The Secret History of Birth Control : American Birth Control until 1900
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For centuries, America women have attempted to gain control over their bodies and uncouple sex from childbirth. And for those same centuries women have had varying success in this. However, this success has come at a cost for many women. Some have injected poison into their bodies to prevent pregnancy, while others sought abortions at the cost of their own lives. As the science of medicine progressed it gave women far safer options for controlling reproduction. However, this progress was met by restrictions of the United States government. These regulations limited access to birth control. Although some forms of birth control became illegal, or hard to find, women still sought them out, and people provided them, even with the risk of hefty fines and imprisonment. The continuing need for birth control and the limitations on birth control led to difficult situations to women. Restrictions on birth control have not stopped women from acquiring it, however any attempt to prevent birth control has proved hazardous to women's health. The sustained presence of birth control over the centuries reflects the continuing need for women to control their own bodies. This collection serves to highlight the methods of birth control that were available to American women from the late eighteenth century through the early twentieth century, and thus shows the continual desire of women to control their own bodies. These documents also show some of the ways that women were harmed by these methods and the various attempts to limit their access. This document collection attempts to represent as wide a range of experiences as possible, there are inevitably groups that are not included. This is, of course, partially due to lack of document existence and lack of documents in English. To compensate for the lack of documented experiences, this collection is primarily composed of documents that provided information to the public. By looking at these guides we can see the methods that were available to women of most races and classes. These methods do not have to be limited to a particular group of immigrants or class, but there may be some technology that the author is unaware of. A lot has been written about the subject of birth control in America, and that has provided a grounding for much of the author’s research. No collection like this, as far as the author knows, has ever been created. Most primary source guides of the subject skirt around the issue of birth control to instead deal with attitudes about sex. However, birth control is an important part of history because it reveals women's agency in an era where they had little legal autonomy.
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