Sunday, October 3, 2010

Margaret Sanger's "The Morality of Birth Control" Analysis

The Women's Rights Movement started gaining speed in the 1900's. A major part of the movement was the legalization of birth control. The idea of birth control being taught in schools is a controversial subject to this day, so one can easily imagine how people reacted to the subject seventy years ago. A key member in the movement, Margaret Louise Higgins Sanger, fought for the legalization of birth control for the majority of her life. In 1873, Sanger worked as a visiting nurse in New York City, where she saw women dying of venereal diseases and careless abortions. This is when Sanger’s anger started to build towards the doctors and officials who denied access to birth control information. By 1915, Sanger and the American Birth Control League (ABCL) founded the Birth Control Review, (Figure 1) a journal that was meant to inform married women about birth control. The ABCL was formed in 1921, the same year as Sanger gave her famous birth control speech, and was responsible for giving out pamphlets, letters, books, magazines and journals about birth control. Margaret Sanger’s speech “The Morality of Birth Control” was delivered on November 18, 1921.

Figure 1. Birth Control Review Magazine Cover. ABC-Clio American History. Image.

In Sanger’s well-known speech, she seems to perfect the art of bringing out emotions in her audience. She uses several techniques, and even though there is no record of the audience’s reactions, it is assumed that they were successful. The speech starts with, “The meeting tonight is a postponement of one which was to have taken place at the Town Hall last Sunday evening.” With such an opening sentence meant to bring guilt towards the audience, the speech was already making an impact.

When Sanger says, “Society is divided into three groups,” she is starting the most arousing part of her speech. As shown in this piece of the speech, guilt is not the only method of bringing out emotion that Sanger used. Another method that was especially interesting was praise. Praise and recognition is not usually a way to extract emotion from a large crowd, but Sanger used it to its full potential. She recognizes the women that have gotten birth control, and used it correctly, as, “the most respectable and moral members of the community.”

As one can see, the praise and recognition is also mixed in with more of Sanger’s methods. She uses her anger to verbally attack the people in her audience that do not believe birth control is right. When Sanger says that the third group in society is, “those irresponsible and reckless ones,” she is trying to make the crowd angry. Sanger also riles up her audience by criticizing their religion, saying, “If we cannot trust women with the knowledge of her own body, then I claim that two thousand years of Christian teaching has proved to be a failure.”

Margaret Sanger shows how much of an influence she had in the birth control movement in this speech. Her words were incredibly inspiring to many people, and her achievements during her lifetime were amazing. Eventually, Sanger and the ABCL legalized the usage of birth control to married women, along with many other organizations of the same nature.

Works Cited

Sanger, Margaret. "The Morality of Birth Control." Park Theatre, New York. 18
Nov. 1921. American Rhetoric. Web.
3 Oct. 2010.

Works Consulted

"American Birth Control League." American History. ABC-CLIO, 2010. Web. 3 Oct. 2010.

"Birth Control Review." Image. Special Collections, New York Public Library. American History. ABC-CLIO, 2010. Web. 3 Oct. 2010.

"Margaret Sanger." American History. ABC-CLIO, 2010. Web. 3 Oct. 2010.

"Timeline: The Pill." American Experience. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Oct. 2010.