Birth Control International Information Centre (BCIIC) (1929-1937)

Following the 1930 Zurich Conference,  Edith How-Martyn reorganized the international birth control office she set up in London in 1928 into the Birth Control International Information Centre (BCIIC), with MS as President and How-Martyn as Director, and funded in large part by Gerda and John Guy

Following the 1930 Zurich Conference, How-Martyn reorganized the international birth control office she set up in London in 1928 into the Birth Control International Information Centre (BCIIC), with MS as President and How-Martyn as Director, and funded in large part by Gerda and John Guy.


Dearest Edith:
    We are off tonight to Leningrad, having had a very interesting trip thru Oslo, Stockholm, and now three days here. Miss Orrman and Mrs. Snellman have been perfect jewels. Needless to say they are having a very hard time in Finland, as it is so close to Russia that conservatism has grown strong and repression more deadly every day.
    You will receive copies of the reports so I will not take up time for that.
    Your letters received, and I think the plan of your trip around the world on a 150  . ticket is something that should have great thought, for if you do that your time should be planned, letters of introduction from all sides given you and much preparation made before you go. I am not sure, however, just what the future of the International Center must be. For instance, I am deeply disappointed with the Scandinavian countries, and especially the women. They need to be awakened from their lethargy and I am seriously considering the advisability of our having a world tour of at least six or eight months with as many of us as could go, together, to organize conferences for educational purposes in each country.  These Scandinavian countries all need stirring up. Publicity is good. I think we could get such an idea going if we had a little money to start the groups in each country. July and August are bad months. Everyone is away on a holiday. This of course can all wait until we meet in London, but I am just thinking of the possibility of your postponing your world-wide tour until a few of us can get  together and have Conferences as we go along.
    It would be a big undertaking, and it would take a year to prepare for it, but feel quite certain it is the next necessary step if we want to get world-wide action. Please be thinking of this and discuss it with your Council members. I will write you again from Leningrad. I think the idea of having your photograph and Gerda’s in the pamphlet a good one. In using one of me, however, please use the one enclosed, as I think it is more alive and has more spirit than the one on the Pond circular.
    Much love to you all. As ever,

Marjorie Martin reported the cost of living in Geneva was high and it would be expensive for the BCIIC  to rent two rooms and  hire a secretary able to read and write  French, German and English. The Council did agree they wanted to have some sort of bulletin or quarterly journal.
Tells EHM that she is going to “tie things up in Washington” so that she can devote her time to international work for a few years. Says there are many angles and proposals to consider. “One is that another Birth Control Conference in Geneva might be worthwhile, leaving behind us International Headquarters in that city.”

Knows that Edith [How-Martyn] usually keeps her informed, but wanted to respond to some details in her last letter from the London Council. They are “dismayed” by her suggestion that she resign the presidency. Says that her temporary absence would be difficult, but “if you withdraw altogether there would hardly be any Centre left.” Notes that Edith is going to India on her own finances, and that “We find is so difficult to raise funds that we have practically no margin over the running expenses of the office, and we have weighed the respective claims of foreign journeys and the maintenance of our Headquarters, and have been compelled to limit the appropriation for the Indian journey to £100.”

My dearest Margaret.
    I am sending you the enclosed hoping it will arouse in you as it has in me a vigorous feeling of the need of an international magazine scientific and dignified, which will put Dr. Marie Stopes in her proper perspective. I am sick of her self agrandisement and her arrogant self assertions. Last month she thoroughly slandered Dr Newfield accusing him as she always does of being in league with the commercial concerns and scoffing at his little book “Parenthood”, which we regard as the best we have, on this side of the ocean, for the average individual.
    My dear, it is high time that we had a recognized international leader, and you are normally and naturally it, but you are too far away. It may seem ridiculous to say “retire from your arduous labours and as a rest cure take on the world!”, but we will help you, I feel sure we would all help you, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, England, Germany, Checko, Slovakia, Poland, Spain, South Africa, Australia, India, I am sure we would all feel more united, if you sat in Geneva let us say 1/2 the year and presided over us with Marjorie Martin as your right hand, and I think to our other plans of a library, a training centre, a reading ↑lecture↓ room we should add an organ of some kind which gave the international news; and which put Marie Stopes in her proper perspective.

    The world needs you!

    Make your plans soon! Love  Gerda

    The “International Council” meets for the 2nd time here to-morrow. This letter is entirely private.


Preface by Michael Fielding

 BCIIC founded in 1928.  In 1932  BCIIC held a “Malthusian Ball” to raise funds for propaganda.

”Those “present agree to form a Council and ask Mrs. Crosfield to join.” Discuss getting support for conference in India  and money raising. Prefer Conference in Spain to Geneva or Warsaw, agreed that work is most urgently needed in China, India and Japan. Those present: Drs. Jefferey Samuel, D. A. Crow, Edith Summerskill, Maurice Newfield, Frida Laski and How-Martyn
Johnson reports on efforts for fundraisers, esp. a Cocktail Party given by Mrs. Norman Laski, Frida’s cousin, “Edith and Mrs. Guy of course attended, and I hear that the function was a big success--both from the point of view of getting a move on with preparations for the Dance and also from that of making new contacts for the Centre. E.H-M told me that she had got hold of five new people that afternoon that would become subscribers to the I.I.C.”
“In the past quarter both the Society for the Provision of Birth Control Clinics and the Birth Control International Information Centre have amalgamated with the National Birth Control Association. This reorganization augurs well for the future of the movement, should both enlarge its opportunities and increase its capacity to take advantage of them.”  
Like the rest of ↑the world &↓ this country, this Centre of ours is in a financial crisis. The Guys also have had some more↓misfortunes and will not be able to continue their help on anything like the same generous scale as hitherto, and I am now busy in writing to ever person I can think of who may be able to help us ....” “Now darling Margaret this is not to worry you but in case the office had to be closed I did not want it to come as too much of a shock.”    
Warsaw “Neither Frida Laski nor Gerda could manage to go to Warsaw to make preliminary enquiries about holding  a Conference
“I was exceedingly interested yesterday to have your letter and to hear that you are contemplating coming over here and establishing international headquarters in Geneva...Preparations, or I should say, negotiations for the clinic here go exceedingly slowly.  We are hoping to get it established as part of the health activities of the Cartel d’ Hygiene de la Suisse Romande,  The President and some of the Committee are very sympathetic, but whether we shall be able to instill into them the courage and vision necessary, I don’t yet know...”
Created by Cathy Hajo .
Last edited by Cathy Hajo .