Henry Pratt Fairchild
August 18, 1880 - October 2, 1956
"The birth control movement is the only active force in modern life devoted to the achievement of this objective [population control] on the basis of rational self direction, and its limited extension results in the disproportionate increase of those social groups who are least able to support large families in an adequate degree of comfort, and least likely to contribute to the upbuilding and advancement of society by unrestrained increments to the population." -Henry Pratt Fairchild
Henry P. Fairchild was born August 18, 1880 in Dundee, Illinois, the son of Arthur Babbitt Fairchild and Isabel Pratt. He was married to Mary Eleanor Townsend on June 2, 1909. Fairchild was a Professor of Sociology at Yale University from 1910-12. He taught the Science of Society from 1912-18. In 1918, Fairchild became the Associate Director of the personnel department at War Camp Community Service. He served in that role for a year, until he took up a position as the New York University Director of Bureau of Community Service and Research from 1919-1924. Fairchild stayed at New York as a Professor of Sociology from 1924-1951, later serving as the Chairman of the Sociology graduate school department from 1938-1945.
Outside the classroom, Fairchild was enthusiastically involved in a number of groups and organizations. In 1923, he served on the National Research Council and as a special investigator on immigration for the Department of Labor. Fairchild was the first President of the Population Association of America, a position he held from 1921-1925. From 1934-1940, he served as the Town Hall Club President. One of Fairchild’s most famous contributions was the development of the Planned Parenthood of America Federation, called the Birth Control Federation of America until 1942. There he served on the Board of Directors in 1932 and later the Vice President from 1939-1948. Fairchild was also an active member of the National Council of American-Soviet Friendship Club.
Fairchild was largely Marxist in thought. He published a variety of works, many controversial during the time and even today. Some of these include: Immigration (1913), The Melting Pot Mistake (1926), The Alien in Our Midst (1930), General Sociology (1934), Birth Control Review (1939), People: The Quantity and Quality of Population (1939), Economics for the Millions (1940), and Race and Nationality as Factors in American Life (1947). He also gave a well-known speech, “Race Building in a Democracy”, to the Birth Control Federation of America (BCFA) and the National Committee on Planned Parenthood during their annual meeting in 1940.
Fairchild served as the 26th President of the American Sociological Society in 1936. His Presidential Address "Business as an Institution" was delivered at the organization's annual meeting in Chicago in December 1936.
Fairchild died on October 2, 1956 in North Hollywood, California. Upon his death an obituary was published in the American Sociological Review.
For more information on Henry Pratt Fairchild, you may find the following sources useful:
- American Life League. 2005. “Fairchild, Prof. Henry Pratt.” Stafford, VA: American Life League, Retrieved April 6, 2005 (http://www.all.org/abac/off_a-g.txt).
- Bogardus, Emory S. 1956. “Henry Pratt Fairchild 1880-1956.” American Sociological Review 21(6): 783.
Written by Emory S. Bogardus for The American Sociological Review, 21(6): 783
Henry Pratt Fairchild was born in Dundee, Illinois, received the A.B. degree from Doane College, Nebraska, and the Ph.D. from Yale University. He began his long teaching career at The International College, Smyrna in 1900. After serving on the faculty at Bowdoin College, he went to Yale University (1910-18) where he taught courses in economics and the science of society. During World War I he held an administrative position in War Camp Community Service.
Fairchild’s major teaching appointment was at New York University where it extended over a period of 26 yeas, from 1919 until his retirement in 1945, and where he became chairman of the Department of Sociology in the Graduate School. During the years 1929-31 he was president of the American Eugenics Society, and from 1934-38, president of the Population Association of America. He was one of the leaders in the planned parenthood movement in the United States. In his presidential address as the 26th president of the American Sociological Society (1936), he pointed out how governing the people of the United States involves the organization and co-ordination of many diverse social elements, and yet in the national government “an almost negligible part of the responsibility is entrusted to sociologists.” In this same address, which was entitled “Business as an Institution,” he discussed a favorite theme of his, namely, the relations of sociology and economics. After defining business as an organization of social elements for the production of goods and services, he contended that the sociologist’s role is to analyze the integration of social elements in the business process, while economics analyzes the productive aspects. Thus, it is essential that sociologists and economists work side by side at closely related aspects of the same process instead of simply speaking “to each other politely when they casually meet.”
Fairchild was the author of a number of books, for example, his Greek Immigration to the United States (1911) and Immigration (1913) were supplemented by Race and Nationality (1947). His General Sociology appeared in 1934, but he is most widely known for the Dictionary of Sociology (1944), of which he was the editor. Of his sixty major articles about one-third were on immigration, one-fourth on population, and others related to the family, social work, and world organization. He lectured widely and served on “innumerable borads,” because he considered that one of the functions of a sociologist is to make the findings of sociology intelligible to the general public. Always an independent thinker, he did not hesitate to speak forthrightly on leading social and economic problems.