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Hello all, Dave here. Below are 10 short letters, and a paragraph of crucial urgency.
I have been married six years, at the age of seventeen. Am twenty-three now. It seems I can’t keep out of the family way. Have had six children, four living and two dead. One I lost in a tornado, the other about a week ago, which was eight months, born dead. My husband only makes $25.00 per week [$330 in 2011], and pays $32.00 per month rent and all other household expenses, we never have anything left. The children are such an expense and after they go to school it will be much harder. Charities have helped out at times when my husband was sick one whole winter and every year there is another arrival. I don’t have any enjoyment out of life, staying at home all the while. I will not have anything out of life but worry, children and cares.
I have had five children, my oldest died when ten months old. I expect my sixth next month and this is eleven and one half years in which I haven’t enjoyed no life at all. When my children are small I can’t go nowhere, and as soon as I think I have a little rest from a baby I’m getting another. I am thirty years old and I feel older than my mother which only had two of us. My father would not bring more into the world than he could bring up decent; but my husband is different. He does not want any children, and still he is not careful, but brings them into the world.
When he knows it’s coming he treats me in the worst way because I don’t get rid of it. I have always tried drugs the first couple of weeks but they don’t do me any good. I get them just the same. I am just wishing I would die giving birth to this child if I can’t stop having any more, but I feel sorry for those children that I have. If they were treated the right way by their father for every little thing he scolds them and hits them instead of teaching them.
I can’t see why in the world God gives children to such a man.
I was married when I was seventeen and am now twenty-eight. I have four living children and had two miscarriages. My last child is nine months old. I had no doctor for two hours after she was born and only the assistance of a neighbor; I laid on the bathroom floor until they could get a doctor and nearly got blood poison [sepsis] and am still suffering from milk leg as the result of my last baby’s birth. I had to get up and start right to work as my husband doesn’t make enough money to hire help and keep a family of six.
It is so hard in the winter time with so much coal to buy and winter clothing. I get heart-sick.
There is no joy in living. I am only twenty-eight and am penned up till I can’t have half an hour to myself. Please, please help poor people like us.
If we have any more I don’t know what we will do. We don’t even own our own home and it seems like we never have a cent left. I don’t know what a new dress or box of powder is like any more.
Is there much use, dear Margaret Sanger, in living for people like me? I have the fear of pregnancy on my mind all the time. If I try to stay away from my husband, he is terrible mean to me and says awful things to me. He doesn’t seem to think what I have suffered, having my babies and what a terrible worry it is when they are sick and how hard it is to make over old clothing and I don’t know what else. I could go on with my troubles and fill a book, but for God’s sake please help me with your knowledge so I need not have any more as I have heart trouble and I would like to be here and raise these four than to have more and maybe die.
I am a young woman twenty-five years old and I have four children. Three living and one dead. I wish to God that you would give me some information how to prevent from having any more children. My husband is sickly and half-times we haven’t anything to eat, and I have two of the children that must go through an operation. One has a running neck since he was one year old,—gland trouble, and he is going on five years now. It looks like it will never heal and I can’t get the money to have him operated on. He is a pretty child, and the baby is five months. He is ruptured. I am almost crazy. My sleep is all broke up at nights as the baby suffers with the rupture.
I am a slave. I don’t know what it is to get out. If it hadn’t been for people giving me cast-off clothes I don’t know what I would do. If you would only help me and tell me how to prevent from having any more I would be more than thankful. I don’t think I could stand it to have any more. I am all run down.
Can you help me any way from suffering to bring children into the world to suffer and die? I am twenty-two years of age. Married when only seventeen. I was married only seven months when I became pregnant and lost it at three months, and in eleven months more I had a tiny girl baby born to me and until this day she looks like death and in one year and eight months I had a little boy born and now am expecting to be confined every day. I have done everything in this world that I know to do and nothing seems to help in any way.
My husband and I are both discouraged. I never wanted any babies until I had a home for them and now I have the babies and no home yet for them. My husband and I have both worked just as hard as we could ever since we married and it seems like we never get anything ahead, but a doctor bill from one birth to another. I would rather die than to have the fourth one, but I did not know all this trouble until it was too late.
I have three children and [am] expecting another shortly, and the oldest was just three years old last month, so you can see my plight. If there is something very sure that can prevent the coming of another child for many years I’d surely be thankful to you.
I’d like a rest. To tell the truth I’m only twenty-one years old and I’d like to enjoy myself a little while I’m young. Also be a playmate to my children instead of just a cranky impatient nervous tired mother (if such a person can be called a mother). I don’t feel that I could call my mother that if she felt and acted like I feel.
I have two small children twenty months apart, the baby now seven weeks old and am twenty-one years myself. You might know what this means to me to care for two babies at this age when it simply stopped my being with my friends who can still be free to go, although I would do anything for my two children to help them go through a decent life. I am constantly living in fear of becoming pregnant again so soon. Mother gave birth to twelve children.
I am only eighteen years old and have one child a year old and am expecting another. I did not want another child for three or four years at least, but now I feel that two children will be all that I can take care of. I feel that there is no joy in married life unless I can have a few years of freedom while I am still young.
If I could only speak to you personally,—but to write everything I have to say takes too long. The children make me too terribly nervous. I am a woman of a lot of trouble, twenty-four years old, married six years and four children, boys, the oldest is five, the baby five months. I am always sick since my first childbirth. Now I have been missing my times three months and took sick with cramps every month was up, so I went to a lady doctor to be examined. She says my bladder is out of shape, my womb is clear upped over, heart trouble and I can’t tell all what else. I am so weak, just ready to fall over, so I wanted her to doctor me up and sew me up[,] just what she thought I would need. No, by God, she would not touch me. She was afraid I’d be in the family way and might get a miscarriage. I told her if l should really be I sure would like to have a miscarriage but she would not.
Now I have tried all kinds of other pills and stuff for monthly periods but no success. I am scared to death that I really am in that way and if I do not get any help it will be born before the other is a year old. Now tell me[,] what is there no mercy for me[?] I just sit down for hours and weep away. I can’t go no place, I can’t walk with all my pain, bad large legs. I carry the baby on my arms, no baby buggie, poor clothes and seems everybody despises children nowadays.
Well, I don’t want to lose what I have got but oh, God, I do not want any more. We are poor,—hardly any furniture and not our own place.
If I do give birth to any more I will have to give them away, the poor things and who wants children, and if I keep them to mother them myself they will have to starve, where the world is so full. When my third baby was born I got heartbroken. I was sick in bed, as sick as a person can be.
I had to stay all alone in the house in bed and the two bigger ones crying without my help. My man run off to the show till midnight. When my fourth one was born I was awful sick again. He came crossways without a doctor. There was none in town. The next day my husband run seventy miles to go fishing with other men and how I was wishing I were dead. But no, I had to live to be this way again, so I do not know what to do. If I take my life, what will become of my beloved ones I got already?
I am thirty-one years of age, have had six children. Married at the age of eighteen. My husband is twenty-eight, drinks habitually, don’t think women are for anything else only to cook, wash, work in the field and have children. I don’t get stout from one time till I am that way again. I have the care of the whole family. He doesn’t ever seem in a good humor. I have tried everything I have heard of but doesn’t do any good.
I am sad, downcast, ashamed to go out in company because I have so many children and cannot fix them like other children.
I have refused sexual relation, but this causes awful quarrels, grouches and everything else. If there is anything you can do to help me I would be glad to hear from you at once. My baby is four months old so I must get busy in time or I’ll be gone again without remedy. My family physician says I have fallen womb caused by lifting things too heavy. I wish I could see you face to face and tell you all I want to. I am in despair. Can you help me? Will you help me?
Source: Margaret Sanger, Motherhood in Bondage (New York: Brentano’s, 1928), 221–237 (emphases added).
The above comes from a book of letters received by early 20th-century birth control pioneer & activist, Margaret Sanger. The title of my post today comes from the slogan of her newsletter, The Woman Rebel.
Access to birth control in this country is shameful. We have come a long way since 1928 – I’d like to point out that this book was published a year before the Great Depression hit – but we still have a long way to go. There is a petition available from Planned Parenthood, right now, with the goal of advancing a mandatory $0 co-pay for birth control in the new healthcare bill.
I’m a man; I’m pro-family, pro-child, and pro-choice. I’m also an economics student, and a fundamental principle in economics is that people respond to incentives. Some convenient, effective forms of birth control can cost as much $1200 in cash up front, even if you have insurance. We have the power to make effective, safe, and affordable birth control available to all people, regardless of income.
This is not a women’s issue. This is not a men’s issue. This is not a pro-choice nor a pro-life issue (better access to birth control = fewer abortions). The economics of this policy are sound: It costs a taxpayers/insurance pools hundreds of thousands of dollars less to pay for birth control than it does to pay for medical care, education, etc of an unwanted child, and that’s per unwanted child.
Sign the petition to make this vital part of healthcare accessible to all. Repost this to your Google+, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Email your friends and your family. Let’s make poor access to birth control history!
Until next time,
Dave Muscato is Vice President of MU SASHA. He is a junior at Mizzou majoring in economics & anthropology and minoring in philosophy & Latin, and posts updates to the SASHA blog every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday. His website is http://www.DaveMuscato.com.