Marie Stopes – did good for the wrong reasons

Marie Stopes International (MSI) named after the controversial birth control pioneer and women’s rights campaigner is to change its name because of concern about her views on eugenics. In her writings she called for new laws that allowed the “hopelessly rotten and racially diseased” to be sterilised, wrote fiercely against interracial marriage, believed in the creation of a super race and corresponded with Hitler.

Born 15 October 1880 4.10am Edinburgh, into an educated and scientific family she studied botany at university. She had a four year marriage which ended acrimoniously as she claimed it had never been consummated and her husband counter-claimed she was super-sexed to an almost pathological degree. She published a sex manual called Married Love after the divorce. Her son from the second marriage aroused her hostility because of his choice of a bride and she tried to sabotage the union, eventually disinheriting him because of it. 

  She had a combative Sun Mars in Libra opposition an 8th house Saturn in Aries so would be short-tempered, unsentimental, hard-edged. Interesting to note that Sigmund Freud who also ‘emancipated’ sex as a topic had Saturn in the 8th.  

   Her persuasive Mercury Venus in Scorpio opposed an 8th house Neptune; and her emotionally erratic Pisces Moon opposed a 12th house Uranus. A see-saw chart leads to relationship problems and a lifelong struggle to integrate opposites. Her Pluto was in the opinionated 9th.  

  Her get-it-together 5th harmonic and perfectionist 7H were strong though her most notable is the leaving-a-legacy-for-history 17H. She did open Britain’s first birth control clinic in 1921 in London, despite medical and religious opposition.

Despite being an influential catalyst for positive change, she was not a pleasant human being.


8 thoughts on “Marie Stopes – did good for the wrong reasons

  1. There’s a similar story in the USA, where Margaret Sanger’s enthusiasm for eugenics is now an embarrasment to Planned Parenthood, the organisation she founded. There’s talk of removing her statue.
    Her activism and work on behalf of women was tireless – the first birth control clinic in America opened on 16 October 1916. She even went to prison. Hers is a very earthy chart (14 September 1879), with Mars, Neptune, Pluto, Chiron and BML all in Taurus. Mars is conjunct Pluto, close to the powerful fixed star, Algol – the Medusa, or Gorgon’s Head (!).
    We live in a time when many of our heroes are discovered to have feet of clay. That is surely inevitable. The history of medical progress and invention is horrific, yet we have benefited from it. It’s all complicated.

  2. Mmm.. Delia. She believed in the creation of a super race and corresponded with Hitler’. Not sure that these views can be excused as ‘widely held values’, in the light of the Nazi atrocities of the Second World War.

  3. Eugenics was a common belief right through the medical profession in that era. Marie was known for her promotion of birth control to improve the health of women and families. I am not sure such a woman should be maligned. She was very maligned in her day, I know this from actually listening to child bearing women of her era who opposed her and were now senior citizens. In fact post Nazism, the world became very opposed to eugenics. I am not sure we can go to figures in time and demand they be plaster saints when they often reflected widely held views in society. In fifty years time we will be told how regressive our own times were, I can guarantee it.

    • I think she did the best she could – and you can’t, unless it comes from the heart. She saved many children from being born into dreadful lives, and gave women an option – which they didn’t previously have. Hats off to the lady, you always need guts, but she used them to lessen other women’s burdens. I salute her courage.

  4. Thank you Marjorie. I have an ancestor, married to a great great aunt who came to stay with Stopes for a while and there were rumours of an affair, though I’m not sure if it developed any further than a flirtation, but my aunt was apparently very hurt by it.

    The disturbing fact is that Fabians and Socialists did consider eugenics in the early decades of the 20th century, including such figures as George Bernard Shaw.

    One thing that struck me about Stopes’ chart is that BML in the 10th house. What could be more illustrative of liberating women from the tyranny of constant childbearing?

    • Yes, and BML in Cancer, sign of the mother too. The alignment with the south node is curious, bearing in mind her work in birth control for women en masse.

      The eugenics story is very disturbing, and goes back deep into the 19th century. It’s astonishing how widespread these ideas were. Forced sterilization is part of this, and has a terrible history. Much is class-based, as well as racist. The poor were often stereotyped as lesser human beings, ‘the people of the abyss’ being one delightful phrase used to describe those living hand to mouth in wretched circumstances.

      Even William Beveridge promoted eugenicist ideas.

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