Editing Sample--The Margaret Sanger Papers
The Margaret Sanger Papers Project is publishing the papers of America's most noted birth control advocate in three formats. Working with a massive collection of over 100,000 individual documents, the Project first located, identified, dated and indexed the letters, speeches, reports and other documents that make up the collection. This material was published in microfilm format. From these documents, we selected approximately 1,000 to be included in our four-volume book edition. These letters, speeches and other writings are transcribed, proofread and annotated for publication. For a separate electronic edition, project editors have selected Sanger's speeches and articles, transcribed them and made them searchable by adding index terms.
All the examples on this page are from the same original seventeen-page handwriten manuscript of Margaret Sanger's address at the Fabian Society Hall in London, on July 5, 1915. The original document is located in the Margaret Sanger Papers at the Library of Congress. Click on the image of the document to see a larger version (depending on your browser you may need to click two times to enlarge the image).
Our goal in producing the microfilm edition was to make Sanger's archive much more accessible. Publishing the documents in microfilm format enables researchers in libraries anywhere to access this valuable collection. The editors considered issues such as which documents should be included and how they should be organized, identified and indexed. Editing each document included a series of steps.
1) Determine whether this is a Sanger document.
2) Determine the author, date, location and title.
3) Make certain that the document is complete.
4) Fit the document into our organizational schema.
When we selected this speech for the book edition, the text of the document was transcribed into a word-processing format and then proofread by editors (see below). This document, a handwriten original in only fair condition, presented some transcription issues. We indicate words that we are not certain of by using [square brackets] and by adding question marks when the words supplied are less certain. Strikeouts and interlineations are rendered in the text, and spelling errors are generally maintained. [Note: interlineations, rendered in print with up/down arrows which did not display on the web have been converted to the codes <UA> and <DA>.]
Editors provide context for the document by explaining not what Sanger meant, but by giving the reader the tools to understand references that are not clear. We identify people or issues mentioned, bring the reader up to date on Sanger's dealings with individuals and organizations, and provide background on the issues she addresses.
Documents in the book edition do not need to stand alone--we assume that the reader has read the documents which come before them in the volume. Therefore, Sanger's stay in London, which is discussed immediately prior to this document is not mentioned here, though we set the scene for this speech, describing the hall and the audience. Detailed annotation in the form of endnotes, linked to specific points in the text, is provided in endnotes.
59. FABIAN HALL SPEECH(1)
The following speech was given at the Fabian Society Hall, 25 Tothill Street, Westminster, in London. The British Fabian socialists focused on education and social research and were less committed to the kind of political activism that American socialists promoted. Sanger later recalled that her audience, “representatives of nearly every social and civic organization in London,” was very different from the socialist women she had addressed in the United States because they “had the rationalist attitude and preferred to listen to principles and theories.” (MS, Autobiography, 170.)
Tho I was rocked in the cradle of Socialism--for my father was one of the early pioneers of Socialist thot in USA(2) yet with my nursing experience among women--I could see the [great] undermining & weakening of that class both physically & mentally [through] ignorance of the care of their own bodies & especially the physiological functioning of the
In USA. you are all aware of our world famous Puritanism which has made any mention of sex a prison offense & always reminds me of that Story of which you are no doubt familiar but which bears repeating here. The story of the Queen of Spain travelling through the rural districts to one of the provinces had need to pass through a manufacturing town made famous for its excellent production of hosiery & gloves. The inhabitants of the town being simple & loving people desired to please the lady & show honor to her by presenting to her some of their best & choicest productions. The magistrate of the town assembled the people together to receive the queen & presented her with the gifts. The Escort bowed low & graciously over the gloves & thanked the people for the gift, but declined to accept the stockings by saying “never forget that a queen of Spain has no legs”. This is quite on a par with our Puritanism in America & it is this barrier that must be broken down around the American working girl before you can proceed a step in reaching her--
As you already know there has been throughout the world within the last ten years a tremendous awakening in all civilized countries among women. Every where women have shown tendencies to overthrow some of the old regulations of society & throw off some of the [fetters] which have held them down so long--
This awakening has definitely shown itself in two forms--or groups, one the most universal the desire for political freedom & recognition or the votes for women groups.
The other & more advanced & more recent is perhaps more psychological in its effects but have likewise formed themselves into the Feminist groups.
I shall not go into detail about the votes for women--woman--for she concerns me little & fortunately the working girl has not been greatly enthused in this propoganda.(3) But sufficient is it to say that as far as I have been able to gather their vision of life goes as high as obtaining political positions for women <UL>now today<NM> & aspiring to the lofty attitude of police women, detectives, police [commiss] etc. The women of Chicago have been able to elect some of their sex as police and when the great cloke makers Strike was in progress--the working girls found to their great surprise that the policewoman club hurt just as much swung from the fair hands of her own sex, as it did from that of the policemans--(4) Again--in N.Y. we have C.B.D. (5) the Police [Comissn]--for years Police Matron in the Bedford Home for girls. If one could describe the hope which sprang into the hearts of the women of the underworld when they knew that at last a woman was to be over the Institution wherein they suffered so bitterly and what a keen dissappointment awaited them-- She went at her work for public [applause]--Prison was prison and was no joy house--& accordingly she went to her job to make prison sentence so hard & cruel that no one would return. She refused to allow the inmates to recive outside meals until they were weak & ill & unless there was someone outside to help them they were usually fit for a hospital--this & a few such cruelties K.B.D. brought into the Prison--& today there is little hope for the hands of a woman--
So much for votes for women. Its not that I deplore votes for women for certainly if votes are good for men they are good for women too, but the vision of these women is too narrow &
This movement like all other big vital thots, has been cut up & narrowed down to such a degree that it is scarcely recognized as Feminism--for instance last year in N.Y.C. there was the Feminist Movement launched upon the unsuspectg Puritans--but it was Feminism in name only--& ignoring the basis of the whole movement, lest it should shock the morals of the people, it began to treat of superficial results of its development. For instance--these women--wanted the right to work: the right to ignore fashions: the right to keep her own name, & such poor longings of a bougeous class suffering from loss of vitality. I issued a working womans paper called the Woman Rebel which viewed feminism from the working womans point of view & demanded not the right to work, but the right to be lazy, & guaranteed to find seven millions of women--laundresses, cloak makers, suit makers, cap-- kimona makers scrubwomen, domestics, telephone girls, shop workers, etc etc who would gladly change places with these women who wanted the right to work.(7)
The working girl had never troubled herself about ignoring fashions-- It was compulsory on her part.-- She had to--
The right to keep her own name was a most revolutionary demand for these women to make. Instead of Mrs
So much for the feminists whose program had no place for the working womans development, or no thot of her emancipation but fundamentally has a basis for her to use of which I shall refer later on.
If the votes for women & Feminist movements as well as nearly all other movements I know of have ignored the working women there have <UA>has<DA> been one kind & ever loving friend who has grasped the opportunity to assist her this friend is the master class or the boss--who has subtly & silently instituted in most all the large shops & stores where many women work--a Welfare Society, which so far has been a wonderful tool in the hands of the boss to blind the workers
Here is some of it--“obedience”--“courtesy” “punctuality” “loyalty”--“honesty” “duty” etc. Implisid obedience--ask no questions but obey when you are told. “Courtesy” rise & bow to your master & show deference to his authority over you--“punctuality” to always be on time--not a minute after 8, but better a minute before so as to give the full days labor for the pay you recive “loyalty”--stand up for the man who gives your daily bread--“honesty” to come & tell when you spoil your work, & not accept full pay for poor work, making these girls a tame, lifeless spiritless mass, without personality or life--and as Nitzsche says a gently--grunting domestic animal--(11) My propoganda to offset this was the working girl agrees only to sell her labor to the boss--not her morality-- Its none of his business if she’s courteous, loyal, honest dutiful obedient. She’s never to forget that there is a war constantly going on--between her class & the boss class--& its up to her to get the largest wage for the least amount of toil & to keep in mind a blow at his profits is a useful weapon to her class.
Just as the working woman must fight for this right to retain her own morality & psychology--so must she fight for the right to own & control her own body, for the ownership of her own body to do with it as she desires--& its no ones business what those desires may be.
This right naturally involves a high standard of idealism as well as a knowledge of the prevention of disease & conception. It is none of Societies business what a woman shall do with her body unless she shall inflict upon Society the consequences of her acts, like venereal diseases or offspring--then Society is concerned & it is its right to be concerned, this then involves knowledge on these [subjects] both are important, but I wish to dwell upon only one the knowledge of the means to prevent conception for the working woman (both sexes).
With this she should be concerned not only as an individual but also as a member of that class, who produce all the <UA>wage<DA> slaves of the world.
lst because the wages of the average man are scarcely sufficient to keep more than one child as it is.
2nd That the cost of living is constantly increasing while wages are practically at a stand still.
3. No matter what increase a strike will bring--one baby added to the family will more than [reduce the] increase even in its first year--which is the year it needs the least expenditure.
th The uncertainty of employment & [the] far reaching effect of abortions [when] resorted to.
th The terrible loss of infant mortality [among?] the working people today--Something like 85,000 death of infants under one year old in one state alone.(12) A little army slaughtered by the carelessness of an indifferent Society.
6th [while] child labor exists she should not add a child slave to its perpetuation.
7th that it is 9 out of ten girls living the life of the underworld who come from parents who had large families & whose fathers belonged to the unskilled & unorganized laborers.(13)
8th Societies attitude toward the workers off spring is entirely an alleviation of present day
misery & ignorance. Rather than go to the root of the question & [it can?] refuse to have more children while Society is in this chaotic condition & here is the means to prevent it. It
Out of this agitation in the Woman Rebel (which issue as it came out was succisively confiscated by the P.O. & our moral guardian Anthony Comstock), came the organization of the Birth Control Leagues throughout the U.S. So far there are five reaching from coast to coast(16) & promise an agitation among the workers on this subject which should have marked results in the next four or five years. The propoganda is not a one-sided Neo Malthusian doctrine--it is one rounded out with the workers economic moral & psychological attitude. It is full of vitality & intense with indignation anger & contempt. The object is to inject into the working woman a class independence which says to the masters produce your own slaves--keep your religion your ethics & your morality for your selves-- Ill have none of it & we refuse to be longer enslaved by it for we are creating our own & are building up a new Society through the process of which we are creating our own morality & individuality.
ADf MSP, DLC (LCM 129:167-175). The words “England” “Fabian Hall” and “Jl 5, 1915" were added to top of the first page by an unidentified author. Ink blots on the first two pages; pages torn. The final version was not found.
3. MS was echoing the arguments of many American socialist women who criticized the women’s suffrage movement as a middle-class, conservative attempt to claim women’s “sex rights,” while ignoring their “class rights.” Suffrage did become a major issue for organized working women, particularly after 1914. (Buhle, Women & American Socialism, 214-223; Ellen Carol DuBois, Woman Suffrage and Women’s Rights [New York, 1998], 176-209.)
4. She was referring to the 1910-11 strike of forty thousand Chicago garment workers (mostly young women), marked by police violence against the strikers. Although women were not appointed to the Chicago police force until 1913, a few police station matrons supervised women in custody. (Raphael W. Marrow and Harriet I. Carter, In Pursuit of Crime: The Police of Chicago: Chronicle of a Hundred Years [Sunbury, OH, 1996], 128-129, 348-349, 397; N. Sue Weiler, “The Uprising in Chicago,” in Joan M. Jensen and Sue Davidson, A Needle, A Bobbin, A Strike [Philadelphia, 1984], 114-145; and Women’s Trade Union League of Chicago, “Official Report of the Strike Committee, Chicago Garment Workers’ Strike, Oct. 29” [Chicago, 1911], 3, 9-10, and 30-31.)
6. The letter was not found. California women attained the right to vote in November 1911, and it was popularly believed that women’s votes carried a state temperance measure passed the same year. (Gilman Ostrander, The Prohibition Movement in California, 1848-1933 [Berkeley, 1957], 116-120.)
7. She was referring to the “Feminist Mass Meeting,” sponsored by members of Heterodoxy, a feminist circle founded in 1912, and the Feminist Alliance, a 1914 outgrowth of Heterodoxy, held on February 17th and 20th, 1914 at New York City's Cooper Union, at which the speakers focused on self-development and, in Nancy Cott’s words, “individual psychic freedom.” MS later claimed when she told the audience she planned to publish the Woman Rebel, “I struck no responsive chord.” (MS, “The New Feminists,” The Woman Rebel [Mar. 1914], 1-2 [MSM C16:515]; Schwartz, Radical Feminists, 126; Nancy Cott, The Grounding of American Feminism [New Haven, 1987], 13-40 [quote on 39]; MS, Autobiography, 108-9 [quote on 108].)
9. This was a reference to mutual assistance associations, educational programs, employee assistance programs, and other forms of “welfare capitalism” designed to counter unionization efforts. (Alice Kessler-Harris, Out to Work: A History of Wage-Earning Women in the United States [New York, 1982], 162-64.)
11. This was a loose paraphrase of Nietzsche’s claim that European society ruled by Christianity had degenerated, “until at last a dwarfed, almost ludicrous species has been produced, a gregarious animal, something obliging, sickly, mediocre, the European of the present day.” In a draft of a speech she planned to give on his philosophy, MS wrote, “Nietzsche sees the world becoming peopled with a ludicrous species--a tame, obliging, sickly, mediocre kind of gently-grunting domestic animal.” (Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, 84; for MS draft see LCM 130:360B.)
12. Her infant death figure appears to have been grossly inflated. New York had the nation’s highest recorded totals, but the number of deaths among children under one year were closer to 25,000-27,000. (Walter Wilcox, A Special Report on Vital Statistics [Albany, 1910].)
13. While few studies on prostitution deal with family size, Katharine Bement Davis’s work on Bedford Reformatory inmates claimed that 85% of prostitutes there came from families with fewer than six children. (“A Study of Prostitutes Committed from New York City to the State Reformatory for Women at Bedford Hills,” in George J. Kneeland, Commercialized Prostitution in New York City [New York, 1913], 217.)
14. These Progressive-era child welfare efforts aimed at reducing infant mortality by improving maternal and child health and hygiene, culminated in the 1912 creation of the Children’s Bureau, which coordinated the activities of disparate and largely volunteer organizations. MS echoed many left radicals who criticized Progressive reformers for treating the symptoms not the causes of the problem, and for imposing their own middle-class values on the poor, while remaining indifferent to the realities of their lives. (Meckel, Save the Babies, 113-24; see also MS, “Notes for Woman Rebel,” Jan. 1916 [LCM 130:342].)
15. The 1911 British National Health Insurance Act, successfully promoted by the Women’s Cooperative Guild, provided a 30 shilling benefit for the wives and widows of working men to cover medical costs and lost wages. A majority of U.S. states passed similar welfare measures for widows, deserted wives and single mothers who maintained “suitable” homes for their children, but the funds were generally too small to support a family, forcing the women to undertake additional home work to survive. (Jane Lewis, The Politics of Motherhood: Child and Maternal Welfare in England, 1900-1939 [London, 1980], 167; Meckel, Save the Babies, 188; Linda Gordon, Pitied But Not Entitled: Single Mothers and the History of American Welfare [New York, 1994], 41-50.)
The electronic edition is aimed to enable word- and subject- searching of Sanger's speeches and articles. Transcriptions are encoded with XML codes that identify portions of the document, such as paragraphs and headers, names, places, and other types of text, and bibliographic entries that give archival or published sources. We have also added subject terms to each document for ease of searching.
For ease of searching, we have altered the transcription guidelines for electronic publication, chiefly by silently correcting mispellings and typographical errors in the texts. This enables more accurate word searches across the edition.
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The XML transcription shows all the coding underneath the transcription. Click here for the document as it appears in the electronic edition.
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?><!DOCTYPE doc SYSTEM "s:\dtds\mep\meptei3x.dtd">
<doc type="Autograph draft speech">
<p>Tho I was rocked in the cradle of Socialism--for my father
<p>In <place reg="United States of America">USA.</place> you are all
<p>As you already know there has been throughout the world
<p>This awakening has definitely shown itself in two forms--or
<p>The other & more advanced & more recent is perhaps more psychological in its effects but have likewise formed themselves into the Feminist groups.</p>
<p>I shall not go into detail about the votes for
women--woman--for she concerns me little & fortunately the
working girl has not been greatly enthused in this propoganda.
But sufficient is it to say that as far as I have been able to
gather their vision of life goes as high as obtaining political
positions for women <emph rend="underline">now today</emph> & aspiring to
<p>In <del>San</del> <place reg="CA">California</place> it is the same a
letter from a friend tells me at the last election that the women
had gone mad on prohibition that they were going to tie the state
up so dry, that a working man would have to pay five shillings
<p>So much for votes for women. Its not that I deplore votes
<p>This movement like all other big vital <sic>thoughts</sic>,
<p>The working girl had never troubled herself about ignoring
<p>The right to keep her own name was a most revolutionary
<p>So much for the feminists whose program had no place for the
<p>If the votes for women & Feminist movements as well as
<p>Here is some of it-- "<soCalled>obedience</soCalled>"--"<soCalled>courtesy</soCalled>" "<soCalled>punctuality</soCalled>" <soCalled>loyalty</soCalled>"--"<soCalled>honesty</soCalled>" "<soCalled>duty</soCalled>" etc. Implicit obedience--ask no questions but obey
when you are told. "<soCalled>Courtesy</soCalled>" rise & bow to
your master & show deference to his authority over you- "<soCalled>punctuality</soCalled>" to always be on time--not a minute
after 8, but better a minute before so as to give the full days
<p>Just as the working woman must fight for this right to retain her own morality & psychology--so must she fight for the right to own & control her own body, for the ownership of her own body to do with it as she desires--& its no ones business what those desires may be.</p>
<p>This right naturally involves a high standard of idealism as
<p>With this she should be concerned not only as an individual but also as a member of that class, who produce all the <add>wage</add>slaves of the world.</p>
<p>lst because the wages of the average man are scarcely sufficient to keep more than one child as it is.</p>
<p>2nd That the cost of living is constantly increasing while wages are practically at a stand still.</p>
<p>3. No matter what increase a strike will bring--one baby
added to the family will more than <supplied>reduce the</supplied>
<p><supplied>4</supplied>th The uncertainty of employment & <supplied>the</supplied> far reaching effect of abortions <supplied>when</supplied> resorted to.</p>
<p><supplied>5</supplied>th The terrible loss of infant mortality <unclear>among</unclear> the working people today--Something like
<p>6th <supplied>while</supplied> child labor exists she should not
<p>7th that it is 9 out of ten girls living the life of the underworld who come from parents who had large families & whose fathers belonged to the unskilled & unorganized laborers.</p>
<p>8th Societies attitude toward the workers off spring is
entirely an alleviation of present day misery & ignorance.
Rather than go to the root of the question & <unclear>it can</unclear> refuse to have more children while Society is in this
chaotic condition & here is the means to prevent it. It <del>allows</del> forces them to remain in ignorance & institutes out
of their sentimental minds better baby funds, Little Mother
leagues, milk Stations for babies, child nurseries for the
children while the mother slaves in factories. <del>&</del> As
these are almost all charitable affairs-- <del>it goes to</del> it
is usually the factory owners money which supports the child
nurseries while the mother heaps up profits for him. These &
hundreds of other reasons why the working woman should have this
knowledge & use it. In <place>England</place> you have the
Mothers Pensions & I should think it would be a slap in the face
to a self respecting woman to have offered to her the small
<p>Out of this agitation in the <title>Woman Rebel</title> (which