India and the Birth Control International Information Centre

The Margaret Sanger Papers
Last updated
April 12, 2011, 9:24 a.m. (view history)

We need to identify who in India worked with the BCIIC and what they were doing, prior to MS/How-Martyn trip to India.

Interesting that N.S. Phadke, who MS seemed to prefer in the 1920s over Karve, stops writing around 1927. She starts giving out Pillay's names ca. 1929 when letters recommence.

ABCL refers writer to Edith How-Martyn at the BCIIC for information on work doing in India. Also referred this letter to Dr. Mukerjee who published "Birth Control in India" in the July 1933 BCR.

How-Martyn outlined the plans of the BCIIC, after the London conference in November, they hope to send an organiser over to India in December to try to organize a 1934 conference. They also want to "form a ban of MARGARET SANGER NURSES and the first nurse would be sent out with the organizer in December, if this is a good move. How-Martyn outlined the contacts that she already had in India (not given in this report) and that she hoped that the AIWC would take an interest in BC.

Datta remarked that the conditions in India were "just right for this campaign and she felt that there would never be such an opportune moment." The AIWC passed a BC resolution last year and she and Rajkumari Amrit Kaur planned to attend the meeting to put this recommendation into practice.  Suggests that the organizer attend the 1934 conference and interest them in adding an additional day to the 1935 conference for discussion of BC. Says that delegates would become interested this year and be able to do something the following year.  Datta advises that all work be done under the auspices of AIWC, that with their support and that of the others BCIIC has won, they will be in good shape. Datta promised to get an invitation to the AIWC and was optimistic that the organiser would be able to speak.  The Maternity and Child Welfare Department was now under the Indian government and doing good work; she will try to persuade Secretary Ruth Young to use some of their funding to solve the problem of paying for supplies for poor people. Datta stresses that swaying the AIWC should be the priority as there are up to 30 constituencies reflected there. Stressed education the key component, even if there were clinics around, without educating the people, it would be difficult to get the people to use the clinics.

Margaret Sanger Nurses Datta strongly supported the idea of sending a nurse out in the winter, in advance of the AIWC meeting.  Thought that a nurse could get into the districts that needed birth control, esp. the rural areas where doctors and clinics are an "impossibility." 

They thought it essential that they have a cheap and effective contraceptive to be supplied to women free of charge by the government.

Datta's advice was that the organizer come in time to attend the AIWC, visit Rani Rajwade before hand; spend Christmas in Lahore, travel with Datta and Amrit Kaur to the meeting, visit Madras, Mysore, Delhi. Again that the time is right.

He is in correspondence with Edith How-Martyn, who sent him Matsner's Technique of Contraception. Asks for 2-3 dozen more for her to distribute to medical men in India who want to learn how to prescribe contraceptives.  Pillay has instructed some 3 dozen doctors in various towns in India and at his clinic. He used Cooper's book before and thinks the new one is more advanced.

List of statements made by the clinic director:

1) He does not prescribe contraceptives unless the woman is brought to the Clinic. Only exceptional exceptions, because the best method for each case can only be selected after an examination. There is a nurse there for women who do not want a man examining them.
2) He keeps no BC literature. Methods are neither immoral or unnatural, harmless, reliable and easy to use.
3) He does not stock contraceptives
4) He does not take abortion cases, nor give advice on the subject. That is illegal.
5)He is ready to help people "genuinely interested" in BC, sterility, sex disorders, etc. "he does not undertake to satisfy idle curiosity or enter into correspondence."
6) His clinics is a full-fledged "Eugenic Hosptial" now, with "an operation theatre, a private ward, etc."

This is the first letter in LCM that suggests the BCIIC, all the rest have been handled through ABCL--Most on the LCM are written to the ABCL, rather than to the BCIIC.

He wrote asking for information, she puts him in touch with Pillay and promises to keep him informed of doings with "several other Indian men and women whom I have met in London, and in my travels, who seem to be highly interested, and I shall be glad to keep you informed of such persons from time to time." Suggests writing How-Martyn, "mention my name...your name will then be kept in the international information files." How-Martyn is secretary of the BCIIC "and this keeps in touch with the work that is going on all over the world.If you mention my name you will not have to pay for belonging to such as centre." Asks about his credentials, so that she might send appropriate information.