Sanger's Japanese lecture tour was announced in the United States in the January issue of the Birth Control Review, and in Japan, in the 12 January 1922 English-language Japan Chronicle, prompting discussions about birth control in the Japanese press and the following interview with Shidzue Ishimoto. News of Sanger's trip was preceded by her article, "Birth Control--Past, Present, and Future," printed in English and Japanese in the journal Kaizô in June 1921, and the publication of the Japanese translation of her book Woman and the New Race in December 1921. Ishimoto had become Sanger's biggest promoter in Japan and had laid out, in two pamphlets and an article in Shofu no tomo, a rationale for birth control that emphasized above all else women's emancipation. She also discussed how birth control would benefit the welfare of children and improve the labor situation, and she outlined Malthusian arguments related to increasing population density and the inadequate food supply in Japan. This article, an interview with Ishimoto, offers her impression of Sanger and her influence.
Mrs. Sanger will soon visit Japan
Mrs. Baron Ishimoto will use this opportunity to promote birth control in Japan
As previously announced, Mrs. Sanger, the leader of the birth control movement, will soon visit Japan. I visited Mrs. Shizue Ishimoto (26),[A] the wife of Baron Keikichi Ishimoto, a good friend of the lady [Sanger], who was also known as a strong advocate of birth control. She talked about Mrs. Sanger as follows:
"Mrs. Sanger has been imprisoned several times for her birth control movement, so you might think that she is a fearful person. Actually, she is a small, shy person who speaks in a low voice. She also loves children very much. Everyone, who has met her, says that because she loves children, she can devote a great deal of her energy to the movement. Maybe I should write to her for a picture and show it to you all."
She continued: "I haven't heard anything about her plan of visiting Japan. She informed me of how the birth control conference went last November, so if she has a definite plan to visit Japan, I'm sure she will let me know that. In any event, I sent her a letter about a month ago to ask about the rumor. If she comes to Japan, it will be an excellent opportunity to promote [birth control]. There is no reason to oppose it just for moral or religious reasons.
Even such people [who oppose birth control] are actually not happy that people are having six, eight, or ten children. Birth control is essential for the improvement of women's status and their liberation. No matter how much effort women make to increase their knowledge of their bodies, having five or six children will certainly exhaust their bodies and makes it impossible for them to raise their children properly.
Of course, it is ideal that women can have as many children as they want and can improve their status simultaneously. But it is impossible. Considering today's economic conditions, birth control must be permitted to practice. Couples often have five children and can afford to provide them with only elementary education. Why not have two instead? Children can graduate from middle and high schools. They may even be able to go to college.
To have fewer children means to be able to raise them all completely. If juvenile delinquency increases because of the large number of children and lack of attention to them, isn't it better not to have any children? My point is that women should have a proper number of children and educate them so that the children can contribute to humanity. It is absolutely wrong to see birth control, which Mrs. Sanger advocates, as a means to prevent conception and satisfy sexual desire.
Birth control will not corrupt men's and women's morality. Everything is attended by some evils, and it is possible that birth control can be used for immoral purposes. But one should not dismiss things that can possibly bring happiness to human society as a whole. Birth control could be a solution to the population problem in the world. It will also help solve the problem of Japan's population which has been increasing by 600,000 every year.
Birth control is necessary for the improvement of women's status, their liberation, and the improvement of the quality of children. Last November, in the United States, Mrs. Sanger organized a successful conference in New York City[B] on the same date as the Washington [Naval] Conference.[C] It was attended by distinguished Americans as well as Mr. Churchill and Mr. Cox from Britain. The birth control movement is rapidly expanding in the United States."[D]
B. The First American Birth Control Conference [FABCC] was held in New York City on 11-13 November 1921, at which time the American Birth Control League was founded. The Conference sent telegrams to Congress and to the Washington Naval Conference urging the formations of commissions to study birth control. A public meeting, held at Town Hall, to culminate the meeting, on the subject of the morality of birth control, was raided by police. Though Sanger and others were arrested, charges were dropped and the meeting was held on November 18 without incident. ("Mrs. Sanger's Opinion," New York Times, 19 November 1921, p. 11, and "Hayes Denounces Birth Control," New York Times, 21 November 1921, p. 1.)
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C. The Washington Naval Conference [WNC], was an international conference held from 1921-1922 to ensure security in the Pacific region and reduce the destabilizing expansion of national navies in this period. Major treaties included the Four-Power Pact (1921) and the Five-Power Naval Limitation Treaty (1922). One of the goals of the United States for the Conference was to restrain Japanese ambition and aggression through mutual treaty ("Washington Conference," Encyclopedia Britannica Online
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D. Since Sanger began her agitation in 1914, two national birth control leagues had been established, the National Birth Control League (1915) and the American Birth Control League (1921), and many local leagues had begun to form. Activism had been dampened during World War I, but with its close, Sanger had created the Birth Control Review, a monthly journal that worked to keep activists around the country connected, hosted the first national conference, and was gearing up to challenge the Comstock Law restrictions on mailing contraceptives and contraceptive information.
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