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Reproductive Health : Selected Books on History of Contraception

Top Recommended Books

All books listed are available on the UW-Madison campus. 

Book cover for Contraception

Contraception: A Concise History
Donna J Drucker
"In this volume in the MIT Press Essential Knowledge series, Donna Drucker traces the history of modern contraception, outlining the development, manufacturing, and use of contraceptive methods from the opening of Dr. Jacobs's clinic to the present. Drucker approaches the subject from the perspective of reproductive justice: the right to have a child, the right not to have a child, and the right to parent children safely and healthily."—

Book cover for A History of the Birth Control Movement in America

A History of the Birth Control Movement in America
Peter Engelman
"A History of the Birth Control Movement in America tells the extraordinary story of a group of reformers dedicated to making contraception legal, accessible, and acceptable. The engrossing tale details how Margaret Sanger's campaign beginning in 1914 to challenge anti-obscenity laws criminalizing the distribution of contraceptive information grew into one of the most far-reaching social reform movements in American history."—

Book cover for the Moral Property of Women

The Moral Property of Women: A History of Birth Control Politics in America
Linda Gordon
"The Moral Property of Women chronicles the contributions of well-known reproduction control pioneers such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Margaret Sanger, and Emma Goldman, as well as lesser- known campaigners including the utopian socialist Robert Dale Owen, the three doctors Foote--Edward Bliss Foote, Edward Bond Foote, and Mary Bond Foote--the civil libertarian Mary Ware Dennett, and the daring Jane project of the 1970s, in which Chicago women's liberation activists performed illegal abortions."—

Book cover for Birth Control and American Modernity

Birth Control and American Modernity: A History of Popular Ideas
Trent MacNamara
"How did birth control become legitimate in the United States? One kitchen table at a time, contends Trent MacNamara, who charts how Americans reexamined old ideas about money, time, transcendence, nature, and risk when considering approaches to family planning. By the time Margaret Sanger and other activists began campaigning for legal contraception in the 1910s, Americans had been effectively controlling fertility for a century, combining old techniques with explosive new ideas. Birth Control and American Modernity charts those ideas, capturing a movement that relied less on traditional public advocacy than dispersed action of the kind that nullified Prohibition."—

Book cover for Sexual Chemistry

Sexual Chemistry: A History of the Contraceptive Pill
Lara Marks
"Heralded as the catalyst of the sexual revolution and the solution to global overpopulation, the contraceptive pill was one of the twentieth century’s most important inventions. It has not only transformed the lives of millions of women but has also pushed the limits of drug monitoring and regulation across the world. This deeply-researched new history of the oral contraceptive shows how its development and use have raised crucial questions about the relationship between science, medicine, technology, and society."—

Book cover for Devices and Desires

Devices and Desires: A History of Contraceptives in America
Andrea Tone
"In Devices and Desires, Andrea Tone breaks new ground by showing what it was really like to buy, produce, and use contraceptives during a century of profound social and technological change. A down-and-out sausage-casing worker by day who turned surplus animal intestines into a million-dollar condom enterprise at night; inventors who fashioned cervical caps out of watch springs; and a mother of six who kissed photographs of the inventor of the Pill -- these are just a few of the individuals who make up this riveting story."—

Additional Books

All books listed are available on the UW-Madison campus or other UW system campus libraries and can be requested to Madison.

Book cover of Contraception and Abortion in 19th Century America

Contraception and Abortion in 19th Century America
Janet Farrel Brodie
"In pocket-sized, coded diaries, an upper middle-class American woman named Mary Poor recorded with small "x's" the occasions of sexual intercourse with her husband Henry over a twenty-eight-year period. Janet Farrell Brodie introduces this engaging pair early in a book that is certain to be the definitive study of family limitation in nineteenth-century America. She makes adroit use of Mary's diaries and letters to lift a curtain on the intimate life of a Victorian couple attempting to control the size of their family.."—

Book cover of Encyclopedia of Birth Control

Encyclopedia of Birth Control
Vern L. Bullough, editor
"In this comprehensive reference, readers can explore the history of birth control from a variety of perspectives: anthropological, biological, economic, feminist, medical, political, and psychological. From wet nurses to chastity belts, from animal-dung contraceptives to the Dalkon Shield, readers will learn how women have attempted birth control, contraception, and abortion throughout history and throughout the world. Readers will also discover why opposition to birth control was so fierce early in the 20th century that many American women and men were jailed for disseminating information on avoiding pregnancy, and why family planning remains hotly controversial almost a century later.."—

Book cover for the Birth of the Pill

The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution
Jonathan Eig
"Spanning the years from Sanger’s heady Greenwich Village days in the early twentieth century to trial tests in Puerto Rico in the 1950s to the cusp of the sexual revolution in the 1960s, this is a grand story of radical feminist politics, scientific ingenuity, establishment opposition, and, ultimately, a sea change in social attitudes. Brilliantly researched and briskly written, The Birth of the Pill is gripping social, cultural, and scientific history."—

Book cover for Abortion and Contraception in Modern Greece, 1830-1967

Abortion and Contraception in Modern Greece, 1830-1967
Violetta Hionidou
"The book examines the history of abortion and contraception in Modern Greece from the time of its creation in the 1830s to 1967, soon after the Pill became available. It situates the history of abortion and contraception within the historiography of the fertility decline and the question of whether the decline was due to adjustment to changing social conditions or innovation of contraceptive methods. The study reveals that all methods had been in use for other purposes before they were employed as contraceptives."—

Book cover for Contraception, Colonialism and Commerce: Birth Control in South India 1920-1940

Contraception, Colonialism and Commerce: Birth Control in South India
Sarah Hodges
"This book outlines the early history of birth control in India, particularly the Tamil south. In so doing, it illuminates India's role in a global network of birth control advocacy. The book also argues how Indians' contraceptive advocacy and associationalism became an increasingly significant realm of action in which they staked claims not just about the utility of contraception but simultaneously over their ability and right to self-rule."—

Book cover for The Business of Birth Control

The Business of Birth Control: Contraception and Commerce in Britain before the Sexual Revolution
Claire L. Jones
"The business of birth control is the first book-length study to examine contraceptives as commodities in Britain before the pill. Drawing on new archives and neglected promotional and commercial material, the book demonstrates how hundreds of companies transformed condoms and rubber and chemical pessaries into consumer goods that became widely available via discreet mail order catalogues, newspapers, birth control clinics, chemists’ shops and vending machines in an era when older and more reserved ways of thinking about sex jostled uncomfortably with modern and more open attitudes. The book outlines the impact of contraceptive commodification on consumers, but also demonstrates how closely the contraceptive industry was intertwined with the medical profession and the birth control movement, who sought authority in birth control knowledge at a time when sexual knowledge and who had access to it was contested."—

Book cover for Contraception, a History

Contraception: A History
Robert Jütte
"Birth control is not an invention of modern times, nor is it a purely personal matter. By the same token, mighty institutions such as church and state have exerted their influence as effectively as that of doctors, population theorists, and the early pioneers of the feminist movement; all of these claim a special expertise in matters of ethics and morality, and so shape the discourse on birth control. The focal point of this engaging new book by renowned historian, Robert Jütte, is the Europe of modern times. It also takes in its scope various cultural groups elsewhere in America, China, India and the near East, and world religions such as Christianity, Judaism and Islam, offering an engaging comparative study of the phenomenon of contraception.."—

Book cover for Contraception: A History of Its Treatment by the Catholic Theologians and Canonists, Enlarged Edition

Contraception: A History of Its Treatment by the Catholic Theologians and Canonists
John T. Noonan, Jr.
"Originally published in 1965, Contraception received unanimous acclaim from all quarters as the first thorough, scholarly, objective analysis of Catholic doctrine on birth control. More than ever this subject is of acute concern to a world facing serious population problems, and the author has written an important new appendix examining the development of and debates over the doctrine in the past twenty years. John T. Noonan, Jr., traces the Church's position from its earliest foundations to the present, and analyzes the conflicts and personal decisions that have affected the theologians' teachings on the subject."—

Book cover for The Morning After: A History of Emergency Contraception in the United States

The Morning After: A History of Emergency Contraception in the United States
Heather Munro Prescott
"The Morning After tells the story of emergency contraception in America from the 1960s to the present day and, more importantly, it tells the story of the women who have used it. Side-stepping simplistic readings of these women as either radical feminist trailblazers or guinea pigs for the pharmaceutical industry, medical historian Heather Munro Prescott offers a portrait of how ordinary women participated in the development and popularization of emergency contraception, bringing a groundbreaking technology into the mainstream with the potential to alter radically reproductive health practices."—

Book cover for Eve's Herbs

Eve's Herbs: A History of Contraception and Abortion in the West
John M Riddle
"In Eve's Herbs, Riddle explores...[the] question: If women once had access to effective means of birth control, why was this knowledge lost to them in modern times? Beginning with the testimony of a young woman brought before the Inquisition in France in 1320, Riddle asks what women knew about regulating fertility with herbs and shows how the new intellectual, religious, and legal climate of the early modern period tended to cast suspicion on women who employed 'secret knowledge' to terminate or prevent pregnancy."—

Book cover for Contraception and abortion from the ancient world to the renaissance

Contraception and Abortion from the Ancient World to the Renaissance
John M Riddle
"John Riddle uncovers the obscure history of contraception and abortifacients from ancient Egypt to the seventeenth century with forays into Victorian England--a topic that until now has evaded the pens of able historians. Riddle's thesis is, quite simply, that the ancient world did indeed possess effective (and safe) contraceptives and abortifacients. The author maintains that this rich body of knowledge about fertility control--widely held in the ancient world--was gradually lost over the course of the Middle Ages, becoming nearly extinct by the early modern period."—

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Contraception (Birth Control) Its Theory, History and Practice: A Manual for the Medical and Legal Professions,
Marie Carmichael Scopes
Revised and enlarged, fourth edition.

Image of the cover of Catholics and Contraception: an American History

Catholics and Contraception: An American History
Leslie Woodcock Tentler
"As Americans rethought sex in the twentieth century, the Catholic Church's teachings on the divisive issue of contraception in marriage were in many ways central. In a fascinating history, Leslie Woodcock Tentler traces changing attitudes: from the late nineteenth century, when religious leaders of every variety were largely united in their opposition to contraception; to the 1920s, when distillations of Freud and the works of family planning reformers like Margaret Sanger began to reach a popular audience; to the Depression years, during which even conservative Protestant denominations quietly dropped prohibitions against marital birth control"