Margaret Sanger was a eugenicist. Why are we still celebrating her?

The French have a word for it: débaptiser.

A prominent French scientist, Alexis Carrel (1878-1944) won the Nobel Prize for his inventions. His work saved military and civilian lives during both world wars. After his death, a grateful nation baptized the medical school of Lyons as Alexis-Carrel University. In the 1990s, however, critics recalled that Carrel had been an ardent eugenicist. In his book Man the Unknown (1935), Carrel recommended the use of gas chambers to deal with criminals and the insane. In the 1936 preface to the German edition, he praised the new National Socialist government’s eugenic policy of forced sterilization. The French government quickly debaptized Alexis-Carrel University and rebaptized it in the name of T. H. Laënnec, the uncontroversial inventor of the stethoscope.

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In our own nation the work of debaptism continues apace as we confront our racist history. Calhoun Hall at Yale has been renamed. A senator and vice president, John Calhoun was an ardent defender of slavery and white supremacy. Georgetown recently removed the names of Thomas Mullady and William McSherry from campus buildings since both Jesuits had been prominent in the sale of slaves to distant Southern plantations in 1838.

Sanger argued for compulsory sterilization and segregation for people with disabilities.

As we purify our national memory, I would like to nominate my own candidate for debaptism: Sanger Square in Manhattan. Named after Margaret Sanger (1879-1966), the founder of the Birth Control League (the future Planned Parenthood), the square honors an improbable feminist icon who championed a coercive brand of eugenics.

Sanger’s eugenics creed is clearly stated in her speech “My Way to Peace” (1932). The centerpiece of the program is vigorous state use of compulsory sterilization and segregation. The first class of persons targeted for sterilization is made up of people with mental or physical disability. “The first step would be to control the intake and output on morons, mental defectives, epileptics.” A much larger class of undesirables would be forced to choose either sterilization or placement in state work camps. “The second step would be to take an inventory of the second group, such as illiterates, paupers, unemployables, criminals, prostitutes, dope-fiends; classify them in special departments under government medical protection and segregate them on farms and open spaces.” Those segregated in these camps could return to mainstream society if they underwent sterilization and demonstrated good behavior. Sanger estimates that 15 million to 20 million Americans would be targeted in this regime of forced sterilization and concentration camps. In Sanger, the humanitarian dream of a world without poverty and illness has deteriorated into a coercive world where the poor, the disabled and the addicted simply disappear.

Sanger represents a genteel prejudice shared by many members of America’s ruling class in the early 20th century.

Sanger’s eugenics project carried its own racial preoccupation. In a letter of Dec. 10, 1939, to Clarence Gamble (cited here), she explains the nature of her organization’s outreach to the African-American community: “The most successful educational approach to the Negro is through a religious appeal. We don’t want the word to get out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.” In her autobiography she proudly recounts her address to the women of the Ku Klux Klan in Silver Lake, N.J., in 1926.

Dethroning a cultural idol like Sanger is not easy. The problem goes deeper than the link between her birth control movement and the sexual revolution. Sanger represents a genteel prejudice shared by many members of America’s ruling class in the early 20th century. To face squarely the glacial eugenics of Sanger one must demythologize the Progressive movement’s pantheon: Theodore Roosevelt (who staunchly supported the eugenic research of the Cold Spring Harbor laboratories), Woodrow Wilson (who as governor of New Jersey signed a law in 1911 mandating the forced sterilization of “the feeble-minded”), and Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes (who in the Buck v. Bell case in 1927 declared forced-sterilization statutes constitutional). Such biases have consequences. At least 60,000 American citizens were sterilized against their will under the weight of such mandates.

When we improbably debaptize Sanger Square, I propose a new baptismal name: that of Carrie Buck (1878-1966), the Virginia woman whose fate as a sterilization victim was sealed by the 1927 court decision. The state of Virginia had condemned Buck as feeble-minded, as incorrigible and as sexually promiscuous. She was in fact a C pupil, only mildly disruptive in class, and the child she bore out of wedlock was the result of being raped by the nephew of her foster parents.

For all our current efforts to face the destructive biases in our history, we find it difficult to admit, let alone condemn, our longstanding hostility toward people with disabilities and to confront those elites who have fostered that contempt. Our cult of Margaret Sanger is a sign of that enduring refusal.

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Jacob Richardson
2 weeks 5 days ago

Amazing, an article at America critical of the patron saint of the left, Margaret Sanger. This is going to infuriate the progressive readership of this magazine. I expect a rebuttal article from the editors within hours.

Robert Klahn
2 weeks 4 days ago

Not the patron saint, just a saint. After all, she was fervently opposed to abortion, and promoted birth control as an alternative.

Her support of eugenics was a common error of her time largely due to limited understanding of the causes of so many conditions, and very limited methods of treatment, with few cures for so many things.

Tim O'Leary
2 weeks 3 days ago

Robert - Sanger was certainly no saint, but the opposite, in her politics and personal life. She neglected her 3 children, had 2 husbands and was continuously unfaithful to both. She divorced her first (in 1921) to marry a multimillionaire (in 1922) and divorced him in 1943.

Her political sins included her “Negro Project”, her eugenics ideas, her support of compulsory sterilization for the “unfit”, her calls for forced isolation to farms of people she called “feebleminded” and “illiterates, paupers, unemployables…" and her 1926 speech to the KKK. This is now all admitted and disowned by PP on their website.

It is a complete whitewash for you to argue she was not a terrible racist. Here is an undeniable quote from her on a NYU website: “The lower down in the scale of human development we go the less sexual control we find. It is said that the aboriginal Australian, the lowest known species of the human family, just a step higher than the chimpanzee in brain development, has so little sexual control that police authority alone prevents him from obtaining sexual satisfaction on the streets.” - Sanger's  "What Every Girl Should Know: Sexual Impulses--Part II,".
https://www.nyu.edu/projects/sanger/webedition/app/documents/show.php?s…

But, her greatest criminal legacy is her founding of Planned Parenthood, who puts over 300,000 to death every year, or over 15 million so far. PP’s international organization has killed tens of millions more. Diabolical!

Maybe, you support contraception and oppose abortion. But, no matter what Sanger's position on abortion was (in her writings it is mixed - see also NYU site), her legacy is the greatest abortion machine in history.

Tim Donovan
2 weeks 3 days ago

As a retired Special Education who worked for six years with children who were either brain damaged, physically disabled, or had behavior disorders, the views of Margaret Sanger greatly disturb me. In " Woman and the New Race, " (1920), Birth control itself, often denounced as a violation of natural law, is nothing more or less than the facilitation of the process of weeding out the unfit, of preventing the birth of defectives or of those who will become defectives. " My relationship with my disabled students, though often challenging, was marked by love. I enjoyed caring for these whom Sanger called "defectives," and associating with their parents who in most cases cared for their children with great devotion and love. I might add that I also have. read contradictory remarks about Margaret Sanger and her views on abortion, but there's no doubt that as the founder of what is now Planned Parenthood , that whether or not she would have supported the killing of the unborn, Planned Parenthood clinics kill well over 300,000 innocent unborn human beings each year for any reason up until the time the unborn infant is viable. Planned Parenthood is vehemently opposed to either moderate protection for the unborn and pregnant women, such as support for using our tax money for abortions, parental consent before a minor has an abortion (with the option of judicial bypass), a 24 hour waiting period so that women can carefully consider their decision, and informed consent. Such laws include the opportunity to view accurate images of prenatal development, as well as local pro-life agencies that provide pregnant women with compassionate, practical assistance.
It's ironic that, like President Trump, whom I often disagree with except for his anti-abortion stand, that Sanger believed that the United States should "keep the doors of immigration closed to the entrance of certain aliens whose condition known to be detrimental to the stamina of the race, such as feebleminded, idiots, morons, insane, syphillitic, epileptic, criminal, professional. prostitutes, and others in this class barred by the immigration laws of 1924." ( Source: "A Plan for Peace," Birth Control Review , April, 1932). As someone who worked in a group home with 3 disabled men, several of my co-workers were immigrants from Liberia, who had fled from a brutal civil war to find a better life in our nation. In my view, immigrants should be welcomed into our nation, after a fair and thorough vetting process not based on race or religion, but on the likelihood of their being terrorists. Sanger once again displayed her staunchly prejudiced views against disabled people by advocating "a stern and rigid policy of sterilization and segregation to that grade of population whose progeny is already tainted, or whose inheritance is such that objectionable traits may be transmitted to offspring." ( Source: "A Plan for Peace," Birth Control Review, April, 1932). Finally, Sanger had such extreme views about marriage and children that she didn't even have a so-called "pro-choice" view as she stated in " America Needs A Code for Babies, " March 27, 1934 (Source: Margaret Sanger Papers, Library of Congress). She stated, "A marriage license shall in itself give husband and wife only the right to a common household and not the right to parenthood." Amazing, but Margaret Sanger believed that married couples should have to obtain a permit to become parents.

Robert Klahn
1 week 3 days ago

Funny that you left this part out about the "Code For Babies", "Suppose, for purposes of discussion of something that may not prove to be practicable, we add the following clauses to the proposed Baby Code:"

IOW, for discussion only.

Donald Trump does not and never had an anti-abortion view. His views are purely political, or whatever is to his advantage. OH, and Mitt Romney was also pro-choice. Just in case you thought otherwise.

You blame Sanger for what her agency was turned into after her death, and for holding the common views of her time. Why would you want to admit people with conditions that prevented from from being self supporting, were incurable and contagious, and for which there was little known treatment? Lumping them all together suggests none of them should be excluded? Are the handicapped not in the same category with criminals in your listing?

What is most notable is, not one word in your entire post about providing aid for the mothers to support their children. Not one word.

Robert Klahn
1 week 3 days ago

"She neglected her 3 children, had 2 husbands and was continuously unfaithful to both."

Please tell me you despise Donald Trump.

Yes, she was sexually active and not much tied to her husbands. As to neglecting her children, I am not aware of that.

Did you read that article you linked to? The whole article? It was written in 1912, filled with the beliefs of the era, which had little science involved. She never knew an aboriginal Australian, which left here with nothing but what she had read about them. Yes, she was ignorant. There is no basis on which to say she would not have had a different position if she knew any better.

As to the Negro project, about 10 or more years after opening her first clinics she tried to expand to provide service to black communities. Please do NOT give me the BS about not wanting the story to get out, why would anyone want a false narrative to get out? Eugenics was a very widely believed fallacy in that era, as was support of compulsory sterilization until much more recent times. Poor farms were the solution for those unable to support themselves at that time. She also reported how strange it was talking to the women of the KKK, but she said she would talk to anyone about family planning. How is it disowned? BTW, it was to the women of the KKK, not to the KKK. I worked with racists who objected to inter-racial marriage, even though my marriage is to a black woman and I am white. You condemn her for being a product of her time? Please to condemn the Catholic Church for the Crusades. I understand a big dividing point between the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox is the failure of the Roman church to apologize for the harm done by the crusaders traveling through their territory on their way to the Middle East.

Margaret Sanger was a fervent opponent of abortion, and Planned Parenthood was founded to try to get women to substitute contraception for abortion. She called abortion abhorrent, a disgraced to a civilize society, and killing a child. PP did not perform any abortions while she was alive.

So, you blame Sanger for what was done to her creation after her death? The blame should be laid at the feet of all those who oppose aiding the pregnant mothers to have the means to raise their children and provide for them at a middle class level, and for them to have medical care and education to the full extent of their needs.

Those who refuse to put Catholic Social Welfare teachings at the forefront share a full measure of blame.

Yes, I am a pro-life Catholic, not just anti-abortion.

2 weeks 4 days ago

Thomas Jefferson was a slave owner. Why are we celebrating him?

Because (obviously) we're celebrating things like the Declaration of Independence, not slavery.

And Sanger is not celebrated for her opinions about eugenics, but for providing access to birth control.

Now, you may ALSO think that that isn't a good idea. But that's a whole other discussion. Bringing up eugenics when that isn't the actual point is just an attempt at misdirection. and using someone failings to discredit their accomplishments.

Why don't you point out that she was opposed to abortion, too? In fact, one reason she championed birth control was to PREVENT abortion.

Patty Bennett
2 weeks 4 days ago

Oh, but it's NOT a "whole other discussion". The author is absolutely right. We need to remember what is the mentality fostering both issues--that there are some lives "more equal" than others. Whenever a society rejects God's standard--that all of us are created in the image and likeness of God--we open culture up to all sorts of false ideas that have dangerous consequences.
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I'm a registered nurse who used to work in the maternal-newborn department of a hospital (since closed) which served many patients living in poverty. The progressive/elitist attitude of many of the staff members was obvious. (And, in a way, it's an understandable attitude, even though it IS VERY WRONG.) I often HAD to remind myself that all these patients are PEOPLE created in the image and likeness of God. The attitude of Mother Teresa was the very best: Remember to see the face of Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poor, and remember that Jesus said that whatever you do to the least of these, you do to JESUS!
I remember one, particularly disturbing case--out of many--that illustrated the attitude of many of the staff: There was a girl, 12 years old, a child of an addicted mother, father unknown. She was developmentally disabled, pregnant. The father of this child was also unknown.
One of the doctors actually proposed (OFF the record, of course) doing a C-Section, whether or not it was necessary; they could always document SOME reason to make it appear necessary. The reason for this was so that they could--while they were "in there"--do a tubal ligation, sterilizing this girl without her knowledge. That's just ONE conversation I over-heard, and of course, NONE of this is documented. VERY dishonest, but Margaret Sanger would approve.
It is in extremely difficult situations that we MUST REMEMBER genuine morality. We must not do evil, even in order that good might come of it. The ends do not justify the means.
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By the way, Sanger was NOT opposed to abortion. Margaret Sanger had a very difficult childhood, observing in her own family many of the problems similar to what I described above. She came to the WRONG conclusion as to how to respond. Sometime Jesus' disguise is VERY distressing! Saint Teresa of Calcutta came to the RIGHT conclusion.
When we love God as God, and people as people, we refuse to treat people as things. That requires a LOT more effort and sacrifice than treating people as problems to be solved in the most efficient way possible, but Mother Teresa's way is the only one that prevents society from descending into tyranny. Mother Teresa sacrificially LOVES the "least of these". The Planned Parenthood philosophy (Damned Barrenhood) would just as soon dispose of them.

Robert Klahn
2 weeks 4 days ago

Sanger was most certainly opposed to abortion, calling it a disgrace to a civilized country, abhorrent, and killing a child. Yes, she did have a hard life as a child, that does not change the truth about her. Nothing you said even challenges that.

In a class with a philosophy prof from India, he asked us to name some people we would consider Mystics. I named Mother Theresa, he responded that Mother Theresa is a saint. This was decades ago. That does not change the fact that Mother Theresa saved very few children, Margaret Sanger was pursuing policies to make the lives of millions much better. Regardless of whether or not you agree with her thinking, you are still obligated to be honest in discussing it.

Patty Bennett
2 weeks 4 days ago

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Patty Bennett
2 weeks 4 days ago

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Patty Bennett
2 weeks 4 days ago

Sorry, I accidentally clicked "save" and ended up repeating the same comment, which I then deleted.

Dominic Deus
2 weeks ago

That's ok. Songwriters do the same thing, especially in country music. ;-)

Dionys Murphy
2 weeks 4 days ago

We could also name it after the thousands of Native American women illegally sterilized without their permission or knowledge by white American doctors as a part of the ongoing genocide of Native Peoples.

Andrew Strada
2 weeks 4 days ago

The CDC just released data for 2014. The rate of abortions for white women was 7.0 per 1,000 women; for black women it was 26.7 per 1,000. For white women there were 147 abortions for every 1,000 live births; for black women there were 417 abortions for every 1,000 live births. If demographics is truly destiny than Sanger certainly had her influence on the destiny of the African-American community.

Robert Klahn
2 weeks 4 days ago

Since Margaret Sanger was fervently opposed to abortion, calling it abhorrent, a disgrace to a civilized nation, and the killing of a child, your comment is libelous. Sorry to have to tell you this.

Perhaps if we brought full and comprehensive medical care to black women, full and equal education to black people and full equality in the work force we might drastically reduce those abortion rates.

Full equality should be in a working world where wages actually allow the support of a family at a decent level, not the current working poverty that is the growing problem in America.

Until then you won't be able to fix the problem.

Madeleine Madigan
2 weeks 4 days ago

How bout the black family has a father that sticks around? And Mama doesn’t have 5 kids with 5 different baby daddies.

Robert Klahn
1 week 3 days ago

IOW, you believe black people are inferior. Got news for you, poor whites behave just as badly. If the black father could find a decent job maybe he could stick around. If they didn't put so many black men in prison for non-violent crimes maybe they could stick around. Or is non-violent drug use a good reason to put people in prison?

Damn few black women have 5 kids with 5 different men.

Are you aware that, if a black man marries a white woman, and they have a child, that child is counted among the white married births, even though the general population will see that child as black. If a white man gets a black woman pregnant but doesn't marry her that child of a white man is counted as a black child born to an unmarried mother.

How about you work on making things equal, and maybe the end result will be alleviating your complaints.

Oh, did you also know the growth of unwed births has increased much faster among white women than black? The divide between them was much higher when the income gap was much wider. Now they are closing at a rate that will likely see the white unmarried birth rate match the black rate. Maybe then you will realize it is largely an economic problem.

Andrew Strada
2 weeks 3 days ago

Sorry to tell you this but in countries where the legal system is based on Anglo-Saxon common law, you cannot libel a dead person.

It seems that, whenever a notorious celebrity dies, tell-all biographies appear within a few months -- or even weeks -- filled with unflattering new disclosures.  One explanation for this phenomenon is (to quote Judge Robert Sack, the author of one of the two leading treatises on libel):
The dead have no cause of action for defamation under the common law, and neither do their survivors, unless the words independently reflect upon and defame the survivors. 
Rodney Smolla, the author of the other leading treatise, concurs:
There is no liability for defamation of the dead, either to the estate of the deceased or to the deceased's descendants or relatives.

Mark Herlihy
2 weeks 4 days ago

I agree with the commenter below (iggysblog) who points out that the attempt to shift the focus away from her advocacy of birth control to her support for eugenics is at best an attempt at misdirection. But if I were to accept the notion that support of eugenics (which was widespread at the time, based on the mistaken judgment that it could be supported scientifically, and was as widely rejected when it was determined it lacked scientific basis) should disqualify Sanger from being honored, another brave woman who also worked to advance access to contraception comes to mind – Emma Goldman.

Crystal Watson
2 weeks 4 days ago

Who exactly is celebrating her? I looked her up at Google news and the only mentions of her currently are from pro-life organizations. You are conflating the eugenic theories of a woman born over 100 years ago with contemporary women's reproductive rights .... they are not the same thing.

John Walton
2 weeks 4 days ago

Hilary Clinton praised Margaret Sanger, and in accepting the Planned Parenthood Margaret Sanger Award stated the following: "Now, I have to tell you that it was a great privilege when I was told that I would receive this award. I admire Margaret Sanger enormously, her courage, her tenacity, her vision ... And when I think about what she did all those years ago in Brooklyn, taking on archetypes, taking on attitudes and accusations flowing from all directions, I am really in awe of her."

Robert Klahn
2 weeks 4 days ago

Yes, she was probably quite honored, since Sanger's only real concern was to reduce suffering in the world.

The fact that she got some things wrong does not challenge what she was trying to do that was right.

Patty Bennett
2 weeks 4 days ago

Look up some of her quotes. "The most merciful thing a large family does for one of its infant members is to kill it." These are NOT the words of a woman that I admire!
Like it or not, Margaret Sanger's warped ideas have tragically influenced society.
Do you remember when Pope Emeritus Benedict said that one of the greatest problems of our society is "an EXCESSIVE CONCERN for efficiency"? He knew well the problems this would cause. The Nazis would dispose of (kill) anyone that they thought got in the way of efficiency. Margaret Sanger agreed with this. She wanted everything efficient--for a good cause, of course--and since the weak, the ill, and disabled limited efficiency, they had to go! Efficiently evil. Look it up.

Robert Klahn
2 weeks 4 days ago

You do not admire speaking the truth? Or is it the selected and incomplete quotes you have been fed that mislead you. She said it was merciful, and that is on the level of a mercy killing. She never said it was good or the best choice, nor did she say it was for all families, but she was talking about how, in a great many cases, the child will grow up to suffer with little chance. Her alternative was not to kill the child, but to reduce the number of births to what the family could support. You can buy a complete set of the Birth Control Review and other of Sanger's organization's publications on Ebay, I suggest you educated yourself on the subject.

I do not remember him saying that, but I reached that conclusion long ago. Mechanical efficiency is a great thing, human efficiency requires education and opportunity for people to find what they do best, and like to do. Our society now sidelines so many of the handicapped with no jobs for those above the sheltered workshop level but not seen as fully functional. Believe me I have known enough people with handicaps who could, and when given the chance, do prove to be as good as many of the unchallenged. Our society is not oriented to providing full employment, and was far far worse in Sanger's time.

Since Sanger never once suggested killing anyone it is slanderous of you to even suggest agreement between her and the NAZIs. She was invited to speak in Germany to a gathering to discuss such proposals, but the NAZIs discovered how much she despised their methods and principles.

She never even suggested the weak and disabled and the ill "had to go". You have been fed "fake data".

I did look it up, I have her set of magazines on DVD, bought on Ebay, and a sub-directory on my computer just for her.

Robert Klahn
2 weeks 4 days ago

How do you find racial preoccupation in a letter written by the leader of an organization that took over ten years after their first birth control clinic establishment was establish to finally get around to setting one up to service a black community? How is it a preoccupation to see excessive childbirth in the black community when she had long described it that way in the white community? At no time does she show any prejudice against black people in that, she said the same about white.

To Margaret Sanger birth control was an alternative to abortion, which, though numbers are hard to get, the estimates say was near our current rate to much higher.

" “The most successful educational approach to the Negro is through a religious appeal. We don’t want the word to get out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.” In her autobiography she proudly recounts her address to the women of the Ku Klux Klan in Silver Lake, N.J., in 1926."

Why would you want a false narrative about your efforts to become established among those you are working with?

Mixing in the KKK women's group talk just adds prejudice without shedding light. She said she would speak to any women's group about birth control, she also spoke of how strange it was talking to those women. She went there to talk to them about birth control, how is that objectionable in this context?

As to what others said, how is that relevant to Sanger? Judge her on her beliefs and teachings, not Alexis Carrel, Theodore Roosevelt or Woodrow Wilson. All of that served only to bring in the broad paintbrush.

Stuart Meisenzahl
2 weeks 4 days ago

Robert
You are quick to forgive Ms Sanger for being a product of her times and prevalent thinking when she subscribed to eugenics . You think her name should be honored for "the good she did". I agree !
But I do wish you had exhibited the same courtesy and thoughtful analysis to the continuance of the Memorials in memory of Robert E Lee. Lee was also a product of his time, and unlike Ms Sanger, he regretted his advocacy of oppression , all as noted by Congress and President Ford when his citizenship was posthumously restored in August 1975. See Prologue Magazine, volume 37, 2005. President Ford noted: "General Lee's character has been an example to succeeding generations, making the restoration of his citizenship an event in which every American can take pride

I believe your posts in America Magazine make it clear you want Lee expunged from history, I agree that Lee initially was guilty of discrimination against a race, but Ms Sanger advocated the eradication of the unfit who polluted the gene pool. I think in fairness if you can forgive Ms Sanger the same rules should apply to forgiving Lee.

Robert Klahn
1 week 3 days ago

You reach a false conclusion. I do not want Lee expunged from history, or any one involved in slavery. I do want them recognized for the evil they did.

The memorials to RE Lee are celebrating his battle to maintain slavery. There is nothing else of significance I see in the civil war memorials to him.

I am not aware he ever regretted his fight to maintain oppression, or that he ever recognized that freeing the slaves was the right thing to do. The only thing I do know of that he did for good was to push for reconciliation. Where was his admission of the equality of races, and the evil of slavery?

Ms Sanger did not, in anything I ever saw, favor killing the unfit. If you could come up with a genetic engineering modification that would fix genetic defects would you produce it? If so you would be doing what you accuse Sanger of wanting to do.

Sanger wanted to alleviate human suffering. On some of it she was badly wrong, but her only surviving legacy is birth control. Whereas Lee only wanted the causes of the civil war forgotten with no sign I know of that he favored anything that would advance the former slaves.

Stuart Meisenzahl
1 week 2 days ago

Robert
I refer you to Robert E Lee's Letter to President Pierce, dated December 27 , 1856.
That Lee letter reads in part:
"There are few , in this enlightened age, who will not acknowledge , that slavery as an institution is a moral and political evil. I think it is a greater evil to the white race than the colored race. While my feelings are stronglyenlisted on behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more deeply engaged by the former. The blacks here are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally,physically, and socially.......Their emancipation will sooner result from the mild and melting influences of Christianity than from the storm and tempest of fiery controversy. This influence, though slow, is sure."

Here you are presented with a dichotomy of thought quite like your defense of Sanger. Lee like Sanger was a product of his times in believing that there were offsetting moral and social benefits for certain actions which on their face are repugnant and offensive. Sanger believed certain classes of people were inferior and should not be allowed to procreate all in pursuit of her concern the greater good of society. In furtherance of this point both sterilization and eugenics were considered by her to be appropriate tools. Lee believed slavery to be a moral evil but it was offset by the moral good it did for those enslaved. Both Lee and Sanger held views that were widely shared in their time. You forgive Sanger her errors for being a product of her times yet you deny Lee the same consideration

Dominic Deus
2 weeks 4 days ago

Dominic Deus here--I've been busy but I cannot pass up a chance like this to ask few questions of my own! For example, why is John J. Conley, S.J., the Francis J. Knott Chair of Philosophy and Theology at Loyola University, Maryland still prattling on about Margaret Sanger? Slow Philosophy day at Loyola or maybe a junior Jesuit faculty member came up with a breath of fresh Theological air and has been getting a lot of attention? The ways of academia are mysterious indeed but I suppose if one is a contributor to America, one must contribute from time to time or become irrelevant. Brother John is by no means irrelevant but should we not expect a visionary thought or two from him rather than rehash? Or rehash of rehash?

Anyway, any scholar who has studied Margaret Sanger briefly (c'est moi) can tell you she was irascible, purpose driven, self-confident and the intellectual and moral equal of any man of her time. That, of course, means she was capable of being an arrogant horses ass and stepping into line to support what was very close to mainstream thought--eugenics. I suppose, in a way, she wanted to show her chops and agree with the menfolk on a then cutting edge social argument and thereby gain some acceptance. It didn't work and they hated her anyway, not just because she was an uppity woman but because she wanted to create more uppity women who would not get pregnant on demand.

Our very own Catholic Church still takes this position on uppity women, especially the ones who insist they will control their own fertility, The passage of time has killed off the amazingly stupid ideas Margaret Sanger espoused as well as all the men who shared her view of them but never actually contributed anything else to the social betterment of humanity. They are certainly dead and justifiably forgotten but Margaret is remembered for the Birth Control League (I'm not sure that was the exact name) which evolved into Planned Parenthood, an excellent organization doing a great deal of good work that the Catholic Church should be/would be doing were it not the fustiness of a 19th century man, Paul VI who knew little to nothing about sex, marriage or procreation and who would not listen to his bishops who did.

Thanks to Sanger, Catholic women are free to use contraception exactly as their non-Catholic counterparts do, much to the betterment of their families and society as a whole.

So here's something for Loyola University and Brother John to consider:

Apparently, the Catholic Church does not consider it disqualifying for a woman be stubborn, irascible, opinionated, dismissive of ideas different from her own, and the intellectual equal of any of the men of her time. Her failings are forgivable sins and her virtues are to be celebrated.

So that leads to my last question: If Mother Theresa can be a saint, why can't Margaret Sanger?

Stuart Meisenzahl
2 weeks 4 days ago

Dominic Deus
You really should stop hiding behind that unbelievably self congratulatory avatar and join the real people with real names.
Take some personal responsibility for your positions.
One thing I am sure of is that a post of yours will always do: take a bow for your "ongoing studies" and a erudition !

Dominic Deus
2 weeks ago

Dominic Deus's Author here.

Stuart--I have been busy because I have a life beyond the pages of America. You know: friends, family, the dog, my wife, binge watching The Walking Dead, blah blah blah. I have an avatar for any number of reasons. the simplest of which is that if you get into the deep end of the online comment pool, there are some really ugly people--white supremacists, neo-Nazis, xenophobes, misogynists, anti-semites and a the more general class of nut cases who would really like to stalk me or you and tell me they have a concealed carry permit.

Here is another reason: If you talk to friends who write fiction, they will tell you that in time, characters will take on their own personality, have their own opinions, even challenge the thinking of their authors, talking back, expressing their own ideas and being many things their author is not. This is not a literary device but a cognitive neuroscience phenomena that allows authors to explore ideas and even beliefs not their own. Woody Allen for example.

Many writers are fine with limiting themselves to one thing; others realize the deeper power of a created character or characters. If a commentator is happy being an opinionist, that's what they should do. You can make a living at it. Look at Fox News.

Ongoing study creates humility, not arrogance. Keeping up with younger scholars is not only challenging but inspiring. They are sooo much more ready to face the world than we were. One of the scholars in a university undergraduate/ graduate program I follow on religion and education is in fifth grade. Fifth grade.

Of course I study. I study you and others. What do you believe and why do you believe it? That's important to me and by the way thank you for your critique of my writing. I need that. you're not wrong on everything ;-)

I have never suffered from an excess of humility but Dominic Deus has allowed me to experience humility more than I would have without him. On one occasion, he complimented me on having "honed my tongue to a sharp edge" and then offered that "the Church is full of arrogant horses asses and doesn't need another one." Reconcile that, will you, brother Stuart?

Thank you again for reminding me that I am inclined to excess. My response is that I try to limit it to things that are good.

Dominic's Author (Whose name IS Dominic)

Stuart Meisenzahl
2 weeks ago

Dominic
Apparently having "multiple personalities " can be a a blessing or a psychiatric problem. But if you have them talk to each other they are never lonely. And if they can amuse each other, .... better yet.

Dominic Deus
2 weeks ago

Stuart--Well said! If another character emerges, I will examine its persona and either embrace it as a necessary Voldemort or seek out a psychiatrist--maybe an exorcist. Thank you again for your comments--you forced me to double check myself, my attitude, my purpose, my grammar and syntax.

Tim O'Leary
2 weeks 4 days ago

"Planned Parenthood, an excellent organization doing a great deal of good work that the Catholic Church should be/would be doing" - Come on Dominic!!! Sanger's PP kills over 300,000 babies every year, ten times all the murders in the Dachau Nazi concentration camp - every single year! That is her legacy.

Perhaps, you should adopt a new avatar - Dominic Dachau.

Dominic Deus
2 weeks ago

Dominic Deus here--Brother Tim, no not abortion, contraception. By providing access to contraception, Planned Parenthood reduces untimely pregnancies, allows for reliable spacing of births, improves family economic security, calls attention to the tremendous power of women's sexuality, enhances marital intimacy, improves maternal and child health, allows women to take their proper role in work, politics, the arts and assert their equality as partners in marriage as well as the rest of God's Creation. It also prevents abortion.

That's why the Church can and should not only accept but sanctify contraception. That's why Paul VI was so, so wrong. Contraception isn't a sin and should be a sacrament. If men could get pregnant, it would be.

Robert Bruening
2 weeks 4 days ago

I'm not big on fighting a proxy fight over the naming of a place in Manhattan. While Sanger did tremendous evil, most of our society is still unable to recognize it as such. As satisfying as it may be to have a victory to stick in your opponent's face, it doesn't do much to actually reverse Sanger's black legacy.

Robert Klahn
2 weeks 4 days ago

What evil did she do? Certainly nothing in the article.

Tim O'Leary
2 weeks 3 days ago

Robert - Sanger neglected her 3 children, had 2 husbands and was continuously unfaithful to both. She divorced her first (in 1921) to marry a multimillionaire (in 1922) and divorced him in 1943.

Her political sins include her “Negro Project”, her eugenics ideas, her support of compulsory sterilization for the “unfit”, her calls for forced isolation to farms of people she called “feebleminded” and “illiterates, paupers, unemployables…" and her 1926 speech to the KKK. This is now all admitted and disowned by PP on their website. She was a racist. Here is an undeniable quote from her on a NYU website: “The lower down in the scale of human development we go the less sexual control we find. It is said that the aboriginal Australian, the lowest known species of the human family, just a step higher than the chimpanzee in brain development, has so little sexual control that police authority alone prevents him from obtaining sexual satisfaction on the streets.” - Sanger's "What Every Girl Should Know: Sexual Impulses--Part II,".
https://www.nyu.edu/projects/sanger/webedition/app/documents/show.php?s

But, her greatest criminal legacy is her founding of Planned Parenthood, who puts over 300,000 to death every year, or over 15 million so far. PP’s international organization has killed tens of millions more. Maybe, you support contraception and oppose abortion. But, no matter what Sanger's position on abortion was (in her writings it is mixed - see also NYU site), her legacy is the greatest abortion machine in history.

Robert Klahn
1 week 3 days ago

You just duplicated a post near the top, you had posted. I responded to that above.

However, note you said she did great evil. The only thing she actually did was promote family planning, and that is her only legacy.

What she believed as did a great many of her time, other than that was never accomplished by her, and pretty much none of it survives today.

Crystal Watson
2 weeks 4 days ago

We forget sometimes that it was a Catholic doctor, John Rock, who was instrumental in creating the birth control pill, and that those attending Vatican II were in favor of contraception, as well as many theologians and Bishops Conferences around the world.

Eugene Fisher
2 weeks 4 days ago

I agree very strongly with this article. I would add as a scholar of Catholic-Jewish relations that Sanger's forced sterilization of the ill, those in need, and those of the wrong "race," were methods picked up by Nazi Germany and used on the Jews. Sanger in a very real sense played a role in paving the way for the Holocaust/Shoah and should not in any way be honored by Americans.
Dr. Eugene Fisher, Distinguished Professor of Theology, Saint Leo University

Robert Klahn
2 weeks 4 days ago

Other than there is no truth in what you said... guess there was nothing of real value after all.

Sanger did not invent forced sterilization, nor did she cause any to be performed. She never suggested there was a "wrong race". Nor were 'those in need' her target for any thing other than help. As to the "ill", the only ones she wanted to do anything to limit were those carrying transmissible and serious and uncurable disease.

Many people have created things that were misused by tyrants over the centuries, do we condemn them for their work, regardless of any good done? There would have been no London Blitz if the airplane had not been invented. No, Sanger had nothing to do with the Holocaust except as the designers of trucks and trains and piping did.

HOWARD STAFFORD
2 weeks 4 days ago

I admire Margaret Sanger for being ahead of her time. With each passing year the world's population is becoming untenable especially in the third world. Birth control has been a God send for populations that can't even feed themselves. Also with the wonderful advancements in medical science doctors can often predict terrible diseases and conditions that cause shortened and painful lives. I embrace modern technology and advances of all kinds that bring a better life to millions around the world.
Bottom line to me is that we are not all created equal for whatever God's reasons are. It is simply ignorant to say "All men are created equal" because it is patently false. No one and nothing is perfect in the real world but I believe Margaret Sanger, for her time, was a brave, intelligent women who encouraged modern thinking. I fully support her being honored every way possible and certainly not because she is liked by the moron leftist snowflakes and democraps who still believe in killary and slick willie who have a 30+ year proven record of lying, corruption, criminal activities, scandal and more! I am a common sense conservative who believes in America's customs, culture, heritage and leadership. God bless Margaret Sanger and God bless America.

Stanley Kopacz
2 weeks 4 days ago

Since Americans have such a high carbon footprint and negative ecological impact due to overconsumption, preventing the birth of an American has an order of magnitude greater benefit to the environment than a third world child not being born.

Robert Klahn
1 week 3 days ago

Why did you have to bring in that stupid and false political talking points, none of which you can even begin to support?

I doubt you can show even one provable lie or corruption of criminal activity involving either Clinton. I can make a very good case against either one of them, but not one bit of what you claim would be involved. Their competence is the only point of significance. Their qualification for office.

Common sense conservative used to mean something, now it's an oxymoron.

Kenneth Feldt
2 weeks 4 days ago

Respectfully, I don't think you're going to win on this one.

Sanger is celebrated not because of her stands on eugenics, but because she took steps to address what she perceived as an injustice in the form community indifference to the health problems of poor women.

Her later support of eugenics was wrongheaded, discriminatory, and cruel. But thankfully, few people honor her for that failing.

We often lionize people for accomplishments that go against the grain of conventional thought and bring to us new knowledge or understanding that later generations can use for good or ill. Such honors rarely are broad enough to salute a person's entire life.

That's why we celebrate Charles Lindbergh as an aviator, but dismiss his antisemitism. And of course, we are still struggling with the Christopher Columbus thing (courageous navigator vs. pioneer of exploitation).

My patron saint, Charles Borromeo, was the hero of the (real) Reformation of the Church, bringing to it a new discipline and consistency of teaching. He also was involved in the burning of witches. I choose to be thankful for
his contributions that made the Church better, not more cruel.

I respect the Church's teachings on the sanctity of sexual experience; proclaiming that truth will keep us more focused on the mission of respecting the gift of procreation, and keep us from becoming distracted in a fruitless contest of deciding who we should celebrate, and who we should demonize.

HOWARD STAFFORD
2 weeks 3 days ago

Kenneth Feldt, Margaret Sanger was brilliant supporting eugenics based on what I believe "eugenics" means.
noun, (used with a singular verb)
1. the study of or belief in the possibility of improving the qualities of the human species or a human population, especially by such means as discouraging reproduction by persons having genetic defects or presumed to have inheritable undesirable traits (negative eugenics) or encouraging reproduction by persons presumed to have inheritable desirable traits (positive eugenics)
Personally, I have been around thoroughbred horse racing and breeding since I was born (68 years ago) which has advanced not only thoroughbreds but all breeds of horses and other animals too. Humankind would be extremely foolish not to help the birth and future of human children at least as well as thoroughbred race horses?
As science constantly marches forward we have to accept all the excellent progress for humanity in every form. PERIOD!

Stanley Kopacz
2 weeks 3 days ago

If released into the wild, horse adaptation maximizes for success in the complex real world environment and running speed over short periods of time may not be important. The ultimate genetic algorithm has come up with all kinds of surprises and there are parameters of life of which we yet have no comprehension. Thoroughbreds are not better than natural horses. They're just better meeting some narrow need of some humans. Humans have a narrow vision of humans and breeding them would probably lead to some weird silliness. SEMICOLON!

J Cosgrove
2 weeks 3 days ago

ultimate genetic algorithm

I'm interested. I have been reading about genetics for over 20 years and missed this.

Otherwise I agree with most of your comment.

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