The dynamics of production
Contraceptive manufacturing
in The business of birth control
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Focusing on rubber production, as the first stage of the commercial process, Chapter 1 demonstrates the tensions between old and new manufacturing methods among British manufacturers, the medical profession, social conservatives and consumers. Most contraceptive appliances made from the late nineteenth century to the 1960s were made from rubber, but it was the introduction of latex in the early 1930s and contraceptive testing by the National Birth Control Association in 1935 that not only resulted in increased output and factory employment but also drew increasing public attention to the trade’s reputation. Social conservatives protested against the increasing feminisation of the latex contraceptive workforce that made contraceptives visible to adolescent girls for the first time, while the Association sought to ensure that the trade conformed to its medical standards. Yet, what is clear is that such changes were not wholesale during this period. Not all firms adopted latex production and while it was in a firm’s interest to supply the Association, firms largely ignored protests about workforce feminisation. This chapter demonstrates that the introduction of latex in the interwar period did not result in a technological revolution as some historians have suggested, but that old sat uncomfortably alongside new.

The business of birth control

Contraception and commerce in Britain before the sexual revolution

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