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Viv Gardner and Diane Atkinson

212 Kitty Marion: actor and activist BIRTH CONTROL Chapter 60 Settling down to waiting till the war should end, and saving my fare back to England, I was quite unconsciously being drawn into the vortex of another “cause”. I read in the Press of Mrs. Margaret Sanger,1 her sister, Mrs. Ethel Byne,2 both trained nurses, and Miss Famia Mindell,3 an interpreter, being arrested for operating a clinic in Brownsville, the most thickly populated and poverty-stricken section of Brooklyn, at which Mrs. Sanger instructed poor mothers who had too many children, in how to

in Kitty Marion
Contraception and commerce in Britain before the sexual revolution
Author: Claire L. Jones

The Business of Birth Control uncovers the significance of contraceptives as commodities in Britain before the Pill. Drawing on neglected promotional and commercial material, the book demonstrates how hundreds of companies transformed condoms and rubber and chemical pessaries into branded consumer goods that became widely available via birth control clinics, chemists’ shops and vending machines, and were discreetly advertised in various forms of print. With its focus on the interwar period, the book demonstrates how contraceptive commodification shaped sexual and birth control knowledge and practice at a time when older, more restrictive moral values surrounding sexuality uncomfortably co-existed with a modern vision of the future premised on stability wrought by science, medicine and technology. Commodification was a contested process that came into conflict with attempts by the State, doctors and the birth control movement to medicalise birth control, and by social purity groups that sought to censor the trade in order to uphold their prescribed standards of sexual morality and maintain sexual ignorance among much of the population. Of wide interest to modern historians, the book not only serves as an important reminder that businesses were integral to shaping medical, economic, social and cultural attitudes towards sex and birth control but also sheds greater light on the ambiguities, tensions and struggles of interwar Britain more broadly. Without such interwar struggles, the contraceptive Pill may not have received its revolutionary status.

Caroline Rusterholz

[W]omen clients came to us because we were all women. Women doctors, women nurses, women running clinics. 1 Helena Wright From the opening of birth control clinics in the early 1920s to the Family Planning Act in 1967, women have been central actors in the campaign for birth control and contraception in Britain

in Women’s medicine
A British–French comparison
Caroline Rusterholz

During the interwar years, women doctors medicalised birth control in Britain by developing a number of strategies to position themselves as experts in contraception and sexual disorders. 1 Among these strategies were publication of medical articles on birth control and participation in medical conferences. Yet these forms of dissemination of medical knowledge were not restricted to the national sphere; British women doctors also took part in international conferences on birth control. In fact

in Women’s medicine
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Selective reproduction and neoliberal eugenics in South Africa and India
Editor: Amrita Pande

This book analyses the world of selective reproduction – the politics of who gets to legitimately reproduce the future – by a cross-cultural analysis of three modes of ‘controlling’ birth: contraception, reproductive violence, and repro-genetic technologies. The premise is that as fertility rates decline worldwide, the fervour to control fertility, and fertile bodies, does not dissipate; what evolves is the preferred mode of control. Although new technologies, for instance those that assist conception and/or allow genetic selection, may appear to be the antithesis of violent versions of population control, the book demonstrates that both are part of the same continuum. Much as all population control policies target and vilify (Black) women for their over-fertility, and coerce/induce them into subjecting their bodies to state and medical surveillance, assisted reproductive technologies and repro-genetic technologies have a similar and stratified burden of blame and responsibility based on gender, race, class, and caste. The book includes contributions from two postcolonial nations – South Africa and India – where the history of colonialism and the economics of neoliberal markets allow for some parallel moments of selecting who gets to legitimately reproduce the future. The book provides a critical interdisciplinary and cutting-edge dialogue around the interconnected issues that shape reproductive politics in an ostensibly ‘post-population control’ era. The contributions range from gender studies, sociology, medical anthropology, politics, science and technology studies, to theology, public health, epidemiology and women’s health, with the aim of facilitating an interdisciplinary dialogue around the interconnected modes of controlling birth and practices of neo-eugenics.

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Actor and activist

The autobiography of Kitty Marion was written in the early 1930s but never published. It records Marion’s childhood in Germany, her life in British provincial theatre and music hall and her campaigns against the ‘casting couch’, a career as a militant suffragist or suffragette during which she committed numerous acts of arson, was imprisoned and suffered force feeding, and finally her move to America and involvement in the American birth control movement. The Epilogue details her life in New York after the end of the autobiography, including her work in the Federal Theatre Project, while the three appendices reproduce extracts from key archive documents which throw additional light on the autobiography. An Introduction outlines the problems Marion incurred trying to publish her story, its subsequent history and addresses some of the issues that her story raises about women’s history of activism.

Open Access (free)
Sex, family planning and British female doctors in transnational perspective, 1920–70

Women’s medicine explores the key role played by British female doctors in the production and circulation of contraceptive knowledge and the handling of sexual disorders between the 1920s and 1970s at the transnational level, taking France as a point of comparison. This study follows the path of a set of women doctors as they made their way through the predominantly male-dominated medical landscape in establishing birth control and family planning as legitimate fields of medicine. This journey encompasses their practical engagement with birth control and later family planning clinics in Britain, their participation in the development of the international movement of birth control and family planning and their influence on French doctors. Drawing on a wide range of archived and published medical materials, this study sheds light on the strategies British female doctors used, and the alliances they made, to put forward their medical agenda and position themselves as experts and leaders in birth control and family planning research and practice.

Open Access (free)
Caroline Rusterholz

In ‘One Woman's Mission’, an article in the Sunday Times Magazine in 1973, pioneer birth control activist and female gynaecologist Helena Wright recalled the pivotal moment in her career. In 1928, Wright intrepidly dedicated herself to making contraception both acceptable and accessible. Looking back on this decision, she explained: ‘It seemed to me in a prophetic way, that birth control was the single subject that women doctors had to get hold of.’  1 The implications of Wright's vision for

in Women’s medicine
Eugenics and birth control in Johannesburg, 1930-40
Susanne Klausen

get. But it does not need the under-nourished, mal-adjusted brood of the overworked and underpaid slum dweller or the feebleminded, and so the woman eugenist would extend to them the knowledge of birth control. 3 (Annie Porter, from a lecture given at the same meeting; emphasis in original) Introduction

in Science and society in southern Africa
Open Access (free)
Caroline Rusterholz

Birth Control Clinics but in many instances these are staffed by registrars who are birds of passage and incidentally again mainly male. One outcome of these changes is that an important source of work for women doctors, and one … which they are ideally qualified to undertake, many being wives and mothers, will be closed. I feel it is important that the MWF should approach the British Medical Association and also make representations to the department of Health and Social Security about the uncertain future many of us now face

in Women’s medicine