Appearing before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was confronted in a way she probably wasn't expecting. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., asked the secretary to account for her comments the previous month, when she accepted the Margaret Sanger Award from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "I admire Margaret Sanger enormously," Clinton had said in March, "her courage, her tenacity, her vision ... And when I think about what she did all those years ago in Brooklyn, taking on archetypes, taking on attitudes and accusations flowing from all directions, I am really in awe of her."
I'm not sure what it means to "take on archetypes" (American Heritage Dictionary: "An original model or type after which other similar things are patterned; a prototype"). Perhaps she meant stereotypes. But it is worth pausing to consider, as Congressman Smith did, that the Planned Parenthood organization (of which Sanger's American Birth Control League was the predecessor) and the secretary of state continue to regard Margaret Sanger as an, if you will, archetypal modern feminist.
Mrs. Sanger was certainly a birth control pioneer. But when you examine the totality of Sanger's views, you'd think modern feminists would blanche -- at least a little. Sanger was a most thoroughgoing racist. "Eugenics," she wrote, "is the most adequate and thorough avenue to the solution of racial, political, and social problems." Here, from her book "What Every Girl Should Know" is an example of her thoughts on human development: "In all fish and reptiles where there is no great brain development, there is also no conscious sexual control. The lower down in the scale of human development we go the less sexual control we find. It is said that the aboriginal Australian, the lowest known species of the human family, just a step higher than the chimpanzee in brain development, has so little sexual control that police authority alone prevents him from obtaining sexual satisfaction on the streets." In his book "Liberal Fascism," Jonah Goldberg quotes Sanger as describing her life's work this way: "More children from the fit, less from the unfit -- that is the chief issue of birth control."