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First American Birth Control Clinic (The Brownsville Clinic), 1916

On 16 October 1916, Margaret Sanger opened one of the first birth control clinics in the United States in Brooklyn, New York, which some have called the Brownsville Clinic. Located at 46 Amboy Street, the clinic was a place where Sanger and her staff verbally communicated with women seeking information about birth control. During the early 1900s, both birth control and abortion were illegal in the US, and publication or circulation of information on both topics was deemed obscene and illegal by the federal Comstock Act.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations

Thesis: Dismantling Legal Constraints to Contraception in the 1900s

In the late nineteenth century, the Comstock Act of 1873 made the distribution of contraception illegal and classified contraception as an obscenity. Reflecting the predominant attitude towards contraception at the time, the Comstock Act was the first federal anti-obscenity law that targeted contraception. However, social acceptance of birth control changed at the turn of the twentieth century. In this thesis, I analyzed legislation, advocates, and literature pertinent to that social change to report on the events leading up to the decriminalization of contraception.

Format: Essays and Theses

Subject: People, Legal, Reproduction

Thesis: Twilight Sleep and its Contributions in Shaping Perceptions of Childbirth

This thesis explores the impact of Twilight Sleep on women and physicians and their perceptions of childbirth. Twilight Sleep empowered women to take on a more active role in shaping the medical care they received rather than accepting childbirth as a natural event associated with physical and mental trauma and high risk of mortality. For doctors, the debate regarding Twilight Sleep’s safety and efficacy affirmed a ubiquitous notion that childbirth ought to be seen as a pathological rather than natural event.

Format: Essays and Theses

Subject: Theories

The Birth Control Pill

The birth control pill, more commonly known as "the pill" is a form of contraception taken daily in pill form and consisting of synthetic hormones formulated to prevent ovulation, fertilization, and implantation of a fertilized egg. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first birth control pill, Enovid, in June 1960. It was the first contraceptive pill marketed worldwide. Since then a number of different pills have been developed, which differ in hormone type and dosage, and whether they contain one hormone (the minipill) or two (the combination pill).

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

Chicago Women’s Liberation Union (1969–1977)

The Chicago Women’s Liberation Union, hereafter Union or CWLU, was a feminist union that operated in Chicago, Illinois, from 1969 to 1977 and was the first and largest union, at the time of its operation, focused on women’s issues. The Union organized women with the self-proclaimed collective goal of achieving liberation from sexism and inequality. Within the larger CWLU, smaller groups and chapters formed to address issues such as abortion, rape, child care, and reproductive health, among others.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations

Birth Control or the Limitation of Offspring (1936), by William J. Robinson

Birth Control or the Limitation of Offspring was written by American eugenics and birth control advocate William J. Robinson. First published in 1916, the final edition (forty-eighth) was published in 1936, the same year that Robinson died. As a medical doctor and author, Robinson used his influence to promote propaganda for "fewer and better babies," by focusing on contraception. Even Margaret Sanger, another prominent eugenics and birth control advocate, took great interest in this book. Robinson had three goals in mind when writing Birth Control.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Reproduction

“Explaining Recent Declines in Adolescent Pregnancy in the United States: The Contribution of Abstinence and Improved Contraceptive Use” (2007), by John S. Santelli, Laura Duberstein Lindberg, Lawrence B. Finer, and Susheela Singh

In “Explaining Recent Declines in Adolescent Pregnancy in the United States: The Contribution of Abstinence and Improved Contraceptive Use,” hereafter “Explaining Recent Declines,” researchers John S. Santelli, Laura Duberstein Lindberg, Lawrence B. Finer, and Susheela Singh discuss what led to the major decline in US adolescent pregnancy rates from 1995 to 2002. Working with the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research organization, they found that the decline in US adolescent pregnancy rates between 1995 and 2002 was primarily due to improved contraceptive use.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Reproduction

Enovid: The First Hormonal Birth Control Pill

Enovid was the first hormonal birth control pill. G. D. Searle and Company began marketing Enovid as a contraceptive in 1960. The technology was created by the joint efforts of many individuals and organizations, including Margaret Sanger, Katharine McCormick, Gregory Pincus, John Rock, Syntex, S.A. Laboratories, and G.D. Searle and Company Laboratories.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

The Malthusian League (1877–1927)

The Malthusian League, founded in London, England, in 1877 promoted the use of contraception to limit family size. Activists Charles Bradlaugh and Annie Besant established the Malthusian League after they were arrested and exonerated for publishing a pamphlet describing techniques to prevent pregnancy. Founders based the league on the principles of Thomas Malthus, a British nineteenth century economist, who wrote on the perils of a population growing beyond the resources available to support it.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations, Outreach, Reproduction

Thesis: From Fertilization to Birth: Representing Development in High School Biology Textbooks

Biology textbooks are everybody's business. In accepting the view that texts are created with specific social goals in mind, I examined 127 twentieth-century high school biology textbooks for representations of animal development. Paragraphs and visual representations were coded and placed in one of four scientific literacy categories, including descriptive, investigative, nature of science, and HETS, or human embryos, technology, and society. I then interpreted how embryos and fetuses have been socially constructed for students.

Format: Essays and Theses

Subject: Publications

Norman Haire (1892-1952)

Norman Haire was a physician who advocated for eugenics, which is the betterment of human population by promoting positive traits, and birth control rights in the twentieth century in both Australia and the UK. In the UK, Haire joined the Malthusian League, a contraception advocacy organization, and helped the League open the first physician-supervised birth control clinic, called Walworth Women’s Welfare Centre in London, England.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

The Time Has Come: A Catholic Doctor's Proposals to End the Battle over Birth Control (1963), by John Rock

In 1963, Roman Catholic fertility doctor John Rock published The Time Has Come: A Catholic Doctor's Proposals to End the Battle over Birth Control, a first-person treatise on the use of scientifically approved forms of birth control for Catholic couples. The first contraceptive pill, called Enovid, had been on the market since June 1960, and Rock was one of the leading researchers in its development. In The Time Has Come, Rock explicitly describes the arguments for and against the use of birth control from both a religious and a scientific perspective.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Religion, Reproduction

“The Intergenerational Effects of Fetal Programming: Non-genomic Mechanisms for the Inheritance of Low Birth Weight and Cardiovascular Risk” (2004), by Amanda J. Drake and Brian R. Walker

In 2004, Amanda J. Drake and Brian R. Walker published “The Intergenerational Effects of Fetal Programming: Non-genomic Mechanisms for the Inheritance of Low Birth Weight and Cardiovascular Risk,” hereafter, “The Intergenerational Effects,” in the Journal of Endocrinology. In their article, the authors assert that cardiovascular disease may develop via fetal programming, which is when a certain event occurring during a critical point of pregnancy affects the fetus long after birth.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications, Theories, Reproduction

Categorization of Conservative, Semi-Conservative, and Dispersive DNA Replication Theories (1953–1956)

In 1956, Gunther Stent, a scientist at the University of California Berkeley in Berkeley, California, coined the terms conservative, semi-conservative, and dispersive to categorize the prevailing theories about how DNA replicated. Stent presented a paper with Max Delbrück titled “On the Mechanism of DNA Replication” at the McCollum-Pratt Symposium at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. In response to James Watson and Francis Crick’s proposed structure of DNA in 1953, scientists debated how DNA replicated.

Format: Articles

Subject: Theories

The Mothers' Clinic

The Mothers' Clinic for Constructive Birth Control was established on 17 March 1921. The first family planning clinic ever established in Great Britain, it was co-founded by Marie Charlotte Carmichael Stopes and her husband Humphrey Verdon Roe at Number 61, Marlborough Road in Holloway, North London. The Mothers' Clinic was one of the highlights of Stopes's extensive career as a proponent of available birth control and women's sexual equality.

Format: Articles

Subject: Organizations, Reproduction

“On the Influence of Abnormal Parturition, Difficult Labors, Premature Birth, and Asphyxia Neonatorum, on the Mental and Physical Condition of the Child, Especially in Relation to Deformities” (1861), by William John Little

In 1861, William John Little published, “On The Influence of Abnormal Parturition, Difficult Labors, Premature Birth, and Asphyxia Neonatorum, on the Mental and Physical Condition of the Child, Especially in Relation to Deformities,” hereafter “Abnormal Parturition,” in the Transactions of the Obstetrical Society of London. In the article, Little discussed the causes and types of what he refers to as abnormal births, and theorized how those births affect an infant’s likelihood of exhibiting a deformity.

Format: Articles

Subject: Disorders, Publications

Min Chueh Chang (1908-1991)

As one of the researchers involved in the development of the oral contraceptive pill, Min Chueh Chang helped to revolutionize the birth control movement. Although best known for his involvement with "the pill," Chang also made a number of discoveries throughout his scientific career involving a range of topics within the field of reproductive biology. He published nearly 350 articles in scientific journals.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Barbara Seaman (1935–2008)

Barbara Seaman was a writer, investigator, and advocate for female healthcare rights during the twentieth century in the United States. Seaman’s work addressed the gendered prejudice she observed in the US healthcare system and argued that women of the 1960s lacked the proper tools to make informed decisions about pregnancy care, breastfeeding, childbirth, and contraception. Seaman wrote the book The Doctor’s Case Against the Pill in 1969 to expose the dangers in prescribing and consuming high doses of estrogen in the form of birth control.

Format: Articles

Subject: People

John Charles Rock (1890-1984)

Born on 24 March 1890 in Marlborough, Massachusetts, to Ann and Frank Rock, John Charles Rock was both a devout Catholic and one of the leading investigators involved in the development of the first oral contraceptive pill. In 1925 he married Anna Thorndike, with whom he later had five children. He spent over thirty years of his career as a clinical professor of obstetrics at Harvard Medical School, and in 1964 the Center for Population Studies of the Harvard School of Public Health established the John Rock Professorship.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Reproduction

Where Are My Children? (1916)

Where Are My Children? is an anti-abortion silent film released in the United States on 16 April 1916. The film was directed by Lois Weber and Phillips Smalley and produced by Universal Film Manufacturing Company/Lois Weber Productions in Universal City, California. In the film, Weber tells a story of an attorney who wants to have children and raise a family, but his wife chooses to abort her pregnancies, fearing that having children will ruin her social activities. In the early 1900s, information about contraception was not freely available or legal to obtain.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

Plan B: Emergency Contraceptive Pill

Plan B is a progestin-only emergency contraceptive pill (ECP) that can be taken within seventy-two hours of unprotected sex in order to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. Plan B was created in response to the United States Food and Drug Administration's (US FDA) 1997 request for new drug applications (NDAs) for a dedicated ECP product, and was approved for sales in the US in 1999. Duramed, a subsidiary of Barr Pharmaceuticals, manufactures Plan B for The Women's Capital Corporation (WCC), which owns the patent for Plan B.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Reproduction

Copper Intrauterine Device (IUD)

The copper intrauterine device, or IUD, is a long-term, reversible contraceptive first introduced by Howard Tatum and Jamie Zipper in 1967. Health care providers place an IUD inside a woman’s uterus to prevent pregnancy. Copper IUDs are typically made of T-shaped plastic with some portion covered with exposed copper. Prior to the invention of the first IUDs, women had few long-term options for safe and reliable birth control. Those options mostly consisted of barrier methods and the oral birth control pill, which were only effective if used correctly and consistently.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

The Dalkon Shield

The Dalkon Shield was an intrauterine contraceptive device (IUD) that women used in the early 1970s and 1980s. Produced by the A.H. Robins Company in the US, the Dalkon Shield was a contraceptive device placed directly into a woman’s uterus that was supposed to prevent the development of a fetus in the uterus. In the 1980s, researchers uncovered an array of severe birth defects and injuries caused by the Dalkon shield, including pelvic infection, infertility, and death of the user. Eventually the A.H.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies

Post-Coital Oral Emergency Contraception

Post-coital oral emergency contraception is used for the prevention of pregnancy after intercourse. The contraception comes in the form of pills, often collectively referred to as morning-after pills. Post-coital use of morning-after pills separates them from traditional contraception which is either a continual preventative process, such as the birth control pill, or used during intercourse, such as condoms.

Format: Articles

Subject: Processes, Reproduction

“Family Limitations” (1914), by Margaret Higgins Sanger

In 1914, Margaret Sanger published “Family Limitations,” a pamphlet describing six different types of contraceptive methods. At the time Sanger published the pamphlet, the federal Comstock Act of 1873 had made distributing contraceptive and abortion information through the US postal service illegal. The Comstock Act classified contraceptive information as obscene and limited the amount of information available to individuals about preventing pregnancies.

Format: Articles

Subject: Publications

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