On November 14th India Today published an excerpt from Tohmas Weber’s book Going Native: Gandhi’s Relationship with Western Women. The excerpt, which talks about a meeting between Gandhi and Margaret Sanger was called Love lust and the Mahatma.
We decided to share some excerpts from Margaret Sanger’s journal about this same visit with Gandhi on the blog today. The rest of this document will be available in The Selected Papers of Margaret Sanger: Volume Four.
Sanger on meeting Gandhi for the first time:
“We went directly to his place & met him, tho this is his day of silence. He rose to greet me smiling from ear to ear. I put down my bag & gloves & flowers & magazines in order to take both his hands. He has an ↑inward↓ light that shines in his face! that shines through the flesh! that circles around his head & neck like a mist, with white sails of a ship coming thru. It lasted only a few seconds but it is there. When I looked again it was only the shiney appearance of his flesh that I saw, but always the smile & the smile & a hospitable welcome.”
Sanger described the various foods that they ate on this trip at length in her journal entries. At one point she writes:
“[Gandhi] is experimenting with foods trying to find out the most economical foods for the village people & the most nourishment. The great majority are living a life of starvation when you ask a villager how things are going, he points to his stomach & says ‘Salub stomach too long empty.’
One ‘full meal’ a day is their ambition.”
In regards to their conversations about sex and contraception:
“To my question Do you believe there is a difference between sex lust & sex love, his answer was “Yes”–“
“At three promptly we went to the Mahatranas house had our talk on the roof. He sat in the burning sunshine with a white cloth over his head we sat in the shade. The arguments were along the same line as the morning but I am convinced his personal experience at the time of his father’s death was so shocking & self blamed that he can never accept sex as anything good clean or wholesome.”
[Gandhi had been having sex with his wife at the time of his father’s death, this is the personal experience that Sanger refers to.]
We also have a transcript of some of their discussion:
MRS. SANGER: Mr. Gandhi, you and I have the interest of humanity at heart but while both of us have that thing in common, you have greater influence with the masses of humanity. I believe no nation can be free until its women have control over the power that is peculiarly theirs, I mean the power of procreation, that powerful force which allowed to run free has messed up the affairs of the world.
I believe that human nature is good in itself. I believe that men and women are essentially good. I believe that uncontrolled breeding has made the world a pretty sorry mess. I’ve read your books. I know your belief in continence and the importance you place upon it. Your influence stretches far beyond India. Your word means something to women in other countries besides India. Even the opposition at home often quotes you in opposing our legislative campaign for birth control. I have an invitation from the All India Women’s Conference to come to their meeting in December as guest speaker but you see it is really only a pretense to come to see you. The real reason I came is to see if we could not agree upon a fundamental principle and some practical means of helping the women of the world.
Women’s lack of control over fecundity results in over-population, in poverty, misery and war. Should women control this force which has made so much trouble in their lives? Have they a right to control the power of procreation? Do you see any practical solution for this problem which in my humble opinion is the direct cause of much of the chaos in the world today?
MR. GANDHI: I suppose you know that all my life I have been dinning into the ears of women the fact that they are their own mistresses, not only in this but in all matters. I began my work with my own wife. While I have abused my wife in many respects, I have tried to be her teacher also. If today she is somewhat literate it is because I became her teacher. I was not the ideal teacher because I was a brute. The animal passion in me was too strong and I could not become the ideal teacher. My wife I made the orbit of all women. In her I studied all women. I came in contact with many European women in South Africa but I knew practically every Indian woman there. I worked with them. I tried to show them they were not slaves either of their husbands or parents, that they had as much right to resist their husbands as their parents, not only in the political field but in the domestic as well. But the trouble was that some would not resist their husbands. I feel that I speak with some confidence and knowledge because I have worked with and talked with and studied many women.
But the remedy is in the hands of the women themselves. The struggle is difficult for them but I do not blame them. I blame the men. Men have legislated against them. Man has regarded woman as his tool. She has learned to be his tool and in the end found it easy and pleasurable to be such, because when one drags another in his fall the descent is easy.
The full transcript is located online in the Margaret Sanger Papers Project Newsletter #23.
The outcome of this meeting is outlined at the end of the India Today article:
“In an article on birth control that appeared in his paper only a few months later, Gandhi reiterated that he would agree to at least consider the rhythm method of birth control, even though he did it reluctantly. Although she had no luck in convincing Gandhi of her position, her lecture tour of India led to the opening of several birth control clinics in the country. When, in 1959, Prime Minister Nehru declared that a large sum of money would go to family planning in India, Margaret Sanger was standing at his side.”