Tuesday 2 April 2024

Before progressives were progressive about race


The Progressive movement in the USA in the first quarter of the last century were not like modern progressives. Carrie Chapman Catt was an American Emily Pankhurst - a leading suffragette who founded the International Woman Suffrage Alliance in 1904. She argued that "White supremacy will be strengthened, not weakened, by women's suffrage" because more white women than black ones would vote.

The American equivalent of Marie Stopes was birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger. In What Every Girl Should Know (1912) she said, "The lower down in the scale of human development we go the less sexual control we find. It is said that the aboriginal Australian, the lowest known species of the human family, just a step higher than the chimpanzee in brain development, has so little sexual control that police authority alone prevents him from obtaining sexual satisfaction on the streets."

Mrs. Sanger, like everyone in her era, sharply distinguished abortion from birth control. She believed that the latter to be a fundamental right of women and the former a shameful crime.

The accusation that she (like very many of her age) was a eugenicist might be untrue or exaggerated, although she did not want 'severely retarded people' to have children. Eugenicists generally did not favour birth control except for the unfit. Her words
 “We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population” have been taken completely out of context in the US Culture Wars.

I am free of internet addiction, I hope, and am reading books, including a book I long wanted to read, David Southern's The Progressive Era and Race Reaction and Reform, 1900 - 1917.

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