Our Bodies, Ourselves, a succession to a pamphlet of resources pulled from co-ops of women in and around Boston, Massachusetts was published in New York in 1973 by Simon and Schuster. Retitled from the original Women and Their Bodies, Our Bodies, Ourselves was an effort by a group of educated, middle class women to reinforce women's ownership of their bodies. There have been eight editions of Our Bodies, Ourselves, as well as sequels such as Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth and Our Bodies, Ourselves: Menopause. Our Bodies, Ourselves has sold more than four million copies and been printed in twenty foreign-language editions.
Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex, by historian of science Alice Domurat Dreger, was published in 1998 by Harvard University Press. In the book, Dreger describes how many doctors and scientists treated human hermaphrodites from the late nineteenth century to the early twentieth century. She states that during this time period, many physicians and scientists struggled to determine the nature sex, and to support a classification of sex as male or female, many physicians and scientists resorted to viewing a person's gonads for identification of his or her sex. At the time that this book was published, Dreger was a faculty associate at the Center for Ethics and Humanities in the Life Sciences at the College of Medicine, University of Michigan, Michigan.
In 1904, physician William Henry Walling published Sexology, a family medicine reference book. In his book, Walling proposed that his guidance would help people who were married or single and young or old, as well as anyone who wanted to conform to, what he claims are, gender expectations. Sexology discusses issues such as masturbation, abortion, pregnancy, labor, and marriage. Despite Walling’s limited scientific explanations and evidence for his medical claims, the Puritan Publishing Company printed and distributed the book, which received many positive reviews and endorsements from other physicians, college presidents, politicians, and religious leaders. However, in the twenty-first century, people may consider many of Walling’s claims to be sexist and oppressive toward women. Sexology provides readers with examples of historical medical misconceptions of male and female anatomy and provides context for the logic of reproductive medicine at the turn of the twentieth century.
In the United States, most people are assigned both a biological sex and gender at birth based on their chromosomes and reproductive organs. However, there is an important distinction between biological sex and gender. Biological sex, such as male, female, or intersex, commonly refers to physical characteristics. Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, and actions people take on, usually in relation to expectations of masculinity or femininity. As of 2022, there is disagreement over the relation between sex and gender. People’s biological sex and gender greatly influence the way they understand themselves, as well as how others treat them and how they interact with society. Moreover, some people’s gender differs from what they were assigned at birth, and they face discrimination, harassment, and violence. Evolving understandings of gender and sex in the US have created more ways for people to live and express their gender identities.
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. Throughout his life, Haire worked closely with other well-known contraception and women’s rights advocates in the early 1900s including Margaret Sanger, Marie Stopes, and Havelock Ellis. Haire was also known for his work on sexual rejuvenation, an early twentieth century theory that the male sexual appetite could be restored through vasectomies and hormonal injections. Haire advocated for birth control rights through his practice, conference lectures, radio debates, and published work. His activism in the fields of eugenics, contraception, and sexual reform promoted the emergence of more liberal attitudes towards sex and controlled reproduction and in the twentieth century.
Henry Havelock Ellis was born on 2 February 1859 at Croydon in Surrey, England, to Susannah Wheatley Ellis and Edward Peppen Ellis, a sea captain. A psychologist, essayist, and physician, he is best known for his contributions to the study of human sexuality and his support of sex education and women's rights. Ellis 's work catalyzed the revolution against repressive Victorian views of sexuality. He was practicing and writing during an era in which attitudes about sex were beginning to change thanks to the activism of several key players in the fight for sexual equality and controlled reproduction. The rise of the more liberal modern approach to human sexuality seen in the first half of the twentieth century is due largely to the efforts of Ellis and other reproductive rights champions like Margaret Sanger and Marie Stopes.