Sanger and the Third ICPP

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The Margaret Sanger Papers
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Feb. 1, 2014, 3:23 p.m. (view history)

Unlike the coverage in secondary sources, planning on the Third ICPP started far earlier than Dec. 1951, as commonly held, and the Indians were in at the start. See Watumull and the Third ICPP and British and Third ICPP for more.  Focus in these notes is on the Americans.

Responding to Sanger's of Mar. 19, on Behalf of the British Committee

"We all agree that the present indefinite state of affairs regarding the Indian Conference cannot be allowed to continue, and that everything possible should be done to ease your position."

"(1) The British Committee would indeed be happy for you to have full authority for the organisation of the proposed conference in India. No one is more able than you to do this.

The question is: who can give you the authority?

It would be difficult to ask the present International Committee to do so just when it is on the point of winding-up.

There would seem to be no reason, however, why the Indian Family Planning Association should not ask you to act in this way.

(2) We do not think that the Indian Conference can be considered an international conference unless the attendance of delegates from other countries can be arranged. This is almost entirely a financial matter. Can their fares and expenses be met?

If, as you hope, money can be raised for the air-passages of three delegates from Britain, Dr. Blacker is will to consider an invitation to go to India, and would also try to find two other delegates from Britain of good standing.

Dr. Blacker would have no objection to including Marie Stopes in the British delegation if the Indians particularly want her. But Mrs. Pyke and Dr. Helena Wright would, in view of past experiences with Marie Stopes, advise against it.

(3) If it is not possible to extend financial assistance to enable delegates to attend from other countries, it is difficult to see how a permanent International organisation can result from the Indian conference.

One solution might be to treat the Indian Conference as a preliminary part of the International Congress to be held in Sweden next year, and for any recommendations regarding future international organisation to come up at that Congress in 1953. This would give time for other countries to form scientific advisory committees as are now contemplated in America and Britain.

Another solution would be to reconise major divisions within the International Committee. Of these, the three most important would at present be American, Asiatic, and European divisions. Difficulties of travel being what they are, the question of which countries are represented at a given international conference would largely depend on the continent in which the conference is held.

We think that if American, British, and Swedish representatives could attend the Bombay conference could attend the Bombay conference, as well as representatives of Asiatic countries, such as China (Hong Kong), Japan, and Malaya (Singapore), the conference could properly be called 'international.'

(4) The qualifications and special knowledge of the delegates (American and British) to the Indian Conference, would, we suppose, influence or even determine the choice of subjects for discussion.

If the Conference is mainly attended by Asians, we think that the programme should be oriented to the practical and scientific aspects of contraception; it would be more profitable to restrict the main discussions to how best to spread contraceptive knowledge in urban and rural areas, to which Hong Kong, Japan, and Singapore could make valuable contributions, than to range over the wide field of population, resources, nutrition, etc.

Dr. Blacker has suggested that if a symposium were to be held on research, papers might be obtained from several British scientists and read at the Conference by one of the British delegates.

(5) We see no objection to the invitations being sent out from London if the Indian F.P.A. wish it to be done that way.

It would be advisable for an Organising Committee to be formed under your direction as soon as possible. Such a committee might consist of two representatives from each of the countries America, British, India, and perhaps one from Sweden. Mrs. Houghton, if desired, could act as Secretary.

If funds permit, consideration might also be given to sending Mrs. Houghton to India a month ahead of the Conference to assist with the final preparations.

(6) We feel that every effort should be made to get the Indian Prime Minister, Pandit Nehru, to preside at the opening session of the Conference. Authorities from other countries might take the later sessions if it is truly a international conference, otherwise we think the President should be an Indian."

On Behalf of the British Committee

(copies to MS, Vijaya Pandit, Ellen Watumull, and Abraham Stone), Dec. 23, 1950 [MSM S33:597].  “Extract of a letter from Mrs. E. Vembu, Honorary Secretary, Family Planning Association of Bombay, dated 23.12.50" (transcribed copy)

 “....I do not know whether we shall be able to hold a F.Pl. Conference soon as we are much occupied in getting interest for the movement of b.c. from the masses who must be approached through direct contact, speeches in the slum area and film-shows. In addition to this work, for which we have not yet enough helpers (although our aims and objects are by now well known to the educated in Bombay) we have plenty of work with the distribution of contraceptive appliances amongst medical practitioners at the beginning of the new year, when these goods are expected to arrive from the U.S.A.  Here in India doctors leave it to their patients to find the appliances, which they prescribe, for themselves, even now when these goods are available only in the black market! It is our intention to make the doctors, especially the women-doctors and gynaecologists, to stock these goods, so that the patients can get them directly from them and need not go hunting for them in the market.  But, although we have sent out 400 leaflets with very attractive prices for the goods and no condition at all, the doctors come forward only in very small numbers for this small additional work of stocking a few dozen of the diaph. and tubes with jelly. We have another discouraging experience with our doctors. We have approached three Medical Ass. here in Bombay for co-operation. And, although we receive letters in the affirmative, our subsequent efforts of active co-operation have so far been ignored by all of them. In all, so far, only half-a-dozen women-doctors have come forward and have offered to do b.c. work amongst their patients. Doctors who run private Maternity Homes have all turned their backs on us.”

 “Thus, you see that we are still engaged in doing the spadework. However, if we can make it possible to hold a F.Pl. Conference in the course of next year, we shall certainly do it. From  Mrs. Lam you will perhaps have learned that our Government (Central as well as Provincial) are not very much in favour of b.c. for India. Pandit Nehru personally is sympathetic towards our movement, but he too does not see the very urgent need for F. Pl. for the whole of the country. There are Ministers in the Union as well as in the States who are dead against b.c. and unfortunately our Health Minister, Amrit Kaur is one of them. So far, not a single State has taken up this work in its Health Services. Only the Municipality of Bombay (the first of all) and now the Mun. of Poona run b.c. clinics. In Hyderabad, Mrs. Vellodi, the wife of the Chief Minister has created a F. Pl. Society and run several clinics. In Madras the All India Women’s Conf. will shortly open clinics and Delhi has a few enthusiasts who may perhaps be able to do something sooner or later. That is so far all. We shall, however, continue to press for Governmental recognition, and as Lady Rama Rau has been nominated a member of the Health Panel of the Planning Commission (Pandit Nehru’s creation), qwe have some hope that the Government will ultimately do something in this very urgent matter of b.c. and population control...”

"I told Dr. Stone over the phone that nothing can go with such as large horizon as this International Conference without a directing force. Who will the Committee suggest to be the Director of the American Committee, or in fact of the International Committee. The International Committee in London gave me the job of setting up the American, but I feel that after Dr. Stone's trip to India, that he would know more about what kind of person is needed and what the program should be. If you were not so overwhelmed with work for the Federation you would be the natural choice. "

Summarizes the other candidates-- Stone ("he becomes involved and everything lags"), Brush (too taken with her Bulletin), Sanger herself (too far away), Watumull (though far, more in touch with the Indian people that any of the rest of us.") It all needs revamping and decision making before much longer. Needs to hear from him so she can report to Mehta and Bulsara on Sunday.

"Great problems are arising relative to the Indian Conference. No one seems to have the authority of what do to and what not to do. At the meeting in London last August I got the impression, and I think the Minutes will tell us correctly, that the American Committee was to get out the Bulletin for the International Committee, and we were to choose the delegates to go to India from the U.S.A.  Am I correct in this? We said nothing to my knowledge as to who was to draw up the invitations or the program."

"Lady Rama Rau is rather concerned over this. I think mainly because with Dr. Stone's visit, he emphasized the importance of having the delegates attending the Indian Conference, and the program itself, to be weighted with scientific individuals and discussion. I have written Mr. Vogt today that I think we should ask Dr. Blacker to choose, besides himself, two other individuals to go to India, and we will try to raise the money for the expenses of those names, naturally including himself. .."

Sanger plans to fly to Los Angeles for the meeting with Watumull, Bulsara, and Mehta, because the meeting is too important to miss, "and while I am overwhelmed with work and far too tired to keep this up, I feel that the time is short.  If I had been given full authority and direction to organize this Indian Conference it would be much easier for all concerned." Some more characterizations about how Vogt is too busy raising funds, Brush occupied by Bulletin, Stone spreads himself too thin. 

"I think it should be considered not an Indian Conference, but an International Conference held in India, where decisions relative to the future International may be made." Suggests forming a group of Blacker, Stone, Vogt, Brush, Watumull, and Sanger, to "formulate principals so that the movement would no longer be a simple Committee but a real organization and that we will be allowed to take in as representatives of their groups, organizations, countries, individuals on the International.  Says it needs clear thinking, "but I think it would mean a very great thing to the pride and interest of the Orient, and especially to India, if the meeting in Bombay is considered not only Indian, but International, and that Committee delegated by the International of London and U.S.A. to function on our behalf"

Says it is all exciting. The great need now is funding for delegate travel; Vogt is on the job and expects to hear from "big Foundaitons" within the week.

"I am somewhat disturbed over the International situation, because I know from past experience and from my responsibility in organizing several international conferences, that we are already late in getting money, as well as representatives to make their plans for the end of the year."

"It is quite decided now from Lady Rama Rau's letter to Mrs. Watumull, that  November 24th. or 25th. to December 1 or 2nd. would be the best dates, and Bombay the best place for the Conference. I would have preferred New Delhi, but after all the people on the spot know the conditions better than we do thousands of miles away, so both Mrs. Watumull and I agrees as to the place and date, and now it is up to the American Committee and the London Committee to suggest the speakers and to arranged for transportation and to finance our part of the program.

Asks him for financial help for the Margaret Sanger Research Bureau and her International work. "My own expenses have come out of my own pocket, and friends have contributed so that I could contribute to the Malthusian in London, the work in Germany, work in Japan and in India. Small contributions they have been, but still they have been helpful. I realize of course, that a National organization like the Federation would prefer to keep the drive for funds within its own hands, but on the other hand unless other activities are supported the whole thing gets into the doldrums and discouragement follows."

Notes that Bulsara and Watumull worked out a "very splendid" outline for the Conference. "In fact it seems to be so complete from the Indian point of view that I wonder what we are meeting for. We could almost accept that agenda and send it to Lady Rama Rau and the English group and Dr. Blacker and stop any further worry. This is not the only thing, however, that we must discuss. We either will have an international organization with headquarters somewhere or what?, and I am too impatient a person as you know to have to wait for decisions by other people who know less about the work than I do. I like a committee of peers, but I don't like to have to wait for decisions from less than peers, and I know you feel the same way."

Handwritten note on the bottom of the page says that she just got a letter from London that "may change all my plans re NY."  she tries to phone Vogt, Stone and Brush but all are out.

Discussing her views on the English sense:

"I rather gather from talks with various folk over here that the prevailing British point of view is that there is really NO international committee with authority--it would follow then, that you, MS would by wholly the one and only person who could direct the Indian conference--someone (and I realize how idiotic all this must sound to you who have conceived and given birth to so many first-class conferences) must head it up and be the directing genius,"

"I would think that it would be easily possible and logical for the administrative and executive organizing work of the conference to be done from the International office here--this of course if Vera is willing and if the International folk over here agreed. It seems to me it is the only place where there is an office, with the international files and lists and two paid personnel who should be able to devote their almost undivided time to it--at least a far greater percentage that anyone in NY--India or surely Tucson! That in October or possibly September this work could be transferred to Bombay."

"On the conference I do think you need to see Dr. Stone. As I wrote you, he did not seem to feel that the enthusiasm for the conference was very great and also that they would have preferred to have it in 1953. I don't think whatever happens the conference should be on sexology!! Indian sexology sure is something and I would say off-hand that almost any other country could have a sex conference with more success and dignity. So far as I can see all Indians are either aecetics or the complete reverse and you know the kind of literature they get out there. I was fascinated when I went up to the medical library with Mr. Parker to find the medical journal for Pakistan advertising the perfect pill for birth control."

"I thought Lady Rama Rau's list of suggestions to be discussed in that letter she wrote you most interesting and really just what the conference should have and I hope it will be along the lines of Cheltenham and Seden. One thing for sure--if the conference is going to be held as we have said it is, we don't want negative points-of-view about it and think you will have to give Abraham one of your famous shots in the arm."

Happy about the Watumull grant, wants to conform dates of 11/24 to 12/1 and Bombay details. They will be making an announcement. Question of travel funds comes up, and Vogt at PPFA is trying to "raise money on a large scale and to include traveling expenses for the scientists who we plan and hope to send to India to attend the Conference."

"Your letter relative to Dr. Stone's impressions and the result of his travels in India is somewhat upsetting to me. I agree with him and had belabored that argument for the past ten years that the most important one single factor for the success of the Birth Control movement is the discovery and application of a simple, cheap non-injurious contraceptive, and I have talked on this point over and over again, but not for one instant do I believe that until that has been found that I should let up on or slow down on our educational Conferences, lectures, films, etc. The more we prepare people, the masses of people, to want to believe in and to desire to space their families, the quicker will something be done in laboratories for a simple contraceptive."

"As I understood Dr. Stone's suggestions is that the Conference shall have scientists only. He many not have said this actually, but the intimation is that the Conference should bear heavily on the scientific side. My personal view is that there is not sufficient information on contraceptives to hold a five day Conference about.

The population question could certainly go on for more than five days in discussions taking in soil erosions, water supplies, conservation of natural resources, But I find from the subject and the knowledge of the technique of sterilization, there is not much to my knowledge that can be discussed in the findings of laboratories relative to the perfect chemical contraceptive."

Says she is not in New York and has asked Stone to fly out to talk it over with her and possibly Watumull. Discusses invitations tot he Japanese who have multiple organizations. Copied Watumull on the letter.

Wonderful news that the Rockefellers awarded $7,500 for travel for delegates. She is still working on the Rosensteils to fund the English.

Notes that Watumull will be in NYC on Apr. 28 to meet with Vogt, Brush and Stone regarding the Internaitonal. "I told Mrs. Brush on the phone that there simply must be a getting together of all of us and make decisions, not only as to our opinion of a program, but also what we should do and work towards the International resolutions to be presented to the Indian Conference, and all the other necessary details that are our responsibility to cope with.  Hopes they will not make hasty decisions on delegates but wait until the 4/28 meeting. It is difficult for Watumull to come as "she doesn't fly and must come on the train, and she is turning aside some heavy obligations to make the trip to New York. As for me it isn't so much obligations that i have here as it is the strain and pressure of travel, plus the expense." Will go if she can. She will miss the May 5 meeting, she needs to be back in Tucson on the 2nd.

April 14, 1952

Brush complains of toothache and infected jaw.  Says that she waited around trying to see if Stone was going to be able to come out to meet Sanger in Tucson, and "he found he could not. Margaret Darling, there is no use talking, I think you will have to come out here if you possibly can and perhaps bring Mrs. Watumull with you. Nothing has been done from this end as far as I can see. Mr Vogt was ill last week with virus and no one has been asked to do any speaking and nothing has come of the conference we all had that morning. I suppose Mr. Vogt for all his real interest in the international feels that the Planned Parenthood Federation is his job, which it is--and anyway doesn't seem to take the leadership on the conference--and nobody does."

Says there is no point in her coming out without Stone except to see Sanger. Reports on their efforts to woo UN members with cocktails in the afternoon that week, she was too sick to do it, but Margaret Otis did the first one and they cancelled the rest.

"There is just no use talking, nobody ever does anything or accomplishes anything but you! and I think this whole conference is going to fall rapidly to pieces if something definite doesn't happen very very soon. I had hoped to much to have something to put in the May number, but here we are going to press in a week and still nothing new!"

[47] In December 1951 the First All-India Conference on Family Planning convened in Bombay and over 100 people attended. While Lady Rama Rau and her team were making arrangements, they “were taken aback to received a cable from Margaret Sanger, asking if they would be prepared to hold the next International Conference in India.” [48] Lady Rama Rau agreed enthusiastically. “The decision, therefore, about the location of the Conference was taken by Margaret Sanger alone. The troubles which grew from attempts to co-operate were fanned to a great height by her unilateral activities.” The ICPP had in fact decided “democratically” that the next conference was to take place in Sweden. Nevertheless, the planned conference in India began to be referred to as “the next International Conference” and “The Third International Conference of the ICPP.” Furthermore, attendance in Bombay would be limited, “For it would not be possible for delegates from Europe to travel so far without financial assistance. For this purpose mainly American funds were available, and this meant that Americans could determine who would attend the conference.”

Sanger was difficult to get along with and headstrong, but planning went on anyway and the reasons for meeting in India were numerous. [49] India’s rapid development in birth control was especially persuasive. “The Bombay Conference would bring stimulus and encouragement to many areas where family planning was most needed.” “The Committee were encouraged by the number of people who agreed to sponsor the conference, and sent good wishes.”   

Notes that if they had been able to keep the East-West going, it would have made a great contribution to peace. “I am so disgusted with our leadership and blundering, not only in Washington but wherever out leaders are, and of course most frightening of all for our future is the dominating authority in civic affairs given to military leaders. We seem to learn nothing from history and one would think that the condition of Germany and Japan today would make our military leaders hesitant to build up a powerful military organization. Germany did so boastfully, Japan also, and now both nations are literally on their knees.”

“There is a possibility of our having a population Conference in the Orient somewhere in 1952. I am encouraged to do this because a friend returning from India recently tells me many of the 65 clinics that I organized in 1936 are still going. It will of course take money and something to sell the idea to the health groups to that information as well as supplies will not have to be limited to people who can come to private clinics. There are so many plans ahead and I am so happy to feel well again.”

She talked to Stone on the phone that morning; encloses Clinton Chance's letter and says he knows Blacker well. She thinks they should let Blacker select the English and European delegates, depending on how much money they can provide for travel.

Wants "the clearest of your ideas and decisions" before she goes to Los Angeles for the meeting.

"International Conference. I feel that it would be wiser at this time to orient the Conference, not specifically about methods as such, because we really do not have any new methods to bring to them, but about the bio-chemical and biological studies that are now being carried on here, in England, and in India, in order to develop simplified techniques. A conference merely on the social aspects of the population question, again stressing the dangers of over-population of India and the other Asiatic countries, would not, I feel, be sufficient. For one thing, the literate people of India, and that includes practically all the government members of importance, are keenly aware of the pressing problems today, and are ready to proceed with a program. On the other hand, there would be, and I felt it myself, a certain resentment in many quarters that people from outside come to India to tell them they have too many people. Such viewpoints are more effective when they come from their own sociologists, demographers, and men in public life. Hence it is my feeling and unless I am mistaken it is also the feeling of Lady Rama Rau, that an International Conference in India should, as far as possible, concentrate on the scientific aspects of human fertility and the methods for its control, and should serve as a stimulus to further scientific investigation on an international field."

Also writes that perhaps he should come to Tucson to discuss this and other things further.

Discussing a letter from Mary Blanshard who is in England. 

"What does Mary mean about the change in Dr. Blacker's plans? I certainly hope it doesn't mean he isn't going to take on the directorship after all and what is 'the great difference in attitude toward to Indian conference?' I have the impression that Mrs. Houghton feels the London Committee should have had some money to help spur the Indian conference from that end--and perhaps it isn't too late to divert some  of the Watumull funds to that end.  Barbara read me a letter from her over the telephone. I have just tried to call her back but cannot reach her. As I remember, Mrs. Houghton feels that we should disassociate the international conference from the Indian conference, since we did have no funds. It seems to me too late for that and a great mistake after publishing the acceptance of the invitation. I do think something firm ought to be settled about it however." Notes that Drs. Wilkinson and Gamble, Mr. Vogt, Mrs. Pillsbury are all planning on going and they need to settle things.

Vembu writes to Sanger for Rama Rau, answering Sanger's letter of the 4th.

They are happy about the Watumull funding, agree on the propsed dates (Nov. 24-Dec.1) and place (Bombay). Clarence Gamble has offered to send copies of the International News of Population and Birth Control to a list of "all important people in India" and they will be pleased to invited Sanger's Japanese friends, the winners of the Watumull Essay competition, and are happy to know that Sanger and Watumull will be able to attend the meeting.

Encloses a London Times clipping about Marie Stopes and asks whether she should be invited; they have not corresponded with her, only with the ICPP in London.

Thanks again for the Biology of Conception that Stone left with them. "Interest in family planning is indeed growing fast in India and we are daily requested to supply literature and propaganda-material to organisations who wish to take up family-planning work in their area. Unfortunately all of us are so busy with field-work that none has time to sit down and sketch out suitable propaganda-material. A constant demand exists for charts and illustrations of techniques in places where there are not trained medical personnel, but where social workers would take up b.c. work among the masses, if we could supply them with the necessary illustrations, models, etc."  Says that the gynaplaques they received are "immediately in demand and are used now in newly established clinics in different parts of the country."

Talks about Rama Rau to Watumull, Jan. 24:

"A letter from Lady Rama Rau rather disturbs me. She says that Dr. Stone's views as expressed to her before he left India were to the effect that there is such a wide awakening as to the need of Birth-Control in both official and non-official circles that it is practically unnecessary to have this aspect discussed at the Conference. He believes because research work has not been done in India, that that is the subject that should be discussed, and that the International Conference should be a clinical conferences of experts on sexology and research!"

"Certainly if this is true the world has moved. This is a situation that I found as far back as 1921 in Japan. Everybody on the streets, in the homes, officially and unofficially, were for family planning and birth control. Only the military, who believed in it for themselves but objected to it enmass. The is the situation in many places, but it is only by constantly and continually pressing on the need to the masses, anything is done to get a simple contraceptive. In India where illiteracy is appaling, there could not possible be the same intelligent approach as to the responsibility of parenthood that there was in Japan."

"I think that this has thrown Lady Rama Rau into a state of confusion, because she has not found this atmosphere to prevail, but she is perfectly willing to take Dr. Stone's views of it as he had traveled so extensively over India. Lady Rama Rau wants Mrs. Watumull, Dr. Stone, Dr. Gamble, and M.S. to get together as to discuss this Conference, so that announcements can be made accordingly. With all of us so far away except Mrs. Watumull, I don't see how we can come to any decision. I am asking Dr. Stone to fly out here if he possibly canfor a weekend if he can. I might get Mrs. Watumull over here at the same time, so that at least three of us can discuss it and make it a little easier for the Indian group to go ahead."

Sends copy to Stone and Watumull.