View Full Version : History of Birth Control
11-17-2000, 01:53 PM
A while back there was a dreadful TV movie set around 1880-1890 containing a scene in which a doctor's wife is furtively telling a farmer's wife about the rhythm method. The doctor warns his wife that they could get in alot of trouble because it was illegal to teach birth control during that time. The setting seemed to be Minnesota or some other midwestern state.
I had trouble believing that the rhythm method was such a secret only doctors knew about it. I would have thought that people, especially farmers on the pioneer, would have known about it. Does anyone know when the rhythm method was discovered and if people in the late 19th century practiced birth control?
11-17-2000, 02:24 PM
Here's a site about the history of condoms.
It says there was a law against "advertising" birth control. I find it hard to believe that a doctor could be prosecuted for telling a patient about it. Someone was buying all those condoms.
11-17-2000, 03:21 PM
It might have been a movie about Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood.
Here's a blurb on Comstock, who crusaded (successfully) to prohibit provision of birth control information or devices:
a link (http://www.plannedparenthood.org/inprogress/Inprog_Site/About/ThisIsPP/photoalb/COMSTOCK.HTM)
Here's a good historical treatment:
another link (http://www.plannedparenthood.org/inprogress/Inprog_Site/About/ThisIsPP/History/fpamnar.html)
Bottom line, people have been using birth control as far back as we have historical records. Information about it was prohibited in the U.S. during the early 20th century. Can't help you with the origin of the rhythm method, though.
[note: I fixed the links. -manhattan]
[Edited by manhattan on 11-17-2000 at 05:50 PM]
11-17-2000, 03:23 PM
Sorry about those links. I tried to fix them, but for some reason, a space got inserted in "url." Weird.
11-17-2000, 04:09 PM
Haven't looked at Aeryn's links yet...but here goes:
Yes, it was illegal to disseminate birth control information and devices in the U.S. until 1920 or so. This is not to say that devices weren't used--they were used, but usually under the guise of being required for some "medical need." For example, many doctors prescribed pessaries for their female patients. A pessary was inserted in the vagina and used to "support a weak uterus." Usually, it covered the cervix, so it was really a diaphragm.
Margaret Sanger got thrown in jail several times. In the most notorious case, it was because she had violated postal laws by using the mails to transport birth control literature. Comstock was the head of the U.S. postal service for a good long while and he used his influence to suppress b/c information.
I have forgotten exactly when the "rhythm method" as we know it became well known. It was used for a long time, but I think it was sometime in the 19th century that it became more "scientific." I have the information in a book somewhere, and I'll be happy to look it up, but I have a doctor's appointment right now and I've gotta go. (I hope he doesn't try to give me a pessary :eek: )
p.s. I've done a boatload of reasearch in the history of birth control. I'll be happy to post some cites for some important books in the area and/or post part of a paper I wrote if anyone is interested. gotta go!
11-17-2000, 04:26 PM
The first form of birth control was "Honey, I promise I won't come inside!" practiced by Adam, on Eve, and we all know how that turned out.
The Devil's Grandmother
11-17-2000, 06:22 PM
If you can find a copy, read John M. Riddle's _Contraception and Abortion from the Ancient World to the Renaissance_. Published by Harvard University Press, Cambridge Mass. 1992 ISBN 0-674-16875-5
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