Marie Stopes - Advocacy of Eugenics

Advocacy of Eugenics

Stopes was a supporter of eugenics, in line with the progressive thinking of the era. (See for example, Havelock Ellis, John Maynard Keynes and Cyril Burt.) As a child she had met the founder of the Eugenics movement, Francis Galton, both through the British Association for the Advancement of Science and socially through her father. In 1912 she attended the inaugural congress of the Eugenics Society. When she came to write her works on marriage and birth control, it was not strange that they were infused with eugenics theories.

In an age when there was a piece of legislation on the books called The Mental Deficiency Act 1913, which described not only people it categorized as idiots and imbeciles, but also those who were "moral defectives" and "feeble-minded", Stopes, mentioning "the inferior, the depraved, and the feeble-minded", advocated "the sterilisation of those totally unfit for parenthood made an immediate possibility, indeed made compulsory."

She contributed a chapter to The Control of Parenthood (1920), comprising a sort of manifesto for her circle of Eugenicists, arguing for a "utopia" to be achieved through "racial purification":

Those who are grown up in the present active generations, the matured and hardened, with all their weaknesses and flaws, cannot do very much, though they may do something with themselves. They can, however, study the conditions under which they came into being, discover where lie the chief sources of defect, and eliminate those sources of defect from the coming generation so as to remove from those who are still to be born the needless burdens the race has carried.

However, in this tract, she argues that the leading causes of "racial degeneration" are "overcrowding" and sexually transmitted disease. It concludes somewhat vaguely, that racial consciousness needs to be increased so that, "women of all classes have the fear and dread of undesired maternity removed from them ..." to usher in the promised utopia, described throughout.

In 1935 Stopes attended the International Congress for Population Science in Berlin, held in the second year of Hitler's rule. She was more than once accused of being anti-Semitic by other pioneers of the birth control movement such as Havelock Ellis. She was also anti-Prussian, anti-Catholic and anti-Russian, if one can judge by the following unpublished piece of crude verse, written in 1942, at the height of the struggle with the Axis powers.

Catholics, Prussians,
The Jews and the Russians,
All are a curse,
Or something worse...

Stopes, who was ever ready to promote her writings, sent a copy of her Love Songs for Young Lovers to Adolf Hitler with the following cover letter:

Dear Herr Hitler,
Love is the greatest thing in the world: so will you accept from me these (poems) that you may allow the young people of your nation to have them?
The young must learn love from the particular 'till they are wise enough for the universal.
I hope too that you yourself may find something to enjoy in the book.
(letter from Marie Stopes to Hitler, August 1939)

Her aim was to have her poems distributed through the German birth clinics, but the letter has been interpreted as showing sympathy for Hitler. However, any sympathy she may have had would soon have dissipated when Hitler closed the birth control clinics. On 12 July 1940 she wrote to Churchill to offer a slogan, "Fight the Battle of Britain in Berlin's Air".

Read more about this topic:  Marie Stopes