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Sanger Didn't Say That
Historians and others who should know better keep misquoting my grandmother. Here is the latest example from Harvard. My response comes first and the offending article follows.

Harvard Magazine July-August 2007

http://www.harvardmagazine.com/2007/07/p2-cambridge-02138.html


SANGER DIDN’T SAY THAT

In your excerpt, “An Earlier Bid for Mastery,” of a book by Michael J. Sandel (May-June, page 25), Sandel quotes my grandmother, Margaret Sanger, as saying, “More children from the fit, less from the unfit—that is the chief issue of birth control.” My grandmother never said this. The quote comes from a 1919 editorial in American Medicine that followed an article by my grandmother. This quotation has been falsely attributed to Margaret Sanger for decades. One would have thought that Bass professor of government Sandel and your editors would have checked the original source material. Is that what they supposedly teach at Harvard?

Alexander Sanger
Chair, International Planned Parenthood Council
New York City


The article my letter refers to is as follows:

http://www.harvardmagazine.com/2007/05/an-earlier-bid-for-maste.html

Harvard Magazine May-June 2007

An Earlier Bid for Mastery


New genetic knowledge may let us manipulate our nature: beef up our muscles, brush up our memory, make designer children. What’s wrong with that? Bass professor of government Michael J. Sandel proposes an answer in The Case against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering (Harvard University Press, $18.95). Along the way, he recalls the eugenics movement (and contributions to it by Harvardians Charles Davenport, A.B. 1889, Ph.D. ‘92; Theodore Roosevelt, A.B. 1880, LL.D. ‘02; and Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., A.B. 1861, LL.B. ‘66, LL.D. ‘95). In 1910, biologist and eugenic crusader Davenport opened the Eugenic Records Office in Cold Spring Harbor, New York.


In Davenport’s words, the project was to catalog “the great strains of human protoplasm that are coursing through the country.” Davenport hoped such data would provide the basis for eugenic efforts to prevent reproduction of the genetically unfit.



Reprinted from War Against the Weak by Edwin Black

Carrie Buck, ordered to undergo sterilization

…Theodore Roosevelt wrote Davenport: “Some day, we will realize that the prime duty, the inescapable duty, of the good citizen of the right type, is to leave his or her blood behind him in the world; and that we have no business to permit the perpetuation of citizens of the wrong type.” Margaret Sanger, pioneering feminist and advocate of birth control, also embraced eugenics: “More children from the fit, less from the unfit—that is the chief issue of birth control.”
…By the 1920s, eugenics courses were offered at 350 of the nation’s colleges and universities, alerting privileged young Americans to their reproductive duty.
But the eugenics movement also had a harsher face. Eugenics advocates lobbied for legislation to prevent those with undesirable genes from reproducing, and in 1907 Indiana adopted the first law providing for the forced sterilization of mental patients, prisoners, and paupers. Twenty-nine states ultimately adopted forced-sterilization laws, and more than 60,000 genetically “deficient” Americans were sterilized. In 1927 the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of sterilization laws in the notorious case of Buck v. Bell. The case involved Carrie Buck, a seventeen- year-old unwed mother who had been committed to a Virginia home for the feeble-minded and ordered to undergo sterilization. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote the opinion for the eight-to-one majority upholding the sterilization law: “We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the State for these lesser sacrifices…. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes. It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind.” Referring to the fact that Carrie Buck’s mother and, allegedly, her daughter were also found to be mentally deficient, Holmes concluded: “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”
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Alexander Sanger
Alexander C. Sanger, the grandson of Margaret Sanger, who founded the birth control movement over eighty years ago, is currently Chair of the International Planned Parenthood Council.
Mr. Sanger previously served as the President of Planned Parenthood of New York City (PPNYC) and its international arm, The Margaret Sanger Center International (MSCI) for ten years from 1991 - 2000.

Mr. Sanger speaks around the country and the world and has served as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Population Fund.

Beyond Choice
Beyond Choice
The new book by Alexander Sanger published by PublicAffairs


Purchase from Amazon.com

Click here for full book information

With reproductive freedom in jeopardy, Alexander Sanger, grandson of renowned family planning advocate Margaret Sanger and a longtime leader in the reproductive rights movement, has taken an urgent, fresh look at the pro-choice position—and even the pro-life position—and finds them necessary, but insufficient. In Beyond Choice he offers the first major re-thinking of these positions in thirty years.

“Well researched and readable, Beyond Choice should be required reading for both pro-choice and pro-life supporters.”
—Governor Christine Todd Whitman

»

» Much more on Beyond Choice, including an excerpt, discussion guides, reviews
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» When Sex Counts: Making Babies and Making Law, by Sherry Colb