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GANDHI, Mohandas Karamchand (1869-1948). Typed letter signed (‘M K Gandhi’) to Miss [Meliscent] Shephard, Borsad, 30 July 1931, with autograph emendations.
GANDHI, Mohandas Karamchand (1869-1948). Typed letter signed (‘M K Gandhi’) to Miss [Meliscent] Shephard, Borsad, 30 July 1931, with autograph emendations.

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GANDHI, Mohandas Karamchand (1869-1948). Typed letter signed (‘M K Gandhi’) to Miss [Meliscent] Shephard, Borsad, 30 July 1931, with autograph emendations.

One page, 210 x 162mm.

In a letter to Meliscent Shephard, a representative of the Association for Moral and Social Hygiene, Gandhi asserts that ‘artificial methods of birth control are unhygienic and harmful and … moral self-restraint is the only correct thing and indispensable for human welfare, both moral and physical’.

[With:] a typed statement by Shephard describing her meeting with Gandhi on the 11 July 1931; a typed copy of her letter of the same day enclosing writings on equality; and received correspondence of Meliscent Shephard, including a series from Edwina Mountbatten.

In December 1928 Meliscent Shephard travelled to India as a representative of the Association for Moral and Social Hygiene (AMSH), intending to spend three years in Calcutta. In fact, she didn’t return to England until 1947: she spent nearly two decades as the Indian representative of the AMSH, campaigning for higher moral standards for both men and women. In a typed account of her meeting with Gandhi on 11 July 1931, Shephard records that, among other things, they discussed devadasis and child marriage, before Gandhi asked if she thought the women of the East more ill-used by their men than in the West: when she spoke in the affirmative, she records that he agreed ‘rather sadly’. She also notes that he offered to give his support to any article she might write for Young India, the weekly journal he published: the present letter requests that she focus on the importance of self-restraint over birth control in the prevention of pregnancy. Gandhi’s views on the subject of artificial birth control are well known – he described it as a ‘premium upon vice' – but his outlook would also have coincided with Meliscent Shephard’s with regard to the shared moral responsibility to be borne by men and women in the avoidance of unwanted pregnancy: in 1925 he wrote ‘It is not she who tempts. In reality, man being the aggressor is the real culprit and the tempter’.

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