Watumull Foundation and the Third ICPP

The Margaret Sanger Papers
Last updated
Aug. 25, 2011, 12:10 p.m. (view history)

The Watumull Foundation and its interest in helping India seems to have influenced the selection of India as the next host country for the ICPP.  Interesting dialog between Watumulls/FPA of India and the International on who should do the organizing.

Says she waited to get back to Rama Rau until after she and Sanger met in Los Angeles to go over all the issues.  They think that holding the meeting from Nov. 25-26 to Dec. 1 or 2 in Bombay is best choice.

"Since your group is the host organization, you will of course be extending the invitation to the WHO, the Far Eastern Regional Office for Social Welfare, with which Dr. J. Bulsara is associated, and similar organizations as well as delegations from as many countries as possible, particularly in South and Eastern Asia."

"Although you have the cooperation of the All-India Women's Conference, you will of course have the problem of raising some of the funds in India. To what extent the International Committee on Planned Parenthood can help with funds I don't know, but Margaret Sanger might be in a better position to tell you. It was decided however while Mrs. Sanger was here that the Watumull Foundation would make $5,000 available to your organization for this Conference." She suggests sending 500 Rupees each month for six months, "then when you know for which delegates you may have to pay transportation or other expenses, we will arrange for you to have the balance. In any case we want you to know that you can count on this amount."

"Do you wish us to ask the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and similar organizations to send informed experts, or do you wish to invite them from India? How about Mr. William Vogt, the author of the famous book, THE ROAD TO SURVIVAL.

"We will try to follow through on any suggestions you may care to make, and we will help you as far as possible with the program which as you say should include Health, Economics, Food, National Resources, Improved Food Production, and allied topics, as well as talks by experts in Contraceptive Methods, Sterilization, Reports from Birth Control Centers in other countries, etc."

"Last week-end we had the great pleasure of having Margaret Sanger in Los Angeles, and we discussed with her for many hours the purposed International Conference on Population Control to be held in India toward the end of 1952. Mrs. Sanger has sent me a copy of her letter of October 16 to you, and if you have not already replied to her by the time you receive this letter will you be good enough to just send me a copy of the letter you did write her, as it will save you writing a separate one to me. We did discuss as many possible angles of the Conference as we could, and we hope therefore you will let us know the following:

1. The exact dates, duration of the Conference and place where it will be held. We are hopeful that it might take place in New Delhi where more people from Government as well as other countries might participate in the Conference.

2. In addition to experts coming from different countries, would you like the cooperation of the World Health Organization, the Far Eastern Regional Office for Social Welfare, Technical Assistance Administration of the United Nations?

3. Do you have funds with which to set up the necessary office staff, or will you need additional funds from abroad?

4. To what extent can this Foundation be helpful in your preliminary plans?"

She says that they are happy with Nehru's stand on population control, which has encouraged the scientists working on the problem. Encloses a Look article on overpopulation and declining standards of living. "It is for this reason that we hope the International Conference can be called a Conference on Population Control, and experts in food production, soil conservation, public health and birth control will be asked to present papers."

Thanks for the meeting at her house in Los Angeles.

"I hope we covered the essential points of India. Enclosed is a copy of my letter to Lady Rama Rau. She is probably too engrossed in her National Conference to give the International much thought, but we should like these questions before her so that they can be thinking ahead. The Conference in 1952 must be super-super if we are going to have important people attend it. I wish considering Mr. Nehru's declaration that we might have an invitation or some hospitality or some cooperation from the government itself. When I go east I shall stop in Washington and see Mrs. Pandit and talk over the possibility with her."

Encloses a proposed outline for the Third ICPP, most of which was submitted by J.F. Bulsara, who spent a day with Watumull and Dr. Mehta in discussion.

Did not outline a particular subject for discussion each day, as they think that NY should do that. She also thinks they will have some amendements. Where they have suggested papers, they hope that NY will be able to fill in the names of people qualified to present them. They thought it important to include a seminar for doctors, nurses, and heads of institutions with experts in contraceptive techniques in order that they may be informed as to the latest methods. And there certainly should be several lectures open to the public on general subjects pertaining to Planned Parenthood and Population Problems.

Makes plans for their meeting in NY, hopes that they can meet Monday and Tues, leaving Weds-Fri for other things.

Apologizes for her inefficiency while Third ICPP materials have been piling up. Thanks for all the letters, she will reply and send copies to Sanger as she gets through them. Discusses Dr. Ogburn's study on ovulation control as asks for Sanger's views on it. 

"Since Lady Rama Rau's letter and Mrs. Wright;s of the International Committee on Planned Parenthood somewhat changes our conception of the content of the Conference, I am wondering what we should do. As you have suggested, it may be advisable for Dr. Stone to come out from New York and for us to meet with you and him in Tucson to discuss the agenda, as well as the list of people who would be invited to the Conference.

"We note that the International Committee of Planned Parenthood feels unable to send delegates from England or to make any financial contribution to the Conference, specially in view of the International Congress to be held in Sweden in 1953." Supports Rama Rau's request in this.

She notes the different content Rama Rau suggested after talking with Abraham Stone and comments: "Personally, we had envisioned the conference in the wider area with, of course, meetings and round tables devoted to the move scientific aspects of Birth Control. Perhaps you can let me know by the time we return to Los Angeles when we might have a meeting and discuss this important question in more detail."

Quotes a letter from Evelyn Hersey of the American Embassy in Delhi that says that she thinks that they think that it would be most useful if the Conference delegates from other countries "could be weighted with technical specialists who could have small conferences with doctors and scientists here. The Conference in Bombay earlier this season aroused a great deal of public opinion for the subject. Dr. Stone's visit to India also helped to publicize the idea. It seemed to some of us that in some ways public opinion in India is ahead of that in the U.S. on this subject and that perhaps the next step is help in actually planning and working on the practical side of the situation. I am just giving you this information informally and it includes the feeling of some of the prominent Indians here. Since I have nothing to do with the subject officially, perhaps you better not quote me to give it as the feeling of some of the Indians who are interested in the situation. I think probably Dr. Stone and Lady Rama Rau have also conveyed this idea to Mrs. Sanger and, perhaps to you"

Watumull has been in touch with P. K. Whelpton of the United Nations, who advises that they send an official invitation; if it was sent to him, he would discuss it with the appropriate people. He suggests that they might ask a UN rep who is already in India, say C. Chandrasehkaren, to attend rather than send people from New York, with all the expense that entails.

Updates her on the meeting with J. F. Bulsara, Sanger, and A. R. Mehta, rescheduled for Friday. Hope that Stone or Brush will also be able to fly from New York.

[Ellipses are Rose's, not mine]

"I talked with Ellen a few hours ago...she wrote Lady Rama Rau some little while back and has been expecting a reply daily. She will send it to England if too late to make the boat here by Saturday, if and when it comes. Her understanding is that a Planning Conference will be held  in India in November...and that the big Conference itself would probably be in November or December of 1952...at the time those other big meetings are scheduled to get the benefit of the audience already present in India..."

Thanks Sanger for keeping her in the loop with plans for Indian contraceptive project and conference.

"We had been hoping against hope that we might be able to attend with you the meeting of the International Committee on Planned Parenthood in London at the end of the month, but unless some miracle happens between then and now, we will have to stay here. However we are looking forward to the International Conference, which they hope to hold in India in 1952. That indeed will be something for all of us to anticipate."

"There is no doubt that you were as delighted as we were with the announcement by Nehru of the five year economic plan proposed for India that includes birth control and the prevention of famine." Encloses some clippings. Also letters from some Indian doctors working to develop contraceptive powders and jellies.

Watumull apologizes for slow response, but encloses authorization for 1,500 Rs. for their office expenses. More should be coming on April 1. Asks her to let Watumull know about any upcoming expenses relating to the Conference.

Reports on her conversation with Sanger on the 13th about the Conference agenda and experts. Watumull had hoped Sanger would come to Los Angeles to meet with J.S. Bulsara and A.R. Mehta who were there with her, it does not appear that Sanger can make it, but she will report back to Rama Rau what the doctors suggest.

Sanger anticipates that she will meet with Abraham Stone and Dorothy Brush in mid-April; Gobindram and Ellen Watumull will also attend. She will also seek opinion from Dr. William Fielding Ogburn on the matter.

Says their meetings with Indians visiting the U.S. found unanimity that birth control must be introduced, which lends credence to the idea that they should focus on "scientific and practical aspects of birth control and contraceptives," though delegates from other areas might be interested in experts in nutrition, soil conservation, crop production, social welfare aspects of the problem, health aspects, etc."

Notes that Vogt has talked to Ford Foundation about overpopulation issue.

Watumull assumes that Rama Rau has been in contact with the ICPP and have made arrangements with them to invite experts from many nations. If she needs the Watumull Foundation to do anything, please let her know, "but because of other commitments we are not prepared to provide any funds in addition to the 5000 we have earmarked for the Conference..

Says she has been busy working with Florence Rose on the Famine Relief Committee for India. Says that she expects that Sanger will think birth control more important, but aside from humanitarian reasons, there are delicate international implications.

She is not sure she can attend the London meeting of the International Committee, but hopes to try. Her husband will be back from Honolulu in a few days and they will talk about it. "It certainly would be a fine preliminary to the International Conference which may be held in India in 1952. I agree with you entirely that the initiative for the India meeting should come from India and should not be taken over by the International Committee.  I think that it will have far greater results in India if the Indian Committee takes the initiative, invites delegates from the other countries and arranges the program in cooperation of course with you and the leaders from England and other countries."

"It would seem advisable to us to let the initiative come from the Family Planning Associations in India, which are striving hard to gain headway against the opposition of Health Minister Raj-Kumari Amrit Kaur."

"If the Family Planning Association of India take the initiative in organising the Conference, and invite delegates and speakers from other countries, I believe it will do more to strengthen their cause there that in the Conference were to be organized from the outside."

Promises to be in touch with the Indian associations; they are working with them already on contraceptive testing for the poorest. At present they are using a lot of resources to import contraceptives and this strains their economy. They need to develop manufacturing capability in India so that they can make them available at low enough prices to generate use.

Sanger has asked her to attend the London meetings, but she is not sure yet whether she can.

Invites Watumull to come with her to England for the meeting of the International Committee.

"From a letter I received from Mrs. Houghton it seems that the International Committee would really like to take charge of any International Conference that might be held in India. I discouraged that because I believe the Indian group with your support and backing might prefer to organize their own conference with the help of the International Committee because the group in London will know who's who and who to invite. There would be things fascinating to talk over--won't you consider going to England about the same time.

[Enclosed in Watumull to Margaret Sanger, 2/1/1951]

During her recent visit to Lucknow for the international conference she met his brother at a dinner hosted by Lady Rama Rau, when they “discussed the possibilities of securing contraceptive devices from the United States.”  Rest of the letter talks about the contraceptive plans.

[Enclosed in EW to MS, Mar. 6.]

“We are also planning an All India Conference on Family Planning in December this year which I think will prepare the way for an International Conference next year. You perhaps know that the International Conference and Social Work is meeting in Madras in 1952, Dec. 1, and we have just invited the International Union of Child Welfare, General Council meeting also at the same time. It would therefore be possible to add a third interest and find delegates who could speak with authority on all 3 subjects.”

Reports on meeting with the Watumulls.

“I feel quite sure they will undertake the American end of an Indian conference--issue invitations etc. providing you direct them a bit as to how and whom to ask and so on. Mrs. W said as I was leaving they might try to get other Foundations to do this with them...I pointed out the value of having an Indian Foundation here sponsor it and she could see that but she also felt the major responsibility should be with the groups in India already steamed up to have a joint conference on food, population and social work. I suggested to Mr. W. that work on it all should begin right away....having in mind the manana attitude of most Indian people. I do hope you can get over here before you leave this summer; I felt they were at a loss how to go about it all but that the spirit was very willing. Mr. W is something of a defeatist about b.c. He believes education is the great thing-- then people will find out how to control their families...he also feels no method known to day is of any use at all in dealing with the vast hinterland of what he calls ‘sub-humans’, one step above animal life...He is such an intense, fiery individual--so unlike most Indians I have met. I think if he heard of anything (like that plant) which promised such a simple inexpensive methods he’d back it gladly. .He is in favor of the Conference but thinks it just another effort, good but not vital.

I had little chance to talk to Mrs. W BECAUSE  Florence Rose monopolized her after dinner and most of the conversation at dinner. I am sorry, but she did irritate me! Her enthusiasm for her own work is wonderful but she puts everything into it just as she did for b.c. and it was hard for anyone else to get in a word! She irritated Mr. W without a question...they argued her food product most of the time at dinner and he is agin it and she wasn’t bright enough to see this and just lay off! [she goes on about this]

 “I am grateful for the chance to have met these people. They are certainly earnest and sincere and willing; he is a mass of suffering inside I think, over the condition of his sub-humans. She is the balance wheel. But I don’t think she is well-educated on the birth control movement or on contraceptives...but could be. I felt as if I were in a meeting of twenty years ago with the talk of jellies etc. And Clarence Gamble seems to have made quite an impression.”

Thanks her for hers of the 10th and the most generous offer from the Watumull Foundation. Offers "a few facts for your consideration and discussion with both Mrs. Margaret Sanger and Dr. Abraham Stone,"

Says that when Stone was in India, he made a study of the "whole question of population from every angle, in both towns and villages." He had a "serious talk with me about our plans for the International Conference" that he promised to discuss with Sanger, she has not heard back from him. Says Stone saw

  1. need for a "wide awakening" in "official and non-official circles"
  2. "no opposition on the grounds of religion or morality, except among the Catholics."
  3. a "great dearth" of sexology or sex attitude studies connected with birth control work
  4. there are no experimental centers to test contraceptives and methods that are cheap enough for the poorest villagers
  5. no research work in contraceptives or production of devices in India
  6. practically no trained personnel who could establish programs in #3, 4 and 5, and do needed recordkeeping.

Because of this Stone suggested that the nature of the International meeting should be changed to a "Clinical" conference of experts on Sexology, Research Departments for evolving cheap contraceptives locally and scientific studies.

"My own feeling is that the emphasis should be on the scientific and practical side, so that India can begin to implement the many ideas that so far remain in the realm of wishful thinking. There would also be a place for social work in such a Conference as it would open up a new field of work, under expert guidance. We are certain that there is enough public opinion here on which to build up practical schemes that would in the next five years, with the aid of the Government (Planning Commission recommedations) show definite results."

Wants Watumull, Sanger and Stone to go over and let her know so that "we could go ahead with our plans."

Says she would prefer it if the ICPP took initiative for invitations, as "we do not know the prominent men and women who are engaged in this work or what national groups are affiliated with the International organisation. This would cover invitations to the Ford Foundation and other similar organisations as well as the interested UN agencies and also prominent individuals like Mr Vogt whom you have mentioned. In fact, in my opinion, our small organisation has not the status required for a direct approach." Says other organizations do it this way.

"We would be prepared to welcome all those whom the International Office considers qualified to attend. I need not stress that you will have completed co=operation from all of us, both of the Family Planning Association of India and the All India Women's Conference."

Sends copy to Sanger as well; notes that 500 rupees a month for office costs is good; if they spend more they will "undertake to collect locally."