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A Birth Strike To Avert World Famine
Digital History ID 1085

Author:   Margaret Sanger
Date:1920

A Birth Strike To Avert World Famine Annotation: At various times, Margaret Sanger attempted, to link birth control with a variety of movements - socialism, trade unionism, free-love, and eugenics, the use of selective breeding to improve humanity. In this article in The Birth Control review, Sanger argues that famine is a crisis that can be solved only by birth control. She states, "In this hour of crisis and peril women alone can save the world. They can save it by refusing for five years to bring a child into being. And there is no other way."


Document: Every reader of The Birth Control Review should study carefully the interview with Mr. R. C. Martens, one of the world's foremost authorities on food supplies, which is published in this number. Then every reader should call that interview to the attention of one or more friends.

As long ago as last July, the editors of this publication drew public attention to the situation into which the world has gotten itself through industrial overpopulation. The text used at that time was an address made by Frank A. Vanderlip the banker. Mr. Vanderlip pointed out the dangers entailed by the financial condition of Europe. Now comes Mr. Martens, a man who conducts a world-wide business, one who has had, perhaps, through his connections, particularly those with Great Britain's food controller, the late Lord Rhondda, a better opportunity of knowing the condition of the world's food supply than any other man in America. And he too sounds a note of warning. His warning is to be more gravely considered than that of Mr. Vanderlip, for his knowledge is more comprehensive and exact than Mr. Vanderlip, could have been. Moreover, he deals with the most vital subject of all -- the food supply. Mr. Martens' long-considered and carefully weighed opinion is that many millions of Europe's population will starve before next year's crops arrive.

Let us consider for a moment the world's situation as reflected by facts known to all thoughtful persons. First, the world's greatest war and a score of lesser ones, still being waged, resulted from the pressure of populations, as reflected in commercial rivalries. As one of the fruits of the war, and therefore of this same industrial overpopulation, we have, according to all reports, millions of people (mostly children) suffering from lack of food or actually starving in Europe today. As the result of families too large to subsist upon the earnings of a single wage-earner, we have more than 2,000,000 of child workers in the United States and other millions in Europe and Asia -- all of them doomed, in a greater or less degree, to broken lives.

On top of all this misery comes the breaking down of Europe's productive system, of her means of transportation, and a resulting shortage of fifty per cent of her cereals, potatoes and the like, to say nothing of the shortage of other foods, which will be discussed by Mr. Martens in forthcoming issues of The Birth Control Review. Europe, according to this authority, has on the average enough food to last until February, after which the aged and the young will begin to die of starvation by the millions!

The world faces its greatest crisis. It approaches the greatest disaster of all time. And even before the arrival of that disaster, children are being worked to death in American factories; they are being starved in countless numbers in Europe.

Hunger has not yet gripped the United States as a nation, but we are no longer a nation to ourselves. We must feed Europe, and Europe's hunger is bound to reflect itself upon us. Already we have felt the first nip of deprivation in high prices and the scarcity of a number of food products. And as Europe's condition gets worse, so too will ours grow worse.

What shall we women, as citizens of the nations, and of the world, do in this crisis? Shall we continue to bring children into a world that does not, seemingly cannot provide food for them? Shall we continue to build up populations to die in war, of plague, and hunger?

We do not invite guests to our homes if the pantry and the purse are empty. Shall we bring children into a world that is bankrupt and starving? All of our mother instincts, all of our humane feelings, all of our common sense must cry out against such a course. There are too many children in the world now. They are being broken in factories and they are dying of hunger. More of them are to die -- millions more, say those who are best informed as to the real situation.

The governments have been short-sighted in dealing with this problem, and their measures have been pitifully inadequate. They have failed. It is time for the women of the world -- for each individual woman to accept her share of this problem. In this hour of crisis and peril, women alone can save the world. They can save it by refusing for five years to bring a child into being. And there is no other way.

For the next five years no woman who understands the present situation should bear a child. Not only should she refuse to bring another human being into a starving and disordered world, but she should see to it that she enlightens as many of her sisters as possible as to their duties under the existing circumstances. Each woman who is awake to the true situation should make it her first task to encourage and to assist her sisters in avoiding child-bearing until the world has had an opportunity to readjust itself.

Source: Margaret Sanger, "A Birth Strike To Avert World Famine," Birth Control Review, 4 (January 1920), 1.

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