Margaret Sanger traveled the world on her quest for birth control and she stayed at a number of interesting places. This series highlights some of them.
December 2-5, 1935. Margaret Sanger traveled to India in November 1935, embarking on a nine-week tour of the country that totaled over 10,000 miles of travel. One of the most important stops on her tour was her stay at Mohandas Gandhi’s ashram in Wardha. Today a city of about 1 million, Wardha had no hotels nearby in 1935. Instead, Gandhi insisted that Sanger stay with him: “Do, by all means come, whenever you can and you shall stay with me, if you would not mind what must appear to you to be our extreme simplicity.” [LCM 135:345] That simplicity, Gandhi’s secretary later told Sanger, would include “no master and no servant,” and “every one doing some or other kind of physical labour.” [LCM 135:406]
Sanger had no trouble with such modesty. She slept under the stars, and described the guest house in her diary as:
a four partitioned house rough hewn white plastered walls half way to the roof, the upper half open for air. Small bamboo poles run cross wise in the roof & larger poles crossing & supporting the roof– Its all spotless & clean–rough stone floors two matressless cots, (our own bedding will do) one pole in the center has a circular wood shelf which serves as a table for us both or chairs. Its all very simple but clean & peaceful the bath room a large stone floor room in the same building but not adjoining, one has to go outside & around to get to it two commodes & two large pails of water hauled by men on the place from a large circular well seen from my door & window. (Wardha Diary, LCM 1:209.)
She described meeting Gandhi in her diary.
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 thru 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 & a hospitable welcome. (Wardha Diary, LCM 1:209.)
On December 3, she and Gandhi discussed birth control, population, and the status of women in India. Although Gandhi ultimately refused to endorse the use of contraception to control population growth, Sanger was deeply grateful for his hospitality and time: “Needless to say,” she wrote, “these three days were not ever to be forgotten or parallel in human experience.” (“The Humanity of Family Planning,” Third International Conference on Planned Parenthood, Report on Proceedings (Nov 26, 1952), 12, 54-55. [MSM S72:0776].)
Click here for our map of Sanger’s travels.