Dhanvanthi Rama Rau and Margaret Sanger relations

The Margaret Sanger Papers
Last updated
April 15, 2013, 11:01 a.m. (view history)

Sometimes testy and down right acrimonious, but they rarely put any of it in wriitng!

MS wrote: “I must correct a mistake in your letter because I did not “launch Rama Rau on her career twenty years ago.”  She was merely a member of the All-India Women’s Group which sponsored my appearance in India then.  She did not become prominent in our movement until just before the Bombay Conference about six or seven years ago.  She belongs to many organizations and works for them as it suits her pleasure, by no means dedicating herself to IPPF matters, because actually she puts many things ahead of IPPF interests even now when only six months remain to prepare the Sixth Conference!”  and

“I do not think that she is qualified for the Presidency and I’m surprised that you, Rufus, take such a strong stand relative to it being inevitable, and that she “is bound to be” next President of the IPPF.  I for one would never go to the Sixth Conference to turn over to that person the Office of President that I am resigning, but that would have to be done by the Governing Body or nominating committee.” (8/14/1958)

MS wrote Blacker: “I hope and pray your group will not sponsor Lady Rama Rau or the Swedish dear person whose practice and reputation has not been expressing Birth Control or Population’s interests, but sex education mainly.” (1/13/1959) 

MS spoke at a conference, making nice and saying: “Lady Rama Rau has been a wonderful leader, a distinguished speaker, well known throughout many countries of the world, and she has really inspired a great many in this country and other countries.” (2/14/1959)


 “It has also been a matter of great concern to Margaret as to who will succeed her as President of the IPPF.  Because of Lady Rama Rau’s past actions and attitudes, Margaret has not felt that she was internationally minded.  She has done splendid work for India, but she sees India’s needs above the needs of any other part of the world.  If one is to be the President of an International organization, you must be objective, and weigh the need of all members of the organization.

Furthermore, Lady Rama Rau participates in many other activities, and is ready to go on any tour for any other cause to any part of the world just as readily as she would for Family Planning.  To hold the Office of President of the IPPF, one should be willing to give one’s entire time and thought to that organization during the term of office, and I do feel that Margaret’s evaluation is very sound. ...

And were you to see the brief, impersonal contribution to PROJECT MS that Lady Rama Rau has sent in, I think you would realize that there is something definitely lacking in her attitude.  I don’t think that Margaret has said or done anything unkind or ungracious to Lady Rama Rau; on th contrary Lady Rama Rau has done many ungracious and unkind things to Margaret.  She undoubtedly feels guilty because she and Mrs. Wadia traveled to the Japan Conference on the funds that Margaret raised to send five scientists from India to Japan; this was scarcely ‘cricket,’ as the Britishers say, and I think that Dhan has a guilty conscience about it.  I also think she has a guilty conscience about the way she personally treated Margaret and me in Tokyo.  Had it not been for Margaret, there would have been no Conference in Bombay, and Lady Rama Rau would still be a local figure as far as the IPPF is concerned.  Anyone who aspires to a high office should be diplomatic, gracious, courteous and considerate at all times, especially to a person like Margaret....

Dhan has never been close to Margaret--at least not as far as I know.  And I am not going to write to Dhan to urge Margaret to go to New Delhi.”

"Part of it I think stems from the fact that neither the British nor the Indians have the same concept of democratic procedure that we have as Americans. I know that in India the Chairman of a committee does not ask the cooperation of her committee members, but simply delegates each one of them a specific job to do. And very confidentially almost every English woman that I have known feels herself the superior of Americans, and feels herself equal to and capable of solving every situation and every problem. I know that Margaret is very fond of Vera. I also know that Margaret has done a great deal for all of the people who you mentioned in your letter. Naturally she is hurt when they ignore her, or when they presume upon her authority as President, as Tom did when we were planning for the Washington Conference.

I'm not at liberty to write you about Margaret's latest suggestion in regard to Dhan, but it was entirely a different light, and I think that it is really a brilliant idea on Margaret's part which, if Dhan accepts it, will be a happy solution to the entire problem. Because Margaret wrote me in confidence I am not able to tell you what it is, but it should resolve the whole situation.  Margaret does feel that a man would be desirable as President. Undoubtedly the time has come in IPPF affairs when a man could accomplish a great deal more than a woman can, because the problem of overpopulation is even more of a man's problem than it is a woman's.

Sanger writes of her disappointment that Rama Rau and the Indian FPA took travel expenses that were supposed to be used for scientists attending the Fifth International Planned Parenthood Conference in Tokyo and used them for Rama Rau and Avabai Wadia. They only returned funds enough for one person when asked.  "While both are important and representative of India I would not consider them scientists, but rather delegates. If we were paying the expenses of delegates there were many requests quite as important, but nevertheless by no means scientists."

"The money requested by Lady Rama Rau for the travel expenses for scientists and a copy of her letter to me was send to the friend who responded and contributed the amount, precisely for scientists from India and not delegates....I do not like to hurt the feelings of Lady Rama Rau, but she, herself, is so fair and just that I think when this is called to her attention, she will realize that there was an error."

[255] After the First All-India Family Planning Conference in 1951, DRR says she was surprised by the international attention it drew.  “Soon afterward I had a cable from Margaret Sanger, who had seen a Paris report of the Indian conference, asking if I could arrange an international conference on family planning in India.  My colleagues and I were so excited by this recognition of our first effort on the part of so eminent a person that we cabled back our readiness to accept her proposal for the next year, 1952, just about fifteen months after our first All-India Conference.”

[273-274] --[This might have ticked MS off--that DRR did not stalk out with her and refuse to speak.  MS holds later that DRR doesn’t put IPPF first...here is an example. ]  I had been lecturing in Tucson, Arizona, Margaret Sanger’s home town, and she had very kindly offered to accompany me to Santa Barbara for my next engagement.  There the president of the Women’s Club talked to both Margaret Sanger and to me about her own and her committee’s objection to any mention of population growth.  The meeting was waiting, the audience had assembled, and I was ready to go onto the platform, when, at the last moment, the ban was imposed.  Margaret Sanger was hotly indignant.  She walked out of the hall, leaving me to manage as best I could.  I talked about the conditions we social workers had to tackle in India and merely skirted round the subject of our massive and growing population and the extra burdens it placed on our people.  It could have been a stormy meeting; instead, it was rather dull.  But the next day the local paper carried a very strong article by Margaret Sanger which touched off a highly charged controversy that went on for weeks in letters to the editor.