The Margaret Sanger Papers


Fabian Society (1883 - )

Named for Roman general Fabius Cunctator who favored cautious, moderate strategies over pitched battles, the Fabian Society was a British organization founded by Scottish philosopher Thomas Davidson to foster moderate evolutionary, rather than revolutionary Socialism. With a strategy that stressed co-opting the Conservative and Liberal parties, the Fabian Society appealed to radical intellectuals including Annie Besant, George Bernard Shaw, Beatrice and Sidney Webb, and Edward Pease. Under the leadership of the Webbs, the Fabian Society helped organize the British Labour Party (1906) and investigated a range economic and social problems. The Society also worked to educate the public to Socialist goals through meetings, lectures, and publications including Fabian Essays in Socialism edited by George Bernard Shaw in 1889 and New Fabian Essays edited by Richard H. S. Crossman in 1952. Beginning in 1905 the Society began investigating the relation of class to the rates of population growth with a view to democratizing the dropping birth rates and published The Decline in the Birth-Rate, edited by Sidney Webb, in 1907. Unlike other Socialist groups the Fabians accepted the link between smaller families and socialist goals and were more sympathetic to the goals of the Malthusian League. When Sanger fled her Woman Rebel indictment, <308623>, <308624>, <308625>, in 1914, she took with her a letter of introduction to the local Fabian Society in Liverpool which helped her find housing. It was through this Society that she also met anarchist educator, Lorenzo Portet. On July 5, 1915, at the invitation of British feminist and birth control advocate Edith How-Martyn, she gave a lecture justifying her defiance of the law in The Woman Rebel to the Fabian Society in London. It was at this event that Sanger first met Marie Stopes.
References: A. J. Beattie, "Fabian Society," Encyclopedia Americana, Vol. 10 (1994); Margaret Cole, The Story of Fabian Socialism (1961); Margaret Sanger, An Autobiography (1938); Richard Allen Soloway, Birth Control and the Population Question in England, 1877-1930 (1982).