Johnson-Flenga, Circe (transcription)
Text Item Type Metadata
BIRTH CONTROL COMMITTEE OF SYRACUSE, N.Y.
In the late autumn of 1923, the New York headquarters of the American Birth Control League, wishing to extend its usefulness and broaden its membership and influence decided to hold its State Conference in Syracuse. Mrs. Kennedy in conference with the local members of the league made tentative plans.
During the three months that followed a small nucleus chiefly of women was formed to perfect the details of the conference. It was extremely fortunate, in the light of later events, that this group of women was composed of those women who were recognised throughout the city as women of fine character and irreproachable position. Modest preparations were begun and the proceeding appeared destined to receive a mildly interested hearing when the speakers arrived.
Then came war! Our Common Council, without the shadow of a preliminary hearing or investigation and in violation of its own rules of order, suddenly decreed that the discussion of the subject of Birth Control was illegal, was a menace to the morals of our young. It absolutely prohibited the holding of the announced meeting.
Such action was a challenge to the dozen women who had sponsored the movement. What had before been perhaps an academic interest now became a cause. The Mayor of the city was besieged in his offices and the admission finally wrung from him that he had recommended the action to the Common Council, inspired by little less than an edict from the nominal head of a large section of the population. The Mayor was at first annoyed, then bewildered and finally converted by the inconvertible arguments and unassailable position of these women and actually sent a letter vetoing the measure he had himself instituted.
By this time the whole city had risen to the issue. The press devoted columns daily to the matter and the question became political, civic and religious issue of first importance. The Common Council stunned by the public outcry for fair play and bewildered by the about face of its leader, The Mayor, reluctantly consented to a public hearing before it attempted to overrule the Mayor's veto. The women promoting the Conference attended this hearing in a body, engaged brilliant legal counsel and backed by the encouragement of a solidified public opinion succeeded in sustaining the veto by a single vote.
Where lukewarm interest had been before, now was universal interest and untiring enthusiasm. One of the largest auditoriums in Syracuse was engaged for the conference, which had grown to the proportions of a mass meeting. Leaders of the city's bench, bar and pulpit, teachers, prominent society women, business leaders, professors at our university, all declared themselves for the movement. The meeting was an enormous success both in numbers and in character. Under the leadership of a dean of Syracuse University the Conference opened with an invocation by one of the city's most eminent and respected clergymen. Dr. Garth made a deep impression by his remarks. Mrs. Sanger's address was received with respect and attention.
In the afterglow of this splendid effort the local branch was organised and a constitution adopted. Plans were instituted for the creation of a local Birth Control clinic. The coming of summer and the absence of many of the members somewhat lessened any group effort. The early autumn program was one of quiet effort to increase our membership. It was clearly seen that no real forward motion could be taken in the direction of the Clinic without the support and co-operation of the medical men. The autumn of this year had been spent in quiet persistent intelligent pressure on the leaders of the medical fraternity. Their attitude throughout the proceedings has been first hostile, then skeptical, but it is now interested and willing to be informed if their leaders would come out boldly for the movement as being strictly ethical. Two weeks ago our leading pediatrist sent in his check for membership. Just as this report is being written the Dean of the medical fraternity, a really great physician, a well-beloved leader in civic, religious and medical work has issued an invitation to the physicians of his country to join with him in inviting to Syracuse a recognised authority on Birth Control, that the physicians may become thoroughly conversant with the subject. The result of this meeting will furnish us with material upon which to base our renewed efforts for the Clinic.
Invitations are coming to the committee to furnish speakers on the subject for groups of women at their various club meetings. The fight of a dozen plucky women made a year ago is now bearing fruit. Their names dragged through columns of publicity, their characters ridiculed and assailed, even their economic welfare threatened in some instances, they have the satisfaction of seeing Birth Control come to Syracuse to stay.
Persons of wealth and influence are now behind the movement. The medical fraternity is turning from suspicion to eager interest. The coming year will see the establishment of a permanent, active, properly financed, well managed campaign for the spreading knowledge of Birth Control to every person needing it in the city.