Margaret Sanger (1879-1966) was one of the most influential American women of the 20th century. As a progressive and eugenicist, she believed that some humans were, by nature, inferior to others. Sanger was primarily driven to provide women complete control over their reproductive life and to make it impossible for the “unfit” to have children. Sanger wanted to create a master race. To achieve her ends, she sought to legalize and spread contraception and sterilization. Sanger was not a fan of abortion, but she wanted it legal and her work paved the way for the modern abortion industry. In 1921, she established The American Birth Control League, later to be named Planned Parenthood.
Eugenics, according to the online Merriam Webster Dictionary, is “the practice or advocacy of controlled selective breeding of human populations (as by sterilization) to improve the population's genetic composition.” Margaret Sanger believed in eugenics. Sanger wrote at the top of her birth control magazine publications, “More children from the fit and less from the unfit. That is the chief aim of birth control.” In a New York Times interview in 1922, she stated, “Superman is the aim of birth control.” In her book, The Pivot of Civilization, Sanger wrote, “Every feeble-minded girl or woman of the hereditary type, especially of the moron class should be segregated during the reproductive period.” Sanger supported infanticide of disabled babies and wanted the legalization of abortion to achieve her eugenic goals.
Was Sanger a racist and did she want the elimination of ethnic minorities in America because of their race? That is hard to answer. But there is no doubt she believed she was able to decide who should live and who should not. Writing in 1931 “My Way to Peace, Sanger states she wants the government to :
. . . keep the doors of Immigration closed to the entrance of certain aliens whose condition is known to be detrimental to the stamina of the race, such as feeble-minded, idiots, morons, insane, syphiletic, epileptic, criminal, professional prostitutes, and others in this class . . . apply 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.
For Sanger, birth control was the primary method to promote a superior race, although she also wrote in favor of legalizing abortion. During the first half of her lifetime, birth control was illegal in the United States of America. Sanger worked to change society about contraception. In 1921, she formed the American Birth Control League to promote contraception. In 1929, she formed lobby group to push legislators to make contraception legal. In a 1936 court case, Sanger challenged and won the right for physicians to obtain contraceptives. That next year, the American Medical Association adopted contraception as a normal medical service.
The majority of Americans in the early 1900s believed that God should be in charge of determining when life begins, and that people should not use artificial means to influence pregnancy. Every major Christian religion opposed artificial contraception until 1930, when the Anglican Church approved it for married couples. Shortly after, other Protestant Christian Churches approved it. The Roman Catholic Church still teaches that artificial contraception is inherently evil.
Margaret Sanger sought to control the population, especially in low income, immigrant, and African-American communities. She wrote, “A License for Mothers to Have Babies” with the subtitle, “A code to stop the overproduction of children.” In this publication, she asserted that parenthood was not a right but a privilege that only the state could give. She championed the 1939 initiative “The Negro Project,” which sought to get rid of too many births among African Americans. She declared, “The mass of Negroes, particularly in the South, still breed carelessly and disastrously, with the result that the increase among Negroes, even more than among whites, is from that portion of the population least intelligent and fit, and least able to rear children properly.”
Sanger visited the totalitarian countries of Nazi Germany and Communist Soviet Union in the 1930s. Her main reason was to investigate how these two totalitarian governments handled women’s rights, eugenics, and human reproductive matters. While not a NAZI, Sanger shared the stage with other NAZI eugenicists and did not denounce them. Sanger did not approve of Hitler’s barbarism, but she also did not change her views on forced sterilizations of the unfit or legalizing abortion. After visiting the Soviet Union in 1935, she wrote for the Birth Control Review, "Russia today is the country of the liberated woman. The attitude of Soviet Russia toward its women...would delight the heart of the staunchest feminist." She liked that the Soviets gave out free contraceptive devices to women, but she disliked the Soviet use of abortion as a means of mass population control. She didn’t object to legalizing abortion, but thought that Russians used abortion too frequently and women needed more access to contraceptives.
Margaret Sanger died in 1966. Her work changed American society and perhaps the world. For Progressive who think the government and certain “fit” women should decide who should live and who has the right to procreate, she is their hero. When Sanger was born, in 1879, birth control and abortion were illegal throughout the United States of America, and both were viewed as sinful by the great majority of Americans who were Christian. She worked to make every means of birth control and eugenics a reality in America. At her death, birth control was legal in most states, and, seven years after her death, abortion became legal, as well. The organization that she founded, Planned Parenthood, became the nation’s largest provider of abortion and today, promotes abortion and sterilization around the world. In 2020, Planned Parenthood accounted for 345,672 abortions and 2.6 million contraceptive services in the United States. Annually, there are over 1 million abortions in America, averaging 3,000 a day. Sanger’s views on population control, eugenics, and birth control and abortion have had a major influence in the country and in the world.
One of America’s greatest doctors and activists for the least protected in society was Mildred Fay Jefferson (1927-2010). Jefferson was the first black woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School, the first woman to graduate in surgery from Harvard, and the first woman to become a member of the Boston Surgical Society. She influenced a President of the United States of America to change his mind on abortion, and throughout her life, she was a voice for powerless in American society.
Mildred Jefferson was born in raised in segregated Texas and experienced first-hand racism and sexism. She grew up in a time where legally, black Americans experienced injustices because of their color. Her father was a Methodist minister and her mother a school teacher. Even though blacks had less opportunities than whites in the 1930s and 1940s, Jefferson never let her circumstances hold her back. As a young girl, she accompanied the town doctor on his house calls and told him that she would one day become a doctor. This was during a time that nearly all doctors were men and white. She succeeded in her dream.
Jefferson was an outstanding student and throughout her career she broke new ground for black Americans and for women. At the age of 15, she entered Texas College and earned her bachelor’s degree in three years. Normally it takes four years. She went on to earn a master’s degree in biology and then to Harvard and became a medical doctor in 1951. She was Harvard’s first black woman ever to graduate from medical school. She was the first female doctor at the Boston University Medical Center and the first woman to become a member of the Boston Surgical Society.
Jefferson worked all her life to defend the innocent and society’s most vulnerable. She strongly believed in the preservation of life, and fought tirelessly to protect the unborn. Around 1970, she was one of the founders of Massachusetts Citizens for Life. She later was one of the founders of the National Right to Life Committee. She was President of this committee from 1975-1978. “Millie” was a persuasive speaker, and after one time listening to her speech, the future President Ronald Reagan became pro-life. He wrote to her, "You have made it irrefutably clear that an abortion is the taking of a human life, I am grateful to you. " In a 1978 video, Jefferson explained:
“I became a physician in order to help save lives. I am at once a physician, a citizen, and a woman, and I am not willing to stand aside and allow the concept of expendable human lives to turn this great land of ours into just another exclusive reservation where only the perfect, the privileged, and the planned have the right to live.” And, in another interview that same year, ““I would guess that the abortionists have done more to get rid of generations and cripple others than all of the years of slavery and lynchings.”
On October 15, 2020, at the age of 84, Mildred Fay Jefferson passed away in her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She was a pioneer in medicine for American women and for black Americans and she tirelessly fought for the lives of those who could not speak for themselves.
One of America’s greatest authors of all time was Samuel Langhorne Clemens, known by his pen name Mark Twain (1835-1910). He was born in Missouri when it was considered the west, and continued moving west until he decided it was time to jump continents and live in Europe. Known for his wit, his analysis of human behavior, and at the end of his life his love for young people, Twain’s writings exemplify what it meant to be an American living in the 1800s. Change, moving west, honesty, independent-minded, funny, self-critical and struggle was the story of Mark Twain.
Twain is famous for his literature. His one-liners tell us a great deal about him.
“Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often”
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”
“I once fell into a California river and got all dusty.”
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”
“Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.”
“The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up.”
“Part of the secret of a success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.”
“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.”
Throughout Twain’s writing life, he made Americans, and others around the world, laugh at themselves, laugh at others, and question if what they were doing was the right thing. Called the greatest American author that ever lived, Mark Twain’s life was all about moving, change, honesty and integrity.
Samuel Clemens was born in Missouri and raised in Hannibal, right next to the Mississippi River. He became Mark Twain when his writing career took off. That river became the focus point of two of his most famous novels about a boy growing up in 1800s America, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. At various times throughout America’s history, these books have been forbidden by libraries because of their use of the “N Word,” even though Twain wrote in the vernacular and even though these books do not support racism. Three of Twain’s siblings died young, and his dad died when the boy was only 11. After his father’s death, Twain left school and became a printer’s apprentice, then a typesetter, then a printer, writing various humorous stories while working in New York City, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Cincinnati. He came back to the Mississippi River and trained for two years for his dream job, a steamboat pilot. He worked as a pilot until 1861, when the Civil War broke out. He joined the war as a Confederate soldier, and after two weeks, he quit and “lit out for the West.”
In the west, Clemens tried and failed as a miner and went back to writing. While writing articles for various newspapers, in Nevada and then in California, he also wrote short stories, such as “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” He was hired to travel to Europe and the Middle East and write about it. On this trip, fellow passenger Charles Langdon showed him a picture of his sister. Mark Twain described the moment as falling in love with the woman at first sight. This girl in the picture later became his wife! She wasn’t even on the boat.
Samuel Clemens married Olivia Langdon in 1870 in New York and had three daughters and one son (who passed away at 19 months). Samuel and his wife were married for 34 years until Olivia’s death in 1904. Through his wife’s family, Samuel Clemens met Harriet Beecher Stowe, Frederick Douglass, and other important figures of the day. In the 1870s and 1880s the Clemens family lived in Connecticut, where Mark Twain wrote many of his famous novels.
While Mark Twain was a famous author, he made poor investments that caused his bankruptcy. Trying his hand with inventions and technology, Twain lost nearly all his financial worth. For much of the 1890s, the Clemens family lived in various countries of Europe, seeking help from their poor health, searching for less expensive places to live, and in between, Twain would come back to the states to try to resolve his financial problems. Even though Twain had declared bankruptcy and did not need to pay back his debtors, he went on a year-long arduous world lecture tour to make enough money to pay back all those who had ever loaned him money. Mark Twain was a sought-after speaker, performing humorous solo talks, similar to modern stand-up-comedy.
Mark Twain had believed America should spread the American way of life around the world. However, after supporting the Spanish-American War of 1898, he had a change of heart and became an anti-Imperialist. He saw how the USA fought the Philippines instead of allowing this people their independence immediately. Twain said, “I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.”
In the later years of Twain’s life, he lived in Manhattan. After his daughter died in 1896, his wife in 1904, and then another daughter in 1909, he understandably was depressed, at times. He still wrote, however, and, he even formed a club for girls who were interested in writing. Called the “Angel Fish and Aquarium Club” for a dozen girls between the ages of 10 and 16, Twain exchanged letters, took them to concerts and the theatre and played games with the kids. In 1908, Twain wrote that the club was his “life’s chief delight.”
Mark Twain predicted that he would die when Halley’s Comet came closest to Earth in 1910. He believed this because he was born two weeks after the Comet was closest to Earth in 1835. Twain said, “I came with Hally’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet. The Almight has said, no doubt: Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.”
Mark Twain died on April 21, 1910, one day after Halley’s Comet was closest to Earth. He lived a life of integrity, humor, and devotion, as well as being one of America’s greatest authors of all time. His writings continue to cause laughter and controversy today. He could have chosen to not pay back his debts, but he left his family for one year to pay his creditors. Towards the end of his life, when those closest to him had died, he supported and encouraged young girls in their writing and enjoyment of life. Ernest Hemingway wrote of Mark Twain, “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn.”
John De Gree
John De Gree writes the current events with a look at the history of each topic. Articles are written for the young person, aged 10-18, and Mr. De Gree carefully writes so that all readers can understand the event. The perspective the current events are written in is Judeo-Christian.
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