Margaret Sanger’s Eugenic Legacy, The Control of Female Fertility, by Angela Franks, Selected Quotes


Margaret Sanger’s Eugenic Legacy by Angela Franks published in 2005 is one of the very best scholarly works on The Control of Female Fertility. Feminists who hold Margaret Sanger as the patroness saint of the modern woman will not be pleased with this exhaustive study of Sanger’s “Genuine commitment to the eugenic ideology.” p. 1.

This book benefits from the rigorous academic accountability of Franks’ dissertation committee (on her non-dissertation topic) at Boston College.

The book is a must read for both the Planned Parenthood historian and the pro-life anti-abortionist.

On page five Franks begins with a quote from Margaret Sanger in 1955,

I see no wider meaning of family planning than control…[T]here…are some families…where restriction should be an order for the betterment of the…race.

Sanger was able to implement her ideal of Utopian control because she was, “A most capable administrator and detail-person…and held her own in a male-dominated world.” p. 5-6.

[H]er organizational genius effectively [determined] the contours of the…population control [movement]. This ideology of Sanger’s I call “the ideology of control.” p. 8

Franks frames the debate asking, “[C]an the liberation of women be built on the control of their bodies? Emphasis in original, p. 6. She continues,

How could a feminist advocate forced sterilization? Why did Sanger participate so extensively in the eugenics movement?

Sanger of course assumed her views to be rational, evening claiming their scientific necessity.

[Sanger must be taken] seriously precisely because she has been so influential and, I believe, dangerous. p. 7.

Sanger was-and her philosophy is- “dangerous” because “Sanger believed that…[controlling] reproduction…was a matter of power. [And] certain classes of people should not be parents.” p. 7.

Franks makes a compelling argument that Margaret Sanger is an ideologue, “I use the term “ideology” to indicate a worldview that obfuscates reality to such a degree that the person holding these beliefs is simply unable to recognize what is really the case.” p. 8-9.

Ideology obscures reality…of control…[woman as] an “at-risk reproducer…” p.9.


Heiress of Margaret Sanger,

Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood,

in Vogue tells of her aborted child

[not pictured]

not included in Frank’s work

Franks presents a diplomatic analysis of research of Sanger’s life because there seems to be conflicting documentation on the motives of the founder of Planned Parenthood. But Franks has solved this contradiction in the Margaret Sanger historical record.

Franks notes, “Sanger [would be] saying one thing in public while confiding quite a different belief in private letters to her friends.” p.11.

Franks calls this “equivocation.” p. 11. Perhaps the more accurate description of Margaret Sanger and her Planned Parenthood offspring would be “duplicitous.”


Sanger “equates abortion with… birth control” p. 11.

Sanger “promoted a sexuality on the phallocentric model: pleasure without commitment.” p. 14.

“Race” for Sanger meant the “human race.” p. 15.

Franks depicts Sanger’s reasoning, “A large family is the sign of being unfit. In Sanger’s worldview, the poor are poor because the are unfit, and they have large families because they are unfit.” p. 16.

Franks quotes Sanger where she insisted,

[T]hat eugenics must target whole classes: I am frank to say that I do not see how it is possible to ‘sort out individual values within each class’ and make an ‘individual selection’ of those fit to reproduce, nor am I at all sure that such selection would be really eugenic. p. 17, footnoted, Margaret Sanger to Frederick Osborn, 12/29/39.

“The organizations that Sanger founded echo her fundamental aim: “To contribute directly and effectively to the raising the quality of our people in every walk of life…”…”Quality, not Quantity.” p. 22

“Mabel Dodge, in a famous story, reminisced that Sanger was “the first person I ever knew who was openly an ardent propagandist for the joys of the flesh.”” p.23. footnoted, Quoted in Chesler, 96.

Sanger’s vision was-is-to “control female fertility instead of male desire.” p. 25

“Eugenics is advocated by members of a self-anointed elite…who know better than the rest and who ought to have the power to control society.” p. 26

“Neo-Malthusianism insisted on the eugenic and economic necessity of getting the poor to limit their fertility…” p. 28

“Sanger clearly supported the assassination of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who, ironically would become her greatest financial supporter…A criminal charge of inciting assassination was brought against her…” p. 29. A reverse Stockholm Syndrome?

“Brooklyn [was]…inhabited by immigrant Jews and Italians…in 1916. Planned Parenthood dates its founding from from the establishment of this clinic [in Brooklyn].” p. 33.

Franks cites a recurring theme of Sanger and Planned Parenthood complaining of, “those who should never have been born.” p 33-34. footnoted, American Birth Control League, “What We Stand For.”

Sanger, “[N]ever worked well with others in the birth-control movement unless it was understood that she was in charge.” p. 35. Margaret Sanger had to be in control of, well, everything.

Sanger organized lobbying efforts to persuade legislators, but “[U]ltimately her goal was achieved not through the legislature but through the courts.” p. 35. Culminating in Roe v Wade.

“Sanger shared…the belief that male leadership was important for the birth-control movement’s fund-raising and general success.” p. 36 (!)

“Sanger’s eugenic ideas were…attractive to the rich, who often perceived their wealth as a demonstration of their innate genetic superiority.” p. 37.

John D. Rockefller, Jr. donated to the American Eugenics Society — he agreed with the philosophy and mission of AES that, “moral people are born, not made; the criminal is a defective…” p.38. This should not be confused with the Calvinistic tenet of the Total Depravity of the human condition.

The upper-class ladies of Manhattan wrote, “Margaret was rather like a lion tamer. She kept us each on our boxes until she needed us–and then we jumped and jumped fast.” p. 39.

Margaret Sanger and the Eugenics movement defined “unfit” as “poor, disabled, sickly, alcoholics, impaired mental capacity, feeble-minded [whatever that is] idiots, imbeciles, morons…she was a committed negative eugenicist.” p. 40-41. Meaning that negative human qualities-as she defined them-were to be breeded out or eliminated. Positive eugenics was the encouraging of the “good” qualities to be expanded in the human gene pool. Usually seen in rich white people, like Margaret Sanger. “A self-anointed elite…” p. 41.

“Sanger does not seem to have been an overt racist.” p. 43. She merely enjoyed the company and patronage and donations of people who were racists. And the occasional speech to the KKK. Sanger is never pictured wearing a white hood. Sanger simply divided mankind into the “fit” and unfit using, “Such eugenic criteria as poverty, intelligence and disability…” p. 43. The “Negro” was grouped with the “unfit.”

Some might consider Margaret Sanger a racist because of her “Negro Project.” This was her Planned Parenthood program “to promote contraceptive use among Southern blacks, arguing that there is a need to recruit African-American doctors and ministers to carry out the [Birth Control Federation of America’s] plan.” Here is her letter to Clarence Gamble whose fortune came from the Proctor and Gamble soap company,

It seems to me from my experience where I have been in North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Texas, that while the colored Negroes have great respect for white doctors they can get closer to their own members and more or less lay their cards on the table which means their ignorance, superstitions and doubts…The ministers [sic] work is also important and also he should be trained, perhaps by the Federation as to our ideals and the goal that we hope to reach. p. 43.

Here is the quote of most concern to the Margaret Sanger defender,

We do not want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population,” writes Sanger, “[A]nd the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.” p. 43. Margaret Sanger does not use the phrase, “Uppity Negros.” Not quite.


Margaret Sanger has become a parody

of feminism and Planned Parenthood,

as seen in this mock photo,

“I accepted an invitation to talk

to the women’s branch

of the Ku Klux Klan” from her Autobiography

not included in Frank’s work


To create a race of thoroughbreds

“Banner on the cover of the November 1921 issue of the Birth Control Review…” p. 49.

So how does Margaret Sanger sell her utopia? Angela Franks tells us, “The whole process would require a huge propaganda system mobilizing the hegemonic forces of ideological dissemination, from academia to Madison Avenue: “But to motivate people, mass education…you need psychologists, you need people who’ve been in the advertising business, you need all types of businessmen, all kinds of people putting this puzzle together to make it effective.” ” p. 48.

Sanger was a master of “[T]he new public-relation situation,” selling “Quality, not quantity…” p. 51.

“To the end of her life, Sanger persisted in a eugenically compromised conception of freedom, which could not rid itself of the impulse to manipulate the marginalized.” And, “In the last years of her life…her growing loneliness led to greater dependence on Demerol and alcohol…At…her last public appearance, the toll that her addictions had taken was reportedly evident.” p. 54.

So how did Planned Parenthood and Margaret Sanger get funded? “[W]ealthly businessmen were becoming interested in the supposed connection between population and economic stability.” p. 55.

William Vogt served as national director in 1951 and made famous with the best seller, Road to Survival (1948) liked to shock physicians. Franks quotes Vogt, “Why are you trying to save the lives of children, when you’ll doom them to starvation?” p. 55.

“[Alan Guttmacher] was a longtime advocate of eugenic sterilization for the mentally disabled.” p.56.

Franks quotes Guttmacher, “The fecundity suddenly bestowed upon the diabetic in 1922 by the boon of insulin is not a pure blessing, certainly not a genetic blessing.” p. 56.

Guttmacher “[B]elieved in aborting a disabled fetus for “eugenic reasons.”” p. 58.

It is the contention of this book that the lens through which Planned Parenthood views female fertility is largely eugenic… p. 60.

Planned Parenthood wants, “the option of aborting fetuses with disabilities…reducing human persons to a utilitarian calculus…” p. 63.


“Sanger solved [selling eugenics] by proposing propaganda for the many and coercion for the resisting few.” p. 71.

“Planned Parenthood frequently egage[d] in million-dollar ad campaigns to sway public opinion.” p. 87.

“Guttmacher was never a friend of the eugenic targets, the disabled and the poor.” p. 88.

“[Planned Parenthood views the] disabled people as diseases, first and foremost, reducing their humanity and personhood to an afterthought.” p.89.

Not cited but reflecting the movie Minority Report and echoing C. Everett Koop, MD, Franks writes of “”search and destroy” abortions…”genetic discrimination.”” p. 90.

“The basic eugenic attitude could thus confuse the prevention of a disability with the elimination of the disabled.” p. 92.

“Walter Glannon has recently argued that “genetically defective” fetuses should be aborted…eerily echoing the Nazi condemnation of “life unworthy of life.”” p.92.

“Sir Douglas Black, past president of the Royal College of Physicians in Great Britain, said, “[I]t would be ethical to put a rejected child upon a course of management that would end in its death…I say that it is ethical that a child suffering from Down’s syndrome…should not survive.” p. 93.

“As we saw in Sanger’s groundbreaking account of the relation of “woman” to “the new race” (and as in Nazi Germany), the burden of eugenic responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of women, and thus they become the target of both propaganda and direct coercion.” p. 93.

“A 1991 study reported that 85 percent of genetic counselors in training were willing to participate in fetal sex-selection tests upon requests.” p.94.

“The eugenics movement has used arguments based on cost-effectiveness with great success…” p. 94.

“On the January 15, 2001, episode of Politically Incorrect, Host Bill Maher equated his two dogs with mentally disabled children. “I’ve often said if I had two retarded children, I’d be a hero, and yet the dogs, which are pretty much the same thing–what?” quipped Maher. Children with disabilities are “sweet,” “loving,” and “kind, but they don’t mentally advance at all…Dogs are like retarded children.” p. 94.

“Persons with disabilities threaten to disrupt a…social economy [of consumerist values]” p. 97.

“Mary Steichen Calderone, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s medical director from 1953 to 1964, recalled that… “Sanger…disliked physicians.”” p. 109.

“Clarence James Gamble (1894-1966)…heir to some of the Procter and Gamble fortune…did not need to work for a living and was able to dedicate…full-time…[to] eugenics work.” p. 112.

“Sanger was so supportive of Gamble’s efforts that she hoped he would take over her position as president of IPPF in 1953.” p. 119.

“Research promoted by the population-control lobby…openly acknowledged…[surveys were] a tool that could be used in a way “similar to any market research project: to demonstrate the existence of a demand for goods and services”…[where] demographers …were…salespeople…” p. 154.

“Eugenicist Frederick Osborn [held] the chief administrative position in the Population Council. …Perhaps…chosen because his experience in propaganda as the head of the U.S. Army and Air Force Information and Education Division during World War II…” p. 159.

Eugenicists and Planned Parenthood wanted to destroy the family unit to advance their ideology, “Germaine Greer quotes demographer Kingsley Davis’s testimony before the House Select Committee on Population in 1978: “If you want to adopt very extreme means of controlling fertility I can immediately think of some, such as breaking down the family system, for example, by not giving children the family name of the parents; in fact not letting them know who the parents are and vice versa. Soon the motivation for having children would be seriously reduced.”” p. 176.

Franks quotes Margaret Sanger, 1926, “[A]sk the government to first take off the burdens of the insane and feebleminded from your backs. Sterilization for these is the remedy.” p. 179

When one group is designated inferior and stripped of its rights, all marginalized persons–and always women and girls–are thereby endangered; this is the vital lesson that the history of eugenics can teach feminism.” p. 183.

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes pre-judges as in the theme of the movie Minority Report, and Franks quotes, “It is better for all the world if, instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crimes or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind…Three generations of imbeciles is enough.” p. 183.

“Margaret Sanger demonstrated the depth of her allegiance to the eugenic party line by advocating the sterilization of all “defectives.” p. 187.

Planned Parenthood’s “Guttmacher believed being poor was a sufficient indication for the permanent removal of fertility.” p. 190.

In chapter seven Franks begins Selling Out the Sisterhood, with a quote from Linda Beglio, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, “Screw the patients, spend your money on politics.” Cited by Alfred F. Moran, PPFA Annual Meeting, October 31, 1981. p. 203.

“Poor women have come to be looked upon simply as “at-risk reproducers”…a flattening of female identify…” p. 204

Children reduce discretionary spending, “Which will you choose, progeny or purchasing power?” p. 236.

To Margaret Sanger, “Human beings (and, therefore, women) do not have an innate dignity. They are like a commodity that loses its value when the market is flooded. These worthless people in turn became the ignorant, idle, impoverished class. Thus, “woman has, through her reproductive ability, founded and perpetuated the tyrannies of the Earth.” p. 241.

Margaret Sanger writes,

By all means there should be no children when mother (or father) suffers from such diseases as tuberculosis, gonorrhea…cancer…or mental disorders…no more children should be born when the parents, though healthy themselves, find that their children are physically or mentally defective. No matter how much they desire children, no man and woman have a right to bring into the world those who are sure to suffer from mental or physical affliction. It condemns the child to a life of misery and places upon the community the burden of caring for them, probably of their defective descendants for many generations. p. 242.

Angela Franks quotes Germaine Greer,

All the time women have been agitating for freedom and self-determination they have been coming more and more under a kind of control that they cannot even protest against. Feminists used to demand the right to to control by others.; what we got was the duty to submit our bodies to control by others. Much of what is done to women in the name of health has no rationale beyond control.” p. 249

In the Chapter Notes Angela Franks writes about herself, “My perspective is that of a feminist (that is, one with a special commitment to furthering justice for women)…” p.259.

In addition to abandoning her children, Margaret Sanger may not have been much of a mother nor much of a cook, “she always burned the cocoa.” p. 261.

“Sanger honestly states her distaste for the poor, a standard component of basic eugenic attitude: “I hated the wretchedness and hopelessness of the poor, and never experienced the satisfaction in working among them that so many noble women have found.”” p. 263.

“It should be noted that Sanger never worked as a professional social worker.” p. 273.


Thank you (foot)notes:

Be sure to follow Your Business Blogger(R) and Charmaine on Twitter: @JackYoest and @CharmaineYoest

Jack and Charmaine also blog at Reasoned Audacity and at Management Training of DC, LLC.

Margaret Sanger and KKK salute.jpg


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