The census of 1920 will in all probability tell a story of a greater and more serious problem than did the last.
Over one-fourth of all the immigrants over fourteen years of age, admitted during the two decades preceding 1910, were illiterate. Of the 8,398,000 who arrived in the 1900-1910 period, 2,238,000 could not read or write. There were 1,600,000 illiterate foreigners in the United States when the 1910 census was taken. Do these elements give promise of a better race? Are we doing anything genuinely constructive to overcome this situation?
Two-thirds of the white foreign stock in the United States live in cities. Four-fifths of the populations of Chicago and New York are of this stock. More than two-thirds of the populations of Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Newark, Jersey City, Providence, Worcester, Scranton, Paterson, Fall River, Lowell, Cambridge, Bridgeport, St. Paul, Minneapolis and San Francisco are of other than native white ancestry. Of the fifty principal cities of the United States there are only fourteen in which fifty per cent of the population is of unmixed native white parentage.
Only one state in the Union—North Carolina—has less than one per cent of the white foreign stock. New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, the Dakotas, Montana and Utah have more than fifty per cent foreign stock. Eleven states, including those on the Pacific Coast, have from 35 to 50 per cent. Maine, Ohio and Kansas have from 25 to 35 per cent. Maryland, Indiana, Missouri and Texas have from 15 to 25 per cent. These proportions are increasing rather than decreasing, owing to the extraordinarily high birth rate of the foreign strains.
A special analysis of 1915 vital statistics for certain states, in the World Almanac for 1918, shows that foreign-born mothers gave birth to nearly 62 per cent of the children born in Connecticut, nearly 58 per cent in Massachusetts, nearly 33 per cent in Michigan, nearly 58 per cent in Rhode Island, more than 43 per cent in New Hampshire, more than 54 per cent in New York and more than 38 per cent in Pennsylvania.
All these figures, be it remembered, fail to include foreign stock of the second generation after landing. If the statistics for children who have native parents but foreign-born grandparents, or who have one foreign-born parent, were given, they would doubtless leave but a small percentage of births from stocks native to the soil for several generations.
Immigrants or their children constitute the majority of workers employed in many of our industries. "Seven out of ten of those who work in our iron and steel industries are drawn from this class," says the National Geographic Magazine (February, 1917), "seven out of ten of our bituminous coal miners belong to it. Three out of four who work in packing towns were born abroad or are children of those who were born abroad; four out of five of those who make our silk goods, seven out of eight of those employed in woolen mills, nine out of ten of those who refine our petroleum, and nineteen out of twenty of those who manufacture our sugar are immigrants or the children of immigrants." And it might have shown a similarly high percentage of those in the ready-made clothing industries, railway and public works construction of the less skilled sort, and a number of others.
That these foreigners who have come in hordes have brought with them their ignorance of hygiene and modern ways of living and that they are handicapped by religious superstitions is only too true. But they also bring in their hearts a desire for freedom from all the tyrannies that afflict the earth. They would not be here if they did not bear within them the hardihood of pioneers, a courage of no mean order. They have the simple faith that in America they will find equality, liberty and an opportunity for a decent livelihood. And they have something else. The cell plasms of these peoples are freighted with the potentialities of the best in Old World civilization. They come from lands rich in the traditions of courage, of art, music, letters, science and philosophy. Americans no longer consider themselves cultured unless they have journeyed to these lands to find access to the treasures created by men and women of this same blood. The immigrant brings the possibilities of all these things to our shores, but where is the opportunity to reproduce in the New World the cultures of the old?
What opportunities have we given to these peoples to enrich our civilization? We have greeted them as "a lot of ignorant foreigners," we have shouted at, bustled and kicked them.
Our industries have taken advantage of their ignorance of the country's ways to take their toil in mills and mines and factories at starvation wages. We have herded them into slums to become diseased, to become social burdens or to die. We have huddled them together like rabbits to multiply their numbers and their misery. Instead of saying that we Americanize them, we should confess that we animalize them. The only freedom we seem to have given them is the freedom to make heavier and more secure their chains. What hope is there for racial progress in this human material, treated more carelessly and brutally than the cheapest factory product?
Nor are all our social handicaps bound up in the immigrant.
There were in the United States, when the Federal Industrial Relations Committee finished its work in 1915, several million migratory workers, most of them white, many of them married but separated from their families, who were compelled, like themselves, to struggle with dire want.
There were in 1910 more than 2,353,000 tenant farmers, two-thirds of whom lived and worked under the terrible conditions which the Industrial Relations Commission's report showed to prevail in the South and Southwest. These tenant farmers, as the report showed, were always in want, and were compelled by the very terms of the prevailing tenant contracts to produce children who must go to the fields and do the work of adults. The census proved that this tenancy was on the increase, the number of tenants in all but the New England and Middle Atlantic States having increased approximately 30 per cent from 1900 to 1910.
Moreover, there were in the United States in 1910, 5,516,163 illiterates. Of these 1,378,884 were of pure native white stock. In some states in the South as much as 29 per cent of the population is illiterate, many of these, of course, being Negroes.
There is still another factor to be considered—a factor which because of its great scope is more ominous than any yet mentioned. This is the underpaid mass of workers in the United States—workers whose low wages are forcing them deeper into want each day. Let Senator Borah, not a radical nor even a reformer, but a leader of the Republican party, tell the story. "Fifty-seven per cent of the families in the United States have incomes of $800 or less," said he in a speech before the Senate, August 24, 1917, "Seventy per cent of the families of our country have incomes of $1,000 or less. Tell me how a man so situated can have shelter for his family; how he can provide food and clothing. He is an industrial peon. His home is scant and pinched beyond the power of language to tell. He sees his wife and children on the ragged edge of hunger from week to week and month to month. If sickness comes, he faces suicide or crime. He cannot educate his children; he cannot fit them for citizenship; he cannot even fit them as soldiers to die for their country.
"It is the tragedy of our whole national life—how these people live in such times as these. We have not yet gathered the fruits of such an industrial condition in this country. We have been saved thus far by reason of the newness of our national life, our vast public lands now almost exhausted, our great natural resources now fast being seized and held, but the hour of reckoning will come."
Senator Borah was thinking, doubtless, of open revolution, of bloodshed and the destruction of property. In a far more terrible sense, the reckoning which he has referred to is already upon us. The ills we suffer as the result of the conditions now prevailing in the United States are appalling in their sum.
It is these conditions that produce the 3,000,000 child laborers of the United States; child slaves who undergo hardships that blight them physically and mentally, leaving them fit only to produce human beings whose deficiencies and misfortunes will exceed their own.
From these same elements, living under these same conditions come the feebleminded and other defectives. Just how many feebleminded there are in the United States, no one knows, because no attempt has ever been made to give public care to all of them, and families are more inclined to conceal than to reveal the mental defects of their members. Estimates vary from 350,000 at the present time to nearly 400,000 as early as 1890, Henry H. Goddard, Ph. D., of the Vineland, N. J., Training School, being authority for the latter statement. Only 34,137 of these unfortunates were under institutional care in the United States in 1916, the rest being free to propagate their kind—piling up public burdens for future generations. The feebleminded are notoriously prolific in reproduction. The close relationship between poverty and ignorance and the production of feebleminded is shown by Anne Moore, Ph.D., in a report to the Public Education Association of New York in 1911. She found that an overwhelming proportion of the classified feebleminded children in New York schools came from large families living in overcrowded slum conditions, and that only a small percentage were born of native parents.
Sixty thousand prostitutes go and come anew each year in the United States. This army of unfortunates, as social workers and scientists testify, come from families living under like conditions of want.
In the New York City schools alone in December, 1916, 61 per cent of the children were suffering from undernourishment and 21 per cent in immediate danger of it. These facts, also the result of the conditions outlined, were discovered by the city Bureau of Child Hygiene.
Another item in the sordid list is that of venereal disease. In his pamphlet entitled "The Venereal Diseases," issued in 1918, Dr. Hermann M. Biggs head of the New York State Department of Health quoted authorities who gave estimates of the amount of syphilis and gonorrhea in the United States. One says that 60 per cent of the men contract one disease or the other at some time. Another said that 40 per cent of the population of New York City had syphilis, one of the most terrible of all maladies. Poverty, delayed marriage, prostitution—a brief and terrible chain accounts for this scourge.
Finally, there is tuberculosis, bred by bad housing conditions and contributed to in frightful measure by poor food and unhealthy surroundings during the hours of employment. Dr. Frederick L. Hoffman, director of the National Association for the Study and Prevention of Tuberculosis and foremost statistical authority upon tuberculosis in the United States, says: "We know of 2,000,000 tubercular persons in the United States."
Does this picture horrify the reader? This is not the whole truth. A few scattered statistics lack the power to reflect the broken lives of overworked fathers, the ceaseless, increasing pain of overburdened mothers and the agony of childhood fighting its way against the handicaps of ill health, insufficient food, inadequate training and stifling toil.
Can we expect to remedy this situation by dismissing the problem of the submerged native elements with legislative palliatives or treating it with careless scorn? Do we better it by driving out of the immigrant's heart the dream of liberty that brought him to our shores? Do we solve the problem by giving him, instead of an opportunity to develop his own culture, low wages, a home in the slums and those pseudo-patriotic preachments which constitute our machine-made "Americanization"?
Every detail of this sordid situation means a problem that must be solved before we can even clear the way for a greater race in America. Nor is there any hope of solving any of these problems if we continue to attack them in the usual way.
Men have sentimentalized about them and legislated upon them. They have denounced them and they have applied reforms. But it has all been ridiculously, cruelly futile.
This is the condition of things for which those stand who demand more and more children. Each child born under such conditions but makes them worse—each child in its own person suffers the consequence of the intensified evils.
If we are to develop in America a new race with a racial soul, we must keep the birth rate within the scope of our ability to understand as well as to educate. We must not encourage reproduction beyond our capacity to assimilate our numbers so as to make the coming generation into such physically fit, mentally capable, socially alert individuals as are the ideal of a democracy.
The intelligence of a people is of slow evolutional development—it lags far behind the reproductive ability. It is far too slow to cope with conditions created by an increasing population, unless that increase is carefully regulated.
We must, therefore, not permit an increase in population that we are not prepared to care for to the best advantage—that we are not prepared to do justice to, educationally and economically. We must popularize birth control thinking. We must not leave it haphazardly to be the privilege of the already privileged. We must put this means of freedom and growth into the hands of the masses.
We must set motherhood free. We must give the foreign and submerged mother knowledge that will enable her to prevent bringing to birth children she does not want. We know that in each of these submerged and semisubmerged elements of the population there are rich factors of racial culture. Motherhood is the channel through which these cultures flow. Motherhood, when free to choose the father, free to choose the time and the number of children who shall result from the union, automatically works in wondrous ways. It refuses to bring forth weaklings; refuses to bring forth slaves; refuses to bear children who must live under the conditions described. It withholds the unfit, brings forth the fit; brings few children into homes where there is not sufficient to provide for them. Instinctively it avoids all those things which multiply racial handicaps. Under such circumstances we can hope that the "melting pot" will refine. We shall see that it will save the precious metals of racial culture, fused into an amalgam of physical perfection, mental strength and spiritual progress. Such an American race, containing the best of all racial elements, could give to the world a vision and a leadership beyond our present imagination.
TWO CLASSES OF WOMEN
Thus far we have been discussing mainly one class in America—the workers. Most women who belong to the workers' families have no accurate or reliable knowledge of contraceptives, and are, therefore, bringing children into the world so rapidly that they, their families and their class are overwhelmed with numbers. Out of these numbers, as has been shown, have grown many of the burdens with which society in general is weighted; out of them have come, also, the want, disease, hard living conditions and general misery of the workers.
The women of this class are the greatest sufferers of all. Not only do they bear the material hardships and deprivations in common with the rest of the family, but in the case of the mother, these are intensified. It is the man and the child who have first call upon the insufficient amount of food. It is the man and the child who get the recreation, if there is any to be had, for the man's hours of labor are usually limited by law or by his labor union.
It is the woman who suffers first from hunger, the woman whose clothing is least adequate, the woman who must work all hours, even though she is not compelled, as in the case of millions, to go into a factory to add to her husband's scanty income. It is she, too, whose health breaks first and most hopelessly, under the long hours of work, the drain of frequent childbearing, and often almost constant nursing of babies. There are no eight-hour laws to protect the mother against overwork and toil in the home; no laws to protect her against ill health and the diseases of pregnancy and reproduction. In fact there has been almost no thought or consideration given for the protection of the mother in the home of the workingman.
There are no general health statistics to tell the full story of the physical ills suffered by women as a result of too great reproductivity. But we get some light upon conditions through the statistics on maternal mortality, compiled by Dr. Grace L. Meigs, for the Children's Bureau of the United States Department of Labor. These figures do not include the deaths of women suffering from diseases complicated by pregnancy.
"In 1913, in this country at least 15,000 women, it is estimated, died from conditions caused by childbirth; about 7,000 of these died from childbed fever and the remaining 8,000 from diseases now known to be to a great extent preventable or curable," says Dr. Meigs in her summary, "Physicians and statisticians agree that these figures are a great underestimate."
Think of it—the needless deaths of 15,000 women a "great underestimate"! Yet even this number means that virtually every hour of the day and night two women die as the result of childbirth in the healthiest and supposedly the most progressive country in the world.
It is apparent that Dr. Meigs leaves out of consideration the many thousands of deaths each year of women who become pregnant while suffering from tuberculosis. Dr. S. Adolphus Knopf, addressing the forty-fourth annual convention of the American Public Health Association, in Cincinnati in 1916, called attention to the fact that some authors hold that "65 per cent of the women afflicted with tuberculosis, even when afflicted only in the relatively early and curable stages, die as the result of pregnancy which could have been avoided and their lives saved had they but known some means of prevention." Nor were syphilis, various kidney and heart disorders and other diseases, often rendered fatal by pregnancy, taken into account by Dr. Meigs' survey.
Still, leaving out all the hundreds of thousands of women who die because pregnancy has complicated serious diseases, Dr. Meigs finds that "in 1913, the death rate per 100,000 of the population from all conditions caused by childbirth was little lower than that from typhoid fever. This rate would be almost quadrupled if only the group of the population which can be affected, women of child-bearing ages, were considered. In 1913, childbirth caused more deaths among women 15 to 44 years old than any disease except tuberculosis."
From what sort of homes come these deaths from childbirth? Most of them occur in overcrowded dwellings, where food, care, sanitation, nursing and medical attention are inadequate. Where do we find most of the tuberculosis and much of the other disease which is aggravated by pregnancy? In the same sort of home.
The deadly chain of misery is all too plain to anyone who takes the trouble to observe it. A woman of the working class marries and with her husband lives in a degree of comfort upon his earnings. Her household duties are not beyond her strength. Then the children begin to come—one, two, three, four, possibly five or more. The earnings of the husband do not increase as rapidly as the family does. Food, clothing and general comfort in the home grow less as the numbers of the family increase. The woman's work grows heavier, and her strength is less with each child. Possibly—probably—she has to go into a factory to add to her husband's earnings. There she toils, doing her housework at night. Her health goes, and the crowded conditions and lack of necessities in the home help to bring about disease—especially tuberculosis. Under the circumstances, the woman's chances of recovering from each succeeding childbirth grow less. Less too are the chances of the child's surviving, as shown by tables in another chapter. Unwanted children, poverty, ill health, misery, death—these are the links in the chain, and they are common to most of the families in the class described in the preceding chapter.
Nor is the full story of the woman's sufferings yet told. Grievous as is her material condition, her spiritual deprivations are still greater. By the very fact of its existence, mother love demands its expression toward the child. By that same fact, it becomes a necessary factor in the child's development. The mother of too many children, in a crowded home where want, ill health and antagonism are perpetually created, is deprived of this simplest personal expression. She can give nothing to her child of herself, of her personality. Training is impossible and sympathetic guidance equally so. Instead, such a mother is tired, nervous, irritated and ill-tempered; a determent, often, instead of a help to her children. Motherhood becomes a disaster and childhood a tragedy.
It goes without saying that this woman loses also all opportunity of personal expression outside her home. She has neither a chance to develop social qualities nor to indulge in social pleasures. The feminine element in her—that spirit which blossoms forth now and then in women free from such burdens—cannot assert itself. She can contribute nothing to the wellbeing of the community. She is a breeding machine and a drudge—she is not an asset but a liability to her neighborhood, to her class, to society. She can be nothing as long as she is denied means of limiting her family.
In sharp contrast with these women who ignorantly bring forth large families and who thereby enslave themselves, we find a few women who have one, two or three children or no children at all. These women, with the exception of the childless ones, live full-rounded lives. They are found not only in the ranks of the rich and the well-to-do, but in the ranks of labor as well. They have but one point of basic difference from their enslaved sisters—they are not burdened with the rearing of large families.
We have no need to call upon the historian, the sociologist nor the statistician for our knowledge of this situation. We meet it every day in the ordinary routine of our lives. The women who are the great teachers, the great writers, the artists, musicians, physicians, the leaders of public movements, the great suffragists, reformers, labor leaders and revolutionaries are those who are not compelled to give lavishly of their physical and spiritual strength in bearing and rearing large families. The situation is too familiar for discussion. Where a woman with a large family is contributing directly to the progress of her times or the betterment of social conditions, it is usually because she has sufficient wealth to employ trained nurses, governesses, and others who perform the duties necessary to child rearing. She is a rarity and is universally recognized as such.
The women with small families, however, are free to make their choice of those social pleasures which are the right of every human being and necessary to each one's full development. They can be and are, each according to her individual capacity, comrades and companions to their husbands—a privilege denied to the mother of many children. Theirs is the opportunity to keep abreast of the times, to make and cultivate a varied circle of friends, to seek amusements as suits their taste and means, to know the meaning of real recreation. All these things remain unrealized desires to the prolific mother.
Women who have a knowledge of contraceptives are not compelled to make the choice between a maternal experience and a marred love life; they are not forced to balance motherhood against social and spiritual activities. Motherhood is for them to choose, as it should be for every woman to choose. Choosing to become mothers, they do not thereby shut themselves away from thorough companionship with their husbands, from friends, from culture, from all those manifold experiences which are necessary to the completeness and the joy of life.
Fit mothers of the race are these, the courted comrades of the men they choose, rather than the "slaves of slaves." For theirs is the magic power—the power of limiting their families to such numbers as will permit them to live full-rounded lives. Such lives are the expression of the feminine spirit which is woman and all of her—not merely art, nor professional skill, nor intellect—but all that woman is, or may achieve.
THE WICKEDNESS OF CREATING LARGE FAMILIES
The most serious evil of our times is that of encouraging the bringing into the world of large families. The most immoral practice of the day is breeding too many children. These statements may startle those who have never made a thorough investigation of the problem. They are, nevertheless, well considered, and the truth of them is abundantly borne out by an examination of facts and conditions which are part of everyday experience or observation.
The immorality of large families lies not only in their injury to the members of those families but in their injury to society. If one were asked offhand to name the greatest evil of the day one might, in the light of one's education by the newspapers, or by agitators, make any one of a number of replies. One might say prostitution, the oppression of labor, child labor, or war. Yet the poverty and neglect which drives a girl into prostitution usually has its source in a family too large to be properly cared for by the mother, if the girl is not actually subnormal because her mother bore too many children, and, therefore, the more likely to become a prostitute. Labor is oppressed because it is too plentiful; wages go up and conditions improve when labor is scarce. Large families make plentiful labor and they also provide the workers for the child-labor factories as well as the armies of unemployed. That population, swelled by overbreeding, is a basic cause of war, we shall see in a later chapter. Without the large family, not one of these evils could exist to any considerable extent, much less to the extent that they exist to-day. The large family—especially the family too large to receive adequate care—is the one thing necessary to the perpetuation of these and other evils and is therefore a greater evil than any one of them.
First of the manifold immoralities involved in the producing of a large family is the outrage upon the womanhood of the mother. If no mother bore children against her will or against her feminine instinct, there would be few large families. The average mother of a baby every year or two has been forced into unwilling motherhood, so far as the later arrivals are concerned. It is not the less immoral when the power which compels enslavement is the church, state or the propaganda of well-meaning patriots clamoring against "race suicide." The wrong is as great as if the enslaving force were the unbridled passions of her husband. The wrong to the unwilling mother, deprived of her liberty, and all opportunity of self-development, is in itself enough to condemn large families as immoral.
The outrage upon the woman does not end there, however. Excessive childbearing is now recognized by the medical profession as one of the most prolific causes of ill health in women. There are in America hundreds of thousands of women, in good health when they married, who have within a few years become physical wrecks, incapable of mothering their children, incapable of enjoying life.
"Every physician," writes Dr. Wm. J. Robinson in Birth Control or The Limitation of Offspring, "knows that too frequent childbirth, nursing and the sleepless nights that are required in bringing up a child exhaust the vitality of thousands of mothers, make them prematurely old, or turn them into chronic invalids."
The effect of the large family upon the father is only less disastrous than it is upon the mother. The spectacle of the young man, happy in health, strength and the prospect of a joyful love life, makes us smile in sympathy. But this same young man ten years later is likely to present a spectacle as sorry as it is familiar. If he finds that the children come one after another at short intervals—so fast indeed that no matter how hard he works, nor how many hours, he cannot keep pace with their needs—the lover whom all the world loves will have been converted into a disheartened, threadbare incompetent, whom all the world pities or despises. Instead of being the happy, competent father, supporting one or two children as they should be supported, he is the frantic struggler against the burden of five or six, with the tragic prospect of several more. The ranks of the physically weakened, mentally dejected and spiritually hopeless young fathers of large families attest all too strongly the immorality of the system.
If its effects upon the mother and the wage-earning father were not enough to condemn the large family as an institution, its effects upon the child would make the case against it conclusive. In the United States, some 300,000 children under one year of age die each twelve months. Approximately ninety per cent of these deaths are directly or indirectly due to malnutrition, to other diseased conditions resulting from poverty, or to excessive childbearing by the mother.
The direct relationship between the size of the wage-earner's family and the death of children less than one year old has been revealed by a number of studies of the infant death rate. One of the clearest of these was that made by Arthur Geissler among miners and cited by Dr. Alfred Ploetz before the First International Eugenic Congress. [Footnote: Problems in Eugenics, London, 1913.] Taking 26,000 births from unselected marriages, and omitting families having one and two children, Geissler got this result:
Deaths During First Year. 1st born children 23% 2nd " " 20% 3rd " " 21% 4th " " 23% 5th " " 26% 6th " " 29% 7th " " 31% 8th " " 33% 9th " " 36% 10th " " 41% 11th " " 51% 12th " " 60%
Thus we see that the second and third children have a very good chance to live through the first year. Children arriving later have less and less chance, until the twelfth has hardly any chance at all to live twelve months.
This does not complete the case, however, for those who care to go farther into the subject will find that many of those who live for a year die before they reach the age of five.
Many, perhaps, will think it idle to go farther in demonstrating the immorality of large families, but since there is still an abundance of proof at hand, it may be offered for the sake of those who find difficulty in adjusting old-fashioned ideas to the facts. The most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it. The same factors which create the terrible infant mortality rate, and which swell the death rate of children between the ages of one and five, operate even more extensively to lower the health rate of the surviving members. Moreover, the overcrowded homes of large families reared in poverty further contribute to this condition. Lack of medical attention is still another factor, so that the child who must struggle for health in competition with other members of a closely packed family has still great difficulties to meet after its poor constitution and malnutrition have been accounted for.
The probability of a child handicapped by a weak constitution, an overcrowded home, inadequate food and care, and possibly a deficient mental equipment, winding up in prison or an almshouse, is too evident for comment. Every jail, hospital for the insane, reformatory and institution for the feebleminded cries out against the evils of too prolific breeding among wage-workers.
We shall see when we come to consider the relation of voluntary motherhood to the rights of labor and to the prevention of war that the large family of the worker makes possible his oppression, and that it also is the chief cause of such human holocausts as the one just closed after the four and a half bloodiest years in history. No such extended consideration is necessary to indicate from what source the young slaves in the child-labor factories come. They come from large impoverished families—from families in which the older children must put their often feeble strength to the task of supporting the younger.
The immorality of bringing large families into the world is recognized by those who are combatting the child-labor evil. Mary Alden Hopkins, writing in Harper's Weekly in 1915, quotes Owen R. Lovejoy, general secretary of the National Child Labor Committee, as follows:
"How many are too many? ... Any more than the mother can look after and the father make a living for ... Under present conditions as soon as there are too many children for the father to feed, some of them go to work in the mine or factory or store or mill near by. In doing this, they not only injure their tender growing bodies, but indirectly, they drag down the father's wage ... The home becomes a mere rendezvous for the nightly gathering of bodies numb with weariness and minds drunk with sleep." And if they survive the factory, they marry to perpetuate and multiply their ignorance, weakness and diseases.
What have large families to do with prostitution? Ask anyone who has studied the problem. The size of the family has a direct bearing on the lives of thousands of girls who are living in prostitution. Poverty, lack of care and training during adolescence, overcrowded housing conditions which accompany large families are universally recognized causes of "waywardness" in girls. Social workers have cried out in vain against these conditions, pointing to their inevitable results.
In the foreword to "Downward Paths," A. Maude Royden says: "Intimately connected with this aspect of the question is that of home and housing, especially of the child. The age at which children are first corrupted is almost incredibly early, until we consider the nature of the surroundings in which they grow up. Insufficient space, over-crowding, the herding together of all ages and both sexes—these things break down the barriers of a natural modesty and reserve. Where decency is practically impossible, unchastity will follow, and follow almost as a matter of course." And the child who has no place to play except in the street, who lacks mother care, whose chief emotional experience is the longing for the necessities of life? We know too well the end of the sorry tale. The forlorn figures of the shadows where lurk the girls who sell themselves that they may eat and be clothed rise up to damn the moral dogmatists, who mouth their sickening exhortations to the wives and mothers of the workers to breed, breed, breed.
The evidence is conclusive as regards the large family of the wage-worker. Social workers, physicians and reformers cry out to stop the breeding of these, who must exist in want until they become permanent members of the ranks of the unfit.
But what of the family of the wealthy or the merely well-to-do? It is among these classes that we find the women who have attained to voluntary motherhood. It is to these classes, too, that the "race suicide" alarmists have from time to time addressed specially emphasized pleas for more children. The advocates of more prolific breeding urge that these same women have more intelligence, better health, more time to care for children and more means to support them. They therefore declare that it is the duty of such women to populate the land with strong, healthy, intelligent offspring—to bear children in great numbers.
It is high time to expose the sheer foolishness of this argument. The first absurdity is that the women who are in comfortable circumstances could continue to be cultured and of social value if they were the mothers of large families. Neither could they maintain their present standard of health nor impart it to their children.
While it is true that they have resources at their command which ease the burden of child-bearing and child rearing immeasurably, it is also true that the wealthy mother, as well as the poverty-stricken mother, must give from her own system certain elements which it takes time to replace. Excessive childbearing is harder on the woman who lacks care than on the one who does not, but both alike must give their bodies time to recover from the strain of childbearing. If the women in fortunate circumstances gave ear to the demand of masculine "race-suicide"[A] fanatics they could within a few years be down to the condition of their sisters who lack time to cultivate their talents and intellects. A vigorous, intelligent, fruitfully cultured motherhood is all but impossible if no restriction is placed by that motherhood upon the number of children.
[Footnote A: Interesting and perhaps surprising light is thrown upon the origin of the term "race suicide" by the following quotation from an article by Harold Bolce in the Cosmopolitan (New York) for May, 1909:
"'The sole effect of prolificacy is to fill the cemeteries with tiny graves, sacrifices of the innocents to the Moloch of immoderate maternity.' Thus insists Edward A. Ross, Professor of Sociology in the University of Wisconsin; and he protests against the 'dwarfing of women and the cheapening of men' as regards the restriction of the birth rate as a 'movement at bottom salutary, and its evils minor, transient and curable.' This is virile gospel, and particularly significant coming from the teacher who invented the term 'race suicide,' which many have erroneously attributed to Mr. Roosevelt."]
Wage-workers and salaried people have a vital interest in the size of the families of those better situated in life. Large families among the rich are immoral not only because they invade the natural right of woman to the control of her own body, to self-development and to self-expression, but because they are oppressive to the poorer elements of society. If the upper and middle classes of society had kept pace with the poorer elements of society in reproduction during the past fifty years, the working class to-day would be forced down to the level of the Chinese whose wage standard is said to be a few handfuls of rice a day.
If these considerations are not enough to halt the masculine advocate of large families who reminds us of the days of our mothers and grandmothers, let it be remembered that bearing and rearing six or eight children to-day is a far different matter from what it was in the generations just preceding. Physically and nervously, the woman of to-day is not fitted to bear children as frequently as was her mother and her mother's mother. The high tension of modern life and the complicating of woman's everyday existence have doubtless contributed to this result. And who of us can say, until a careful scientific investigation is made, how much the rapid development of tuberculosis and other grave diseases, even among the well-nurtured, may be due to the depletion of the physical capital of the unborn by the too prolific childbearing of preceding generations of mothers?
The immorality of bringing into being a large family is a wrong-doing shared by three—the mother, the father and society. Upon all three falls the burden of guilt. It may be said for the mother and father that they are usually ignorant. What shall be said of society? What shall be said of us who permit outworn laws and customs to persist in piling up the appalling sum of public expense, misery and spiritual degradation? The indictment against the large unwanted family is written in human woe. Who in the light of intelligent understanding shall have the brazenness to stand up and defend it?
One thing we know—the woman who has escaped the chains of too great reproductivity will never again wear them. The birth rate of the wealthy and upper classes will never appreciably rise. The woman of these classes is free of her most oppressive bonds. Being free, we have a right to expect much of her. We expect her to give still greater expression to her feminine spirit—we expect her to enrich the intellectual, artistic, moral and spiritual life of the world. We expect her to demolish old systems of morals, a degenerate prudery, Dark-Age religious concepts, laws that enslave women by denying them the knowledge of their bodies, and information as to contraceptives. These must go to the scrapheap of vicious, cast-off things. Hers is the power to send them there. Shall we look to her to strike the first blow which shall wrench her sisters from the grip of the dead hand of the past?
CRIES OF DESPAIR AND SOCIETY'S PROBLEMS
Before we pass to a further consideration of our subject, shall we not pause to take a still closer look at the human misery wrought by the enslavement of women through unwilling motherhood? Would you know the appalling sum of this misery better than any author, any scientist, any physician, any social worker can tell you? Hear the story from the lips of the women themselves. Learn at first hand what it means to make a broken drudge of a woman who might have been the happy mother of a few strong children. Learn from the words of the victims of involuntary motherhood what it means to them, to their children and to society to force the physically unfit or the unwilling to bear children. When you have learned, stop to ask yourself what is the worth of the law, the moral code, the tradition, the religion, that for the sake of an outworn dogma of submission would wreck the lives of these women, condemn their progeny to pain, want, disease and helplessness. Ask yourself if these letters, these cries of despair, born of the anguish of woman's sex slavery are not in themselves enough to stop the mouths of the demagogues, the imperialists and the ecclesiastics who clamor for more and yet more children? And if the pain of others has no power to move your heart and stir your hands and brain to action, ask yourself the more selfish question: Can the children of these unfortunate mothers be other than a burden to society—a burden which reflects itself in innumerable phases of cost, crime and general social detriment?
"For our own sakes—for our children's sakes—" plead the mothers, "help us! Let us be women, rather than breeding machines."
The women who thus cry out are pleading not only for themselves and their children, but for society itself. Their plea is for us and ours—it is the plea for happier conditions, for higher ideals, for a stronger, more vigorous, more highly developed race.
The letters in this chapter are the voices of humble prophets crying out to us stop our national habit of human waste. They are warnings against disaster which we now share and must continue to share as it grows worse, unless we heed the warning and put our national house in order.
Each and every unwanted child is likely to be in some way a social liability. It is only the wanted child who is likely to be a social asset. If we have faith in this intuitive demand of the unfortunate mothers, if we understand both its dire and its hopeful significance, we shall dispose of those social problems which so insistently and menacingly confront us today. For the instinct of maternity to protect its own fruits, the instinct of womanhood to be free to give something besides surplus of children to the world, cannot go astray. The rising generation is always the material of progress, and motherhood is the agency for the improvement and the strengthening and guiding of that generation.
The excerpts contained in this chapter are typical of the letters which come to me by the thousands. They tell their own story, simply—sometimes ungrammatically and illiterately, but nevertheless irresistibly. It is the story of slow murder of the helpless by a society that shields itself behind ancient, inhuman moral creeds—which dares to weigh those dead creeds against the agony of the living who pray for the "mercy of death."
Can a mother who would "rather die" than bear more children serve society by bearing still others? Can children carried through nine months of dread and unspeakable mental anguish and born into an atmosphere of fear and anger, to grow up uneducated and in want, be a benefit to the world? Here is what the mother says:
"I have read in the paper about you and am very interested in Birth Control I am a mother of four living children and one dead the oldest 10 and baby 22 months old. I am very nervous and sickly after my children. I would like you to advise me what to do to prevent from having any more as I would rather die than have another. I am keeping away from my husband as much as I can, but it causes quarrels and almost separation. All my babies have had marasmus in the first year of their lives and I almost lost my baby last summer. I always worry about my children so much. My husband works in a brass foundry it is not a very good job and living is so high that we have to live as cheap as possible. I've only got 2 rooms and kitchen and I do all my work and sewing which is very hard for me."
Shall this woman continue to be forced into a life of unnatural continence which further aggravates her ill health and produces constant discord? Shall she go on having children who come into being with a heritage of ill health and poverty, and who are bound to become public burdens? Or would it be the better policy to let motherhood follow its instinct to save itself, its offspring and society from these ills?
Or shall women be forced into abortion, as is testified by the mother whose daughters are mothers, and who, in the hope of saving them from both slavery and the destruction of their unborn children, wrote the letter which follows:
"I have born and raised 6 children and I know all the hardships of raising a large family. I am now 53 years old and past having children but I have 3 daughters that have 2 children each and they say they will die before they will have any more and every now and again they go to a doctor and get rid of one and some day I think it will kill them but they say they don't care for they will be better dead than live in hell with a big family and nothing to raise them on. It is for there sakes I wish you to give me that information."
What could the three women mentioned in this letter contribute to the wellbeing of the future American race? Nothing, except by doing exactly what they wish to do—refusing to bear children that they do not want and cannot care for. Their instinct is sound—but what is to be said of the position of society at large, which forces women who are in the grip of a sound instinct to seek repeated abortions in order to follow that instinct? Are we not compelling women to choose between inflicting injury upon themselves, their children and the community, and undergoing an abhorrent operation which kills the tenderness and delicacy of womanhood, even as it may injure or kill the body?
Will the offspring of a paralytic, who must perforce neglect the physical care and training of her children, enhance the common good by their coming? Here is a letter from a paralytic mother, whose days and nights are tortured by the thought of another child, and whose reason is tottering at the prospect of leaving her children without her care:
"I sent for a copy of your magazine and now feel I must write you to see if you can help me.
"I was a high school girl who married a day laborer seven years ago. In a few months I will again be a mother, the fourth child in less than six years. While carrying my babies am always partly paralyzed on one side. Do not know the cause but the doctor said at last birth we must be 'more careful,' as I could not stand having so many children. Am always very sick for a long time and have to have chloroform.
"We can afford help only about 3 weeks, until I am on my feet again, after confinement. I work as hard as I can but my work and my children are always neglected. I wonder if my body does survive this next birth if my reason will.
"It is terrible to think of bringing these little bodies and souls into the world without means or strength to care for them. And I can see no relief unless you give it to me or tell me where to get it. I am weaker each time and I know that this must be the last one, for it would be better for me to go, than to bring more neglected babies into the world. I can hardly sleep at night for worrying. Is there an answer for women like me?"
In another chapter, we have gotten a glimpse of the menace of the feebleminded. Here is a woman who is praying for help to avoid adding to the number of mentally helpless:
"My baby is only 10 months old and the oldest one of four is 7, and more care than a baby, has always been helpless. We do not own a roof over our heads and I am so discouraged I want to die if nothing can be done. Can't you help me just this time and then I know I can take care of myself. Ignorance on this all important subject has put me where I am. I don't know how to be sure of bringing myself around. I beg of you to help me and anything I can do to help further your wonderful work I will do. Only help me this once, no one will know only I will be blessed.
"I not only have a terrible time when I am confined but caring for the oldest child it preys so on my mind that I fear more defective children. Help me please!"
The offspring of one feebleminded man named Jukes has cost the public in one way and another $1,300,000 in seventy-five years. Do we want more such families? Is this woman standing guard for the general welfare? Had she been permitted the use of contraceptives before she was forced to make a vain plea for abortion, would she not have rendered a service to her fellow citizens, as well as to herself?