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A Note About Our Founder Dr. Clarence Gamble

At Pathfinder, we recognize our responsibility to examine our core beliefs and their relationship to the world around us as we conscientiously evolve in the direction of equity, justice, and peace. We know that our core mission to expand sexual and reproductive health and rights cannot be effective otherwise.

As part of that process, and in the widening light cast by the past year’s rash of white supremacist violence, we thought it necessary to take a harder look at our organization’s origins and, in particular, at our late founder’s connections to the eugenics movements of his time. To aid us in this review, we commissioned an independent consultant to thoroughly examine Dr. Clarence Gamble’s activities and statements, including confidential communications and archived materials internal to Pathfinder. We sought to understand his personal views more fully so that we could determine how best to address his legacy, and that of the full organization, going forward.

That review has confirmed Gamble’s undeniable involvement in the practice of eugenics through the first half of the twentieth century and coinciding with the founding of Pathfinder. Into the 1960s, his racially biased and unscientific beliefs clearly influenced his work in the U.S. and other countries and were manifest in his efforts to limit or reduce birthrates in certain communities, regardless of whether or not the people in those communities expressed consent with his methods. Though Gamble died in 1966, the influence of his beliefs could be traced in Pathfinder’s work into the 1970s, generally under the banner of “population control,” a euphemism adopted by governments and family planning organizations at the time.

In our efforts to advance women’s autonomy and informed choice, we have built our organization on a foundation of human rights and racial justice. But Pathfinder cannot truly lead the transformational social change at the heart of our mission without recognizing the harm that Dr. Gamble’s personal views and actions caused to the very communities we serve. Nor will we content ourselves with mere recognition of the past: we are committed to working in concrete ways toward a more just future.

Opening our archives to critical analysis was a necessary prerequisite to reconciling the ideals of today’s Pathfinder with the realities of our founding. Concurrent with the review described above, our executive officers convened a racial justice working group comprised of staffers from all levels of the organization. This group is charged broadly with advising the organization on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion: to date it has been tasked with outlining a program of learning and capacity building regarding race and racial justice; conducting surveys, providing basic training, and facilitating difficult conversations on the same; and partnering with the management team to addresses biases about race and equity in the workplace.

The racial justice working group will next review the research consultant’s findings, analysis, and counsel and then make its own recommendations for how to best to make use of these insights. We are committed to incorporating their recommendations into Pathfinder operations and strategy as an essential piece of achieving our mission.

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