Dhanvanthi Rama Rau’s work with the IPPF

The Margaret Sanger Papers
Last updated
May 24, 2011, 8:49 a.m. (view history)

Rama Rau was named a co-President at the outset, and followed Ottesen-Jensen as President in 1963

Need context for:

MS wrote: “I am waiting for Lady Rama Raus frame work--Aims & Principles--ways & means of the Int Federation. She & her committee were given the task of writing up the rough draught ↑draft↓ for to submit to us for further ideas suggestions etc.  But its too early to expect anything as she & her group were head over heels in organizing the Child Welfare Conference which followed the PP. Conference.  I was in Bombay during the week it was in Session-- The publicity was very scant--”  (1/3/1953)

“I am awaiting eagerly to hear from Lady Rama Rau as to the final framework of the International Federation.  She and her Committee requested that they set up this framework, as most of our activities in the future will be in the Orient.  We agreed to that.  I fear, however, that their framework will not be acceptable to the western mind.  She, for instance, believes that everything should center from London, the temporary headquarters of the International Federation.” (1/8/1953)

“I too have been made President & Lady R. Rau Chairman....I don’t like being World President at all, but Lady R. R. finds such jealousies & problems in her world that she insists it would hamper the work in India if she were made President.” (8/21/1953)

MS wrote: “I hope that you will agree to this, and if so to send your vote to Mrs. Houghton and to use any influence that you can with HongKong and Singapore to hold the Executive Committee to the number that it now is.”(6/25/1954)

MS wrote: “ I talked to Lady Rama Rau in New York suggesting that her name be presented in Japan.  She replied that she wants the next two years to work in India.  After that time she would take the Presidency.” (8/25/1955)

MS wrote: “I am completely discouraged at the low standards of the clan--Lady R.R. ↑thinks she↓ owns all of India, Ceylon, Pakistan, The Malay, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore & Japan & no one shall enter without her authority!!!” (10/31/1955)

MS claims: “There is too much feeling against Lady Rama Rau to have her succeed.  At least that is my impression from people who I have met in various places.” (3/23/1956)

MS wrote: “I know that you, with Lady Rama Rau and others, have already given thought to the replacing of the region structure with sub-centres.” (7/18/1957)

MS noted--sting!-- “A one days meeting at Princeton will scarcely be enough to cover the subject, especially if Lady Rama Rau gets on the platform.  No one else will have an opportunity to say anything.” (2/9/1960)

Our Regional office has now been set up and Dr. Devi Krishna Rao, who has just retired as the Maternity and Child Welfare doctor of the Municipality of Bangalore, has taken over the job of Medical Officer of the Region. I am planning to take her to Ceylon with me on the 23rd July to attend a Regional Conference called by the Ceylon Women's Association which is affiliated with the International Alliance of Women. It would be a good introduction to Dr. Krishna Rao to attend the conference first, and then along with me to make the necessary contacts with the Family Planning Assn of Ceylon. I can leave her for a fortnight to examine the field and render assistance to the Ceylon group." ...

Asks if "it is absolutely necessary for me to attend the [Rome] meeting that we have called there? I know that you have decided to attend the Meeting yourself so that your presence there will make up easily for the absence of one or two other members. My reason for trying to avoid this Conference in Rome is partly financial. The  burdens I have had to bear recently have been rather heavy, and if I am to go to Rome this year and also Japan next year, I am afraid I will find my finances badly strained. My husband is due for retirement from office next June, so that if I can avoid the Rome Meeting I would not find it so much of a strain to attend the meeting in Japan."

Rama Rau is dismayed to hear that the PPFA is taking 15% off the top of Doris Duke's $5,000 donation to set up the regional IPPF office in Bombay. She wrote to Vogt asking him in this case to make an exception, as all PPFA is really doing is depositing the check and sending another check to India, but he said it was the policy of the Board and he could not make exception. "This has been a great blow to us, as we had just drawn up a plan of work for a year which involved the whole of the $5,000--." Asks Sanger's help in persuading the Board to send the rest.

Sanger asked Rama Rau to send Koya in Japan the budget and expenses incurred in the Third ICPP, so that they have a sense what it will take to run the 1955 conference. She is happy to hear about the appointment of Jerome Fisher as WHR Treasurer and will "be glad to know how the Region is being organized and what progress has been made."

Sorry that MS will not attend the Rome meeting of the IPPF Governing Body. "I have not yet definitely heard what the plans for Rome are likely to be, but if our executive is definitely meeting in Rome, I shall make a serious effort to get there. If, however, I find it impossible to do so later on, I agree with you that Dr. Blacker should be chosen to speak for both of us."

Encloses a copy of "the draft Constitution that I have worked out, for your consideration. Of course you would be free to make what alterations you consider necessary." She is also sending to Vogt, Stone, Blacker, Houghton, Wright, and Ottesen-Jensen. "I am sorry about the delay in getting this ready but we had a great deal of work to get through after the International Study Conference on Child Welfare, and to make matters worse, I had to go off to Delhi for a week in connection with the UNESCO Seminar on the Status of Women, to which I was appointed. However I am still hoping that by the first of March we will have framed a scheme for the working of the International Regional Centre."

She is concerned about the expense of the Regional Centers, and spoke with Ellen Watumull and Clarence Gamble in Delhi recently. Both are willing to donate about $1K, giving her a budget of around 10,000 Rs. She thinks that the actual cost, with travel, offices, and equipment will run around 20,000 Rs. and doesn't know how much the International Committee can contribute toward that expense. Hopes that they can iron out those kinds of details.

Announces that the First Five Year Plan for India includes a build-up of funds from 2,500,000 Rs. to 6,500,000 Rs. Hopes that once it is going they can get grants from the Government. But they need to have the thing working in order to get the results needed to get government funds. Funding the first year is the hardest, once they are going, it should be easier to attract funds. Says she will make every effort to raise the funds.

"I cannot thank you enough for the inspiration you have been able to give us for the work we have been striving to do. Apart from your material help, the moral support you have given us is invaluable. We shall always remember your visit with us with grant pleasure."

The January preliminary draft of the IPPF constitution set up an organization of a "Central Committee" made up of the Pres, Vice Pres, Honorary General Sec, Honorary Treasurer, One representative of each federated national organization. and "no more than 3 co-opted members responsible for specific work." 

Says that the Central Committee's work will be carried out in "the country of the General Secretary." The Central Committee will meet 2x a year, and must have at least 1/3 present for a quorum.

Central Committee will organize regions, beginning with South East Asia, Europe and America.  Central Committee will appoint a Regional Director for each of these Regional Offices. Regional Officers will work with the FPAs of the region they are in and appoint field workers. They will submit reports on activities directly to the Central Committee.

"Regional Centres shall be maintained by the Central Committee. Half the finances to be contributed by the Central Committee and the other half collected in the region?"

He will miss having her in Rome. “Apart from depriving us of the pleasure which we would all feel in seeing you again, your absence will raise some awkward questions on which your views are essential. Among these is what should be done about Dr. Gamble.  I understand that Dr. Gamble will not himself be present in Rome, and I now learn that Margaret Sanger may or may not be present either. It is possible that, in the absence of both of you, I may again be asked to take the Chair--a duty I would far sooner see performed, this time, either by you or by Margaret! You doubtless know that Mrs. Houghton has received letters of complaint from various people about Dr. Gamble. Difficulties seems mainly to have arisen in Burma and Ceylon. As to the latter, you will be fully informed after your visit there. The trouble is that the persons who have written to Mrs. Houghton has asked her to treat their letters as confidential. It is impossible for Mrs. Houghton or anybody else to take action when the available information has to be treated as confidential.

“If I am in the Chair I would want to stress the fact that the Committee must not take no decision which would be likely to meet with the disapproval either or Margaret or yourself. And here, again, the problem of Dr. Gamble arises. For as you know, Margaret has been anxious that the Federation should make the fullest use of his services. She feels that he has both the time and money to work on behalf of the Federation which could scarcely be done by anyone else.

“Burma and Ceylon fall in your Region and I am therefore writing to ask you if you could possibly let me have your views on the line that we should take about Dr. Gamble. Most helpful would be a letter containing your views and recommendations which I could relate to the Executive Committee of the Federation.” (cc MS)

[56] At the conclusion of the 3ICPP, Lady Rama Rau and MS elected joint presidents of the IPPF. Nov. 29, 1952.

[57] In the aftermath of the 3ICPP, "there were still many problems in the way." Finances and the actual organization and operation of the IPPF was not clearly spelled out, and DRR "was very concerned. Not that she felt negative about the idea: on the contrary the possibilities of such a scheme seemed immense. Mrs. Watumull kindly gave a grant of $1,000 for research work and Dr. Gamble consented for a sum of money he had lying with the FPA India to be placed at the disposal of the Asian Region.

[58] DRR was not concerned that the IPPF wanted to procede slowly, she had much to do in India. "There were many areas lacking in family planning activity, and it was essential to try to begin work. Government departments, municipalities and private groups began to show an interest in opening centres. ....Curiously enough, medical training came as a by-product from the Bombay Conference. Lady Rama Rau was quick to realize that it would be possible to draw upon the expertise of distinguished foreign visitors, and so during the proceedings a team of visitors gave on-the-spot training to about 90 doctors, nurses and health workers. The course took place in the Kutumb Sudhar Kendra (Family Welfare Center) and covered contraception and infertility work."

Got back to India on May 30, having stayed longer in London because she wanted to meet C.P. Blacker, Mary Grove-White, and Margery Butcher.

"I have a long talk with Dr. Blacker, who, in his clear and precise manner, was able to clarify several issues connected with the International Organisation. He was very pleased to hear that you would continue as the President of the International Organisation for the next two years after the Tokyo Conference as he feels, as I do, that your name and prestige are most valuable to the International Federation especially in countries that are being newly developed."

Thanks Sanger for flying out to NY to meet her; says she looked better than expected with the stories of illness, and needs to keep well so she can go to Tokyo. Suggests that she not write the foreword for the Bihari book, as she has never heard of him and the synopsis doesn't look good. "I do not think your name should be associated with writings of this kind, and it seems to me like impudence that unknown people should have the temerity to approach you for a foreword."

Reports on the Puerto Rico meeting, "a great success" that had important officials of San Juan taking part. It remains to be seen how well they can move forward after the big splashy conference. Says that the Jamaican group seems to lack direction.

Fixed the dates for their Scientific Seminar - 10 Nov - 12 Nov, with the 13th as a sight-seeing day.

On the $4K that Sanger sent for their delegates- expenses should be send to the FPAI where she has set up a special account. Dr. Chandrasehkharan of Calcutta has accepted, Avabai Wadia will deal with the problems faced and overcome by the FPAI, Sanyal cannot attend, but she has written to B.K. Anand who does research on hypothalamic and endocrinal control of physiology. She has a half dozen other names that could make a good contribution, will consult with Hannah Peters for the best. "Please leave the decision to me at the present moment."

Mentions that she will be coming to NY to receive the Lasker Award; did not expect it, and suddenly made up her mind to attend the ceremony.

Apologizes for not responding sooner to Sanger's letter of Mar. 31 offering funding to Tokyo "for our delegation..." They are very busy working on the plans for the Scientific Seminar which will follow the Tokyo meeting. Mentions Dr. Sanyal, C. Chandrasekharan, and someone from the J. K. Institute at Lucknown Universtiy as those to be funded to give papers.  The last group have "abandoned the Rhythm Mehtod and in the same area are introducing other contraceptives, pinning their faith primarily on the foam tablet." Will discuss with Sanger when in NY.

Invited by Griessemer to attend the May 12-15 IPPF Western Hemisphere Regional meeting and has agreed.