"As a nurse, I was in contact with the ill and the infirm. I knew something about the health and disease of bodies, but for a long time, I was baffled at the tremendous personal problems of life, of marriage, of living, and of just being. Here indeed was a challenge to “build beyond thyself.” Where was I to begin? I found the answer at every door. [...]
For these beliefs I was denounced, arrested, I was in and out of police courts and higher courts, and indictments hung over my life for several years. But nothing could alter my beliefs. Because I saw these as truths, I stubbornly stuck to my convictions."
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Only in 1965 did the practice of contraception become legal between married couples in the United States, through a 1965 Supreme Court decision, Griswold v. Connecticut. Only a few months later, on September 6, 1966, Margaret Sanger, a nurse, and the founder of the US birth control movement, died at the age of 86.
(See bottom of article for details of summer internships at the Margaret Sanger institute.)
Margaret Sanger's 1953 speech about standing up to the authorities to defend her convictions
This I believe, first of all: that all our basic convictions must be tested and transmuted in the crucible of experience–and sometimes, the more bitter the experience, the more valid the purified belief.
As a child, one of a large family, I learned that the thing I did best was the thing I liked to do. This realization of doing and getting results was what I have later called an awakening consciousness.
There is an old Indian proverb which has inspired me in the work of my adult life. “Build thou beyond thyself, but first be sure that thou, thyself, be strong and healthy in body and mind.” To build, to work, to plan to do something, not for yourself, not for your own benefit, but “beyond thyself”–and when this idea permeates the mind, you begin to think in terms of a future. I began to think of a world beyond myself when I first took an interest in nursing the sick.
As a nurse
As a nurse, I was in contact with the ill and the infirm. I knew something about the health and disease of bodies, but for a long time, I was baffled at the tremendous personal problems of life, of marriage, of living, and of just being. Here indeed was a challenge to “build beyond thyself.” Where was I to begin? I found the answer at every door. For I began to believe there was something I could do toward increasing an understanding of these basic human problems. To build beyond myself, I must tap all inner resources of stamina and courage, of resolution within myself. I was prepared to face opposition, even ridicule, denunciation. But I had also to prepare myself, in defense of these unpopular beliefs, I had to prepare myself to face courts and even prisons. But I resolved to stand up, alone if necessary, against all the entrenched forces which opposed me.
Supported by patients; harassed by authorities
I started my battle some forty years ago. The women and mothers whom I wanted to help, also wanted to help me; they, too, wanted to build beyond the self, in creating healthy children and bringing them up in life to be happy and useful citizens. I believed it was my duty to place motherhood on a higher level than enslavement and accident. I was convinced we must care about people; we must reach out to help them in their despair.
For these beliefs I was denounced, arrested, I was in and out of police courts and higher courts, and indictments hung over my life for several years. But nothing could alter my beliefs. Because I saw these as truths, I stubbornly stuck to my convictions.
Something had to be done
No matter what it may cost in health, in misunderstanding, in sacrifice, something had to be done, and I felt that I was called by the force of circumstances to do it. Because of my philosophy and my work, my life has been enriched and full. My interests have expanded from local conditions and needs, to a world horizon, where peace on earth may be achieved when children are wanted before they are conceived. A new conciousness will take place, a new race will be born to bring peace on earth. This belief has withstood the crucible of my life’s joyous struggle. It remains my basic belief today.
This I believe–at the end, as at the beginning of my long crusade for the future of the human race.
From a speech made by Margaret Sanger, a population activist, in November 1953, known as "This I believe".
The original electronic source is at
Listen to an on Edward R. Murrow's This I Believe radio program, provided to the Sanger Project by the National Public Radio. The text of the speech below comes from Margaret Sanger's Papers at the Library of Congress (130:620). Several earlier drafts of the speech appear on the Sanger microfilm, but this version is the closest to the one spoken by Sanger.
Summer Internships at the Margaret Sanger Papers Project in New York
Contact: Cathy Moran Hajo [mailto:cathy.hajo[AT]nyu.edu] Sent: Fri 16/01/2009 15:54 Subject: Summer Internships at the Margaret Sanger Papers Project in New York The Margaret Sanger Papers Project is pleased to announce its summer internship program for 2009. We seek applications from graduate or advanced undergraduate students to work with the editorial staff at the Project's offices in New York City. This is a wonderful opportunity for students to become proficient in primary and secondary research, and the process of editing historical documents for publication. Interns can apply for internships working with the book or digital edition.
BOOK INTERNSHIP: Interns will be working on Volume IV of the Selected Papers of Margaret Sanger, covering the years 1920-1966 and focusing on her efforts to create a global birth control movement. Interns will work under the supervision of editors on specific topics, tracing people, places, events and issues covered in the documents. The research will be used to produce annotation and introductory material for the volume. Research will be conducted in the Project's offices, using the comprehensive microfilm edition and other primary sources, as well as at local libraries and with resources available on the Internet.
DIGITAL INTERNSHIP: We have two digital projects available for interns this summer.
1) We are preparing a digital edition on Margaret Sanger's 1922 trip to Japan for the Women and Social Movements web collection. Interns will transcribe, encode, and conduct research for essays and interpretation on the documents for this small collection.
2) We are also continuing work on our digital edition of Sanger's speeches and articles, focusing on texts written by Margaret Sanger in the 1930s.
Interns will be proofread the texts, add XML encoding, and draft subject index entries for the documents. Interns will conduct research as needed to verify dates, titles, and publication information, or to identify the names of people, organizations and books mentioned in the documents.
More information and application information can be located on our website, at:
http://www.nyu.edu/projects/sanger/aboutmspp/internships.html The deadline for applications is March 1, 2009.
Cathy Moran Hajo, Ph.D.
Associate Editor/Assistant Director The Margaret Sanger Papers Project Department of History, New York University
53 Washington Square South New York, NY 10012 (212) 998-8666 (212) 995-4017 (fax)
[email protected] Visit our website at: http://www.nyu.edu/projects/sanger