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Sex, Catholicism and women in post-war England

On 25 July 1968, Pope Paul VI shook the world. His encyclical letter Humanae Vitae rejected widespread calls to permit use of the contraceptive pill and deemed artificial contraception ‘intrinsically evil’. The Catholic Church is now commonly identified as the antagonist in a story of sixties sexual revolution – a stubborn stone resisting the stream of sex-positive modernity. There has been little consideration of how Catholic women themselves experienced this period of cultural upheaval. This book is about the sexual and religious lives of Catholic women in post-war England. It uses original oral history material to uncover the way Catholic women negotiated spiritual and sexual demands at a moment when the two increasingly seemed at odds with one another. The book also examines the public pronouncements and secretive internal documents of the central Catholic Church, offering a ground-breaking new explanation of the Pope’s decision to prohibit the pill. The materials gathered here provide a fresh perspective on the idea that ‘sex killed God’, reframing dominant approaches to the histories of sex, religion and modernity. The memories of Catholic women help us understand why religious belief does not structure the lives of most English men and women today in the way it did at the close of the Second World War, why sex holds a place of such significance in our modern culture, and crucially, how these two developments related to one another. The book will be essential reading for not only scholars of sexuality, religion, gender and oral history, but anyone interested in post-war social change.

Dr Williams’ Pink Pills for Pale People and the hybrid pathways of Chinese modernity
Alice Tsay

while evoking a familiar psychical world for their Chinese consumers. Taking the extensive history of the pills into account thus complicates the accepted narrative of advertising as the major driving force of urban modernity in Shanghai and offers a more nuanced account of the way hybridity – not only cultural, but also temporal – was strategically mobilised to articulate a distinctly Chinese vision of twentieth-century society. 4 Studies of advertising content in this historical

in Progress and pathology
David Geiringer

interviewees’ recollections. Anne decided to go on the pill after having eight children: ‘I don’t think I had fully discovered my full self until this happened.’ 28 We will be delving deeper into Anne’s change later in the chapter, but at this point I want to examine what exactly this ‘self’ was that was being discovered. It was a process of ‘discovering’, ‘uncovering’ and ‘recognising’ that tended to be

in The Pope and the pill
Contraception and commerce in Britain before the sexual revolution

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.

Pratik Chakrabarti

arrived in Madras, his pills were analysed by British surgeons and its ingredients were listed. The focus shifted from the efficacy of the pills to its ingredients. William Duffin and another surgeons reported to the Hospital Board, that although the repeated trials were successful in curing snakebites, some of the ingredients raised questions, but in the absence of any other remedy, they recommended the Government ‘to leave every practitioner to administer remedies, as his own judgement may direct as heretofore in cases of

in Materials and medicine
Abstract only
Claire L. Jones

, from Brazil to Madras. 5 Further incorporation of the commercial perspective into birth control history also has the potential to enhance our understanding of subsequent changes in contraceptive supply and birth control behaviour. Negotiations over contraceptive availability continued into the arguably more socially conservative era of the 1950s, but the contradictions of the interwar period were not resolved by the introduction of the Pill in 1961 and its availability to the unmarried from 1968. Most historical studies of the Pill have emphasised that its tablet

in The business of birth control
Ciara Meehan

method. 21 Women could thus find themselves pregnant, but incapable of physically coping with another pregnancy or unable to financially accommodate another child. Tradition was broken for many couples marrying in the 1960s; family sizes were smaller, and Dorine Rohan, in her contemporary survey of Irish society, claimed that many people believed four children to be the ideal family size. 22 With the arrival of the pill, as we saw in Chapter 2 , many

in A woman’s place?
Should I use them?
Andrew Balmer
Anne Murcott

. In other words, a rhetorical question can be used to signpost an important point in the argument. In the following extract, a student adds a rhetorical question to the end of a paragraph that appears in the middle of her essay. The essay question asks whether 1970s feminists were right to see women as being oppressed by marriage and child-rearing. Up to this point the student has been concerned with arguing that medical technologies, such as the pill and other forms of contraception, have given women more control over childbearing. She uses her rhetorical question

in The craft of writing in sociology
Ensuring adolescent knowledge and access to healthcare in the age of Gillick
Hannah J.  Elizabeth

was putting her under-age daughters on the Pill. 28 In an oft-quoted 1984 High Court statement in explanation of his position, Woolf emphasised the agency of the child rather than the parent, and began to define what would later be known as ‘Gillick competence’. He explained: whether or not a child is capable of giving the necessary consent will depend on the child’s maturity and understanding and the nature of the consent required. The child must be

in Posters, protests, and prescriptions
Abstract only
David Geiringer

the Church’s prohibition on all forms of artificial contraception, grappling instead, somewhat unsuccessfully, with natural family planning (or the rhythm method) – the only form of birth regulation permitted by the Vatican. The introduction of the pill in 1961, widely heralded as the catalyst for a ‘revolution’ in sexual practice across English society, had not shaken her resolve. Like many ‘liberal

in The Pope and the pill