Tuberculosis pioneer. Best-selling author. Convert to Catholicism. Enemy of eugenics, and eugenicists.
With these words, Dr Marie Stopes explained why she set up the Society for Constructive Birth Control and Racial Progress in 1921 to support her Holloway Mothers’ Clinic. The activities of the Society included positive and negative eugenic measures.
Positive included spacing babies so that the mother’s health could recover between confinements. Negative included campaigning for legislation to compulsory sterilize the so-called “unfit”.
Stopes’ statement was made in the High Court on 22nd February 1923, the second day of the Stopes v. Sutherland libel trial. Note that:
Dr Halliday Sutherland spoke out against Stopes’ class-based negative eugenics. Other articles on this site explain how:
Of five biographies of Dr Marie Stopes—by Aylmer Maude, Keith Bryant, Ruth Hall, June Rose, and Marian Clare Debenham—not one has correctly stated the reason for Sutherland’s attack on her work, nor made the link between Sutherland’s work fighting tuberculosis, which led to his opposition to eugenics, which led to his opposition to Stopes’ eugenic agenda. Not one.
When Sutherland spoke out, Stopes sued him for libel. He faced financial ruin until Catholics and other Christians raised money to pay his legal fees.
For all the ink printed about Stopes losing the case but gaining great publicity for her cause, one point is consistently overlooked: the Jury found that Sutherland’s defamatory statements—including that Stopes was “exposing the poor to experiment”—were true in substance and in fact.
95 years have passed since the case in the High Court, and it is time that the true story was more widely known.
Mark Sutherland, Curator, hallidaysutherland.com
“The object of the Society is, if possible, to counteract the steady evil which has been growing for a good many years of the reduction of the birth rate just on the part of the thrifty, wise, well-contented, and generally sound members of our community, and the reckless breeding from the C.3 end, and the semi-feebleminded, the careless, who are proportionately increasing in our community because of the slowing of the birth rate at the other end of the social scale. Statistics show that every year the birth rate from the worst end of our community is increasing in proportion to the birth rate at the better end, and it was in order to try to right that grave social danger that I embarked upon this work.”
Source: “The Trial of Marie Stopes [sic]”, Femina Books, 1967, p. 76.