Tag Archives: birth control

Jane Roe & The Pill

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In the third episode in our series on women’s reproductive rights in America, we finally get to two of the most important turning points in our story: the invention of the hormonal birth control pill, and the Roe v. Wade case in 1973. The mid 20th century saw some critical turning points for women’s reproductive rights, but also created lasting political divides and moral dilemmas. Join Elizabeth and Sarah as they continue the conversation.

Show Notes & Further Reading 

Baker, Jean H. Margaret Sanger: A Life of Passion. (New York: Hill and Wang, 2011).

Faux, Marian. Roe v Wade: The Untold Story of the Landmart Supreme Court Decision That Made Abortion Legal (New York: Cooper Square Press, 1988).

Gibbs, Nancy. “The Pill at 50: Sex, Freedom and Paradox,” Time, April 22, 2010.

Gibson, Megan. “One Factor That Kept the Women of the 1960s Away from Birth Control Pills: Cost,” Time, June 23, 2015.

Hubbard, Ruth. “Abortion and Disability: Who Should and Who Should Not Inhabit the World?” in The Disability Studies Reader, Davis, Lennard J., ed., (New York: Taylor & Francis, 2003).

Kaplan, Laura. The Story of Jane: The Legendary Underground Feminist Abortion Service (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997).

McFadden, Robert D. “Norma McCorvey, ‘Roe’ in Roe v. Wade, Is Dead at 69,” The New York Times, February 18, 2017.

Petchesky, Rosalind Pollack, “Fetal Images: The Power of Visual Culture in the Politics of Reproduction,” Feminist Studies 13 (1987).

Reagan, Leslie. Dangerous Pregnancies: Mothers, Disabilities, and Abortion in Modern America (Berkley: University of California Press, 2010).


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Featured image derived from Griswold v Connecticut on PBS

Fascism and Uteruses


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There are some fascinating parallels between the deployment of eugenic policies around reproduction and women’s bodies in twentieth-century Germany and Japan. In this episode, the fourth in the HBP’s work on reproductive rights and fights in history (from the US to the world). Marissa and Averill tackle eugenics, Nazis, legalized abortion and illegal hormonal birth control, marriage counseling, and more. It’s a story of governments trying to dictate how women can or cannot use their uteruses. Enjoy?


Show Notes & Further Reading

Anita Grossman, Reforming Sex (Oxford University Press, 1995)

Volker Roelcke, Sascha Topp, and Etienne Lepicard, eds., Silence, Scapegoats, Self-Reflection: The Shadow of Nazi Medical Crimes on Medicine and Bioethics (Göttingen: V&r Unipress, 2015).

Dagmar Herzog, Sex after Fascism: Memory and Morality in 20th Century Germany (Princeton University Press: Princeton; 2007).

Mark Roseman, Devin Pendas, and Richard F. Wetzell, Beyond the Racial State (Indiana University Press: Bloomington, IN; 2008).

Christiana A. E. Norgren, Abortion Before Birth Control: The Politics of Reproduction in Postwar Japan (Newark: Princeton University Press, 2001).

Samuel Coleman, Family Planning in Japanese Society: Traditional Birth Control in a Modern Urban Culture (Princeton University Press, 1992)

Takeda Hiroko, The Political Economy of Reproduction in Japan (Routledge, Sep 23, 2004)

Abortion and Birth Control before Roe v. Wade

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At the Women’s Marches across the U.S. on January 21st, there were hundreds–maybe thousands–of women in their 60s, 70s, and 80s who held up signs that conveyed their frustration with still needing to fight for rights like birth control and abortion. This is a battle that has waged for so, so long. On this episode, Sarah and Elizabeth look back at the late 19th and early 20th century struggle for women’s rights. After our country finally granted women the right to vote in 1920, the emphasis of the women’s rights movement shifted to focus on another issue: access to methods of family limitation.



Show Notes & Further Reading

Jean H. Baker, Margaret Sanger: A Life of Passion (New York: Hill and Wang, 2011).

Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1: An Introduction (Random House Vintage Books Edition, 1980).

Linda Gordon, The Moral Property of Women: A History of Birth Control Politics in America (Chicago, 2002)

Regina Morantz-Sanchez, Conduct Unbecoming a Woman: Medicine on Trial in Turn of the Century Brooklyn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999)

Diane Sands, “Using Oral History to Chart the Course of Illegal Abortion in Montana,” Frontiers: A Study of Women’s History, Vol. 7, No. 1 (1983)

Early American Family Limitation

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Birth control and abortion are constant flash points in contemporary politics, and they’re often described as signs of a rapidly changing society. But women have always had ways (though not always quite as effective ones) to control family size, and early American women were no exception. Understanding the role that reproductive rights has played in American history provides critical context to today’s debates. Have we always had these kinds of debates? How did Americans think about abortion in the late 18th century, or the 19th century? In this episode, Elizabeth and Sarah start a three part conversation about women’s reproductive rights in United States history by talking about birth control methods and abortion in the 18th and 19th century.

Show Notes & Further Reading 

Dayton, Cornelia Hughes. Women before the Bar : Gender, Law, and Society in Connecticut, 1639-1789 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995).

Duden, Barbara.  The Woman beneath the Skin : A Doctor’s Patients in Eighteenth-Century Germany (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1991).

Gordon, Linda. The Moral Property of Women : A History of Birth Control Politics in America. 3rd edn (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2002).

Klepp, Susan E.  Revolutionary Conceptions: Women, Fertility, and Family Limitation in America, 1760-1820 (Chapel Hill, 2009).

Mohr, James C.  Abortion in America : The Origins and Evolution of National Policy, 1800-1900 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978).

Ulrich, Laurel Thatcher. A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812 (New York: Vintage Books, 1991).

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Family Limitation in the Pre-Modern World

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In the wake of the Global Gag Rule that the U.S. President just issued in his first week in office, there is really no better time to start talking about the history of family limitation in all of its iterations across time and space – from various contraceptives invented by the ancient Egyptians to the many herbal remedies employed by midwives and women generally to “restore the menses” to a broader discussion of when and where states have attempted to control the reproductive feature of women’s bodies. This episode is just the first of many more to come addressing these very issues of women’s reproductive health and rights. Join Marissa and Averill as they dive into the wild, weird, and sometimes dangerous methods of family limitation in the pre-modern world.

Show Notes & Further Reading

Edwards,Stassa. “The History of Abortifacients.” Jezebel. 18 Nov 2014.

Biddlecom, Ann E. “Family Planning, Abortion, and Reproductive Health.” The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology. Ritzer, George (ed). Blackwell Publishing, 2007.

Brick, P. 2003. “The Encyclopedia of Birth Control, Edited by Vern L. Bullough”. JOURNAL OF SEX RESEARCH. 40: 315.

Hardacre, Helen. Marketing the Menacing Fetus in Japan. Berkeley, Calif: University of California Press, 1999.

Hoffer, Peter Charles, and N. E. H. Hull. Murdering Mothers: Infanticide in England and New England, 1558-1803. New York: New York University Press, 1984.

James, Peter, and I. J. Thorpe. Ancient Inventions. 1994.

Poston, Dudley L. Fertility, Family Planning, and Population Policy in China. London: Routledge, 2006.

Riddle, John M. Contraception and Abortion from the Ancient World to the Renaissance. 1992.

Unschuld, Paul, and Jinsheng Zheng. Chinese Traditional Healing (3 Vols.) The Berlin Collections of Manuscript Volumes from the 16th Through the Early 20th Century. Leiden: BRILL, 2012

Wiesner, Merry E. Women and Gender in Early Modern Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Zheng, Tiantian. Ethnographies of Prostitution in Contemporary China: Gender Relations, HIV/AIDS, and Nationalism. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009