"A born writer, especially a born story-teller. Dr. Sutherland, who is distinguished in medicine, is an amateur in the sense that he only writes when he has nothing better to do. But when he does, it could hardly be done better." G.K. Chesterton.
On this day one-hundred years ago, Britain was in the grip of an election campaign. The polling that took place on Wednesday 15th November 1922 led to the formation of a conservative government under Bonar Law.
Like other lobbyists and special interest groups, Dr. Marie Stopes wanted to influence candidates to implement her preferred agenda. As president of the Society for Constructive Birth Control and Racial Progress, she arranged for letters (printed on the Society’s letterhead) to be sent to parliamentary candidates. It read:
RE THE PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION.
The problems of population and the Race have been much before the public in the last year or two, and thoughtful people are agreed that unfortunately an ever-increasing proportion of those born are from C3 stock, while the better grade families are scarcely reproducing themselves.
As scientific knowledge is now available it can rectify this national evil, and as it is at the same time a great personal boon to the over-burdened mother, I am sure you will agree that it is a prime duty of the Ministry of Health to make it available to all such.
Please let me know whether, if you are elected to Parliament, your vote will be on the side of this obvious reform.
Yours very faithfully,
Marie C. Stopes
President, C.B.C.British Library Western Manuscripts. Stopes Papers MS58560 (1922) Vol. CXIV (ff. 235). Questionnaire to Parliamentary Candidates; 1922.
Enclosed with the letter was a declaration which could be signed, folded and returned by mail. This read:
I agree that the present position of breeding chiefly from the C3 population and burdening and discouraging the A1 is nationally deplorable, and if I am elected to Parliament I will press the Ministry of Health to give such scientific information through the Ante-Natal Clinics, Welfare Centres and other institutions in its control as will curtail the C3 and increase the A1.
Parliamentary candidate for the ……………………………………. Party.
November 1922.”British Library Western Manuscripts. Stopes Papers MS58560 (1922) Vol. CXIV (ff. 235). Questionnaire to Parliamentary Candidates; 1922.
It used to be that the disciples and hagiographers of Stopes stated that the Mothers’ Clinic was a family planning operation advising poor women to space births for the health of the mother and child. If asked about her eugenic views, they would tell the story about Stopes objection to her daughter-in-law’s myopia, giving the impression that it was of a nasty but essentially trivial and domestic nature. As more and more people have become aware of Stopes’ eugenic agenda, the disciples have had to concede that while they admired her work in relation to contraception, they deplore her support for eugenics, and in doing so they present these activities as concurrent but otherwise separate. The Election Questionnaire sent to parliamentary candidates one-hundred years ago today reveals that Stopes’ promotion of contraception was inextricably entwined with her eugenic beliefs and that the separation is false.