Cheaper by the Dozen, Pro-Life Moment

“Pro-Life” or “Anti-abortion,” however you want to term it, Cheaper by the Dozen, the original 1950 version based on the book of the same name, has an encounter with Planned Parenthood. It took me by surprise since I didn’t expect an issue like birth control to pop up in such an old movie with Clifton Webb and Myrna Loy (Myrna is one of my favorites, by the way). I decided to originally watch the film after some quaint reviews on Netflix and that it was based on a true story of an efficiency expert who decided to have 12 kids. I figured it might be similar to Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation with Jimmy Stewart.

In the scene in question, Myrna Loy’s character Lillian Gilbreth is approached at her home for her expertise as a psychologist to speak at a local chapter of Planned Parenthood. The Planned Parenthood lady is shown as stuffy and uptight and there are hints that she is basically a child-hater of sorts. Lillian decides to show her up after receiving her invite by calling in her husband who tromps in with sarcastic politeness and then proceeds to whistle for his twelve children to appear within seconds. This of course stuns the Planned Parenthood lady and thus we are amused. The Planned Parenthood lady comes off looking like a bitter single woman and you can chalk one up the happiness of family excess.

I wonder how many women these days would be amused by the prospect of not having access to birth control, birthing 12 children and having the house run by their dominant husband, Mr. Efficiency Expert? The movie is very lighthearted, sometimes funny, and is what we might expect of the time period, but ohhhhh how times have changed. I will say the movie does reflect a pro-woman stance on education and accomplishment. Mr Gilbreth didn’t want any female dummies in his squad and they were all expected to go to college. However, how does a woman have a career if they are constantly pregnant?  The end of the film indicates that Mrs. Gilbreth goes on to lecture in place of her husband on efficiency and is successful enough to become woman of the year–but then her childbearing years are over for an obvious reason (which I won’t give away if you haven’t seen the film).

I would be curious to see women’s reactions watching this film again as most Christian women these days use birth control to usurp God’s domain–the womb. “He” doesn’t decide when they get pregnant, they do. My wife didn’t care much for the Steve Martin remake and I’m not going to be able to get her to sit still to watch this one. She likes children but not THAT many children.

If you don’t think there are people who are against birth control any more, since this is a movie from 1950, think again. I knew the fringe for a short period in my youth in the nineties (pre-atheist days) when I was involved in the Pro-life movement and they had a no tolerance stance on birth control. They’re still around, though.  Ironically enough, mainstream pro-life women still use birth control even as it can be considered an abortifacient.

I guess I can’t blame people for being sentimental about such movies (it’s a kind of fantasy we love), but if someone came to your door today and suggested the opposite–that you join a group against birth control–you’d probably close the door in their face and think them a nut. Cheaper by the Dozen is a decent film from the past, but it’s one you watch with amusement about how times and attitudes have changed. Looking at the NetFlix members’ reviews I wonder how many of them realize it.

SIDENOTE: Inevitably, someone will comment that Planned Parenthood did this or that in the past (“Margaret Sanger was a Nazi!”). Yes, there are skeletons in the closet, not denying that. The organization is a far cry from the Sanger days and so family planning has had its moments of ignorance too. Debate it all you want, but birth control is here to stay and most women love it.

SIDENOTE 2: Clifton Webb’s Frank Gilbreth character gets on my nerves at times. This is supposed to be a true story and we’re to assume that Lillian is using feminine wiles to steer her loud husband so he isn’t as dominant as he thinks. She is the ideal wife (submissively quiet but also clever enough to get her way). Do we really think that a woman pregnant 12 times never snapped back at her constantly barking husband and wanted to murder him in his sleep? Thankfully the daughters start to rebel in what is the repetition we constantly see with kids who turn into parents and then are dismayed by their own kids’ actions (“Kids these days!). Remember that showing a pretty knee leads to sex.

7 thoughts on “Cheaper by the Dozen, Pro-Life Moment

  1. I love this scene. History has taught us the dangers of abortion artificial contraception. I am a victim of both and have suffered for many years because of it. I have spent these last years studying in depth exactly what these things do to a woman’s body, her emotional and psychological condition, and her physical state. There is absolutely nothing healthy about chemical contraceptives or abortion. I now work with Silent No More Awareness ( and have spoken with countless women (and men) who have been forever scarred by these things, although you won’t hear about it in the mainstream press.

    Planned Parenthood is not at all a trustworthy organization, believe me. Their motive is financial profit. They want nothing to do with women once they have performed the abortion. And contrary to what they say, they DO NOT PROVIDE MAMMOGRAMS! Call any of their offices and ask them. They refer out to other health clinics. Their main source of support is abortion.

    If you do not believe me, you should read “unPlanned Parenthood” by Abby Johnson, a former PP manager. She began to see what was really going on. I think you will be very surprised.

    Please help in spreading the truth. Talk to those who have experienced harm through dangerous contraceptives and abortion. Who is listening to us? If you really care about women, you will listen to ALL of us. Thank you for reading this.

  2. To tell the truth, atheists who are pro-birth control are at a disadvantage when it comes to idealogical warfare. The Christians in my church have been studying a book called The Family: God’s Weapon for Victory by Robert Andrews. Andrews argues that children are to be raised as “arrows” for God whether one desires more children of not.

    I once thought that the pro-life movement was really concerned with saving innocent unborn lives. Maybe some Christians are. But that’s not the core reason: it’s not an ethical crusade, as I once genuinely beleived it to be.

    What it’ about, as Andrews, and my pastor explained is literally raising an army of Christian warriors.

    And atheists? They tend to be too concerned with adult autonomy. But think: imagine an army of little freethinkers, little Bertrand Welles, all aimed at religion. If atheists put pressure on themselves to have big families, Christianity, as a way of life, could really be in trouble…but they don’t of course.

  3. Yes, that’s a good point on atheists and having kids. The problem is I think most atheists would find it abhorrent that you would have kids for the sake of raising an atheist army, similar to the Christian example.

    If I had kids, I’m not necessarily raising them atheist. I’m giving them a good education, my opinions, and a well-rounded experience. My wife believes in god so she would give opposite opinions. They have to choose for themselves. If you try to force a kid to be something they often rebel against it. The other thing is, there is the possibility that some kids will have a predisposition towards belief in the supernatural. Not necessarily a religion gene, but it seems some people do have trouble coping without a godlike figure in their lives.

  4. And I’d probably agree that rasing a family for any idealogical purpose is abhorrant. Becuase it reduces the value of children to intrumental. I mentioned this to my pastor once, and he said,”Yes, that’s instrumental!” I don’t even think he knew I was disagreeing.

  5. Had to chuckle at the incredulity over the idea of modern women having big families. I’m blessed to know several such families, many who can relate to going through two dozen eggs, a loaf of bread, and a gallon of milk just for breakfast. They’re homeschooling their kids (many of whom go off to top tier colleges, receive scholarships, etc.). These women are involved in their communities, volunteering in various activities, shuttling their big broods around in their 15-passenger extended vans, cooking, and keeping house. All the while, they still make time for their husbands, most of whom are loving husbands who are very grateful to be blessed with marriages to such amazing women. And no, neither I nor my friends are Mormons, or living on compounds, or outside of the mainstream in any way besides homeschooling and/or family size. We’re suburbanites, we’re soccer moms, we’re former careerists.

    Big families aren’t for everyone, but for those who are raising such extraordinary families, their lives are full of unique challenges and joys that create some very unique, well-adjusted, gracious individuals.

  6. I have 12 children. All adults now. While I wasn’t the efficient, organized women I read about here, I love my life and would never change one if I had the chance. My husband and I are married 46 years. We are now enjoying 50 grandkids and so far 1 great grandchild. I come from a family of 13. My husband had 6 siblings. A big family is loud, confusing and hectic. But it is also loving and lots of fun!!

  7. This movie does none the sorts to make man a ruler of his home. Time and time again in the movie the domineering father caves in to demands of his wife, children and dog. This is a fun and lighthearted film. Leave it to a liberal to not see the fun and audacity of a child hater asking a person, be it man or woman who has and loves many children to speak at a conference on killing little children.

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