Sanger’s views of India, 1930s

The Margaret Sanger Papers
Last updated
March 25, 2011, 8:54 a.m. (view history)

Sanger's views on India and birth control in India/Indian views on her

Notes that Marriage Hygiene's May issue described the sympathetic reception Sanger received in Bombay.

"I desire to draw your attention to the reverse of the attitude of Bombay, i.e., that of Calcutta. Hardly anything could have been more deplorable than the reception of Mrs. Sanger by the 'second city in the Empire.' I was not myself a witness of this despicable affair but my wife was. I regret that I have been unable to persuade her to commit her comments of the proceedings to paper."

Quotes a letter he wrote to the Patna Journal of Medicine shortly after his wife told him of the event:

"Quite recently (December 1935), one of the most courageous of living women who has twice suffered imprisonment for her honesty, Mrs. Sanger, was booed & heckled when delivering an address in Calcutta on contraception. Among those who behaved so discourteously were several Indian medical practitioners. When such behavior is to be expected from doctors when listening to a gifted lecturer expatiating on a topic about which no doctor can know too much, it is high time that those responsible for the education of the rising generation of physicians & surgeons in this country should try to become more fully aware of the situation of medicine in the world today. It is time to clear the minds of cant so as to enable them to behave with becoming gravity if not with sympathy whenever they happen to be confronted with a problem of gravest importance to human welfare." Says that once again the Bengalis (regardless of caste color or creed) have failed to "afford other than an unworthy example to the rest of India."

Signs as "Sd. Owen Benkely-Hill, a retired Lt. Col. in the Indian Medical Service.

Written en-route to Rangoon on a boat.

"A wonderful tour, and I must say successful beyond my expectation. Only the R.C.'s & those foreign people they influence are trouble makers, but there are so few of them their howls are not heard far."

On leaving India for China, Japan and the US, wants to thank all that made her trip "not only pleasant, but to a large extent amazingly successful.

"I have found everywhere a fine reception on the part of the public for the idea of Birth Control. The middle class population especially are eager for this knowledge. To say that Birth Control has come to stay is no indication of prophecy for I found it already here, in one form or another among various classes.

I have been in India two months within which time I have travelled over 100,000 miles to the North, South, East and West. I have had over 61 meetings and many private small ones. I have been interviewed by hundreds of women for personal consultation and I am convinced that the need of Birth Control instruction here is even greater  than in the Western Countries.

My only plan on leaving is that those in authority, those in charge of Public Health, those advancing the cause of Social and Mental Health take up a firm stand and include contraceptive knowledge and its practice, where it is desired and needed. It is a responsibility that can no longer be evaded or shirked and one which  the masses have a right to expect from those directing Hospitals and other Health activities. May I say to all, Hail and Farewell-- Farewell and Hail-- MS"

She corresponds about Sundaram's plans to continue BC work after she leaves India, mentions some of her interviews.

"As to the interview with Ramana Maharishi at Tiruvandamalai, this was very inadequate because we had to depend upon a very prejudiced person to translate our questions and answers. Everyone who listened agreed that the translator did not convey the correct answers  to me, nor the questions properly to the Maharishi, but I am convinced it is utterly worthless to bother one's head about the views or opinions of ultra religious men. They live in another  World or rather in another sense.  

"The B. C. movement is designed to help the people who look to the futuer and not those who have already lived their lives and are meditating on the past.

I should counsel you when carrying out your work here to refuse to debate or argue on the religious aspect of the question. Keep your feet on the ground and your eyes in the stars."