Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Eric H. Christianson, Associate Professor of History


By the beginning of the twentieth century, the development of better contraceptives and changing cultural attitudes led to an increased interest in contraceptive research. Although major political, legal, social, religious, and cultural obstacles remained, birth control advocates began to perform clinical trials to identify effective contraceptives and to disseminate contraceptive information. These trials began in the United States, but birth control advocates quickly introduced them into other areas. In this dissertation, I examine the research efforts of the American birth control movement through an analysis of the activities and discourse of its key advocates and promoters during the middle decades of the twentieth century. These birth control advocates include familiar figures such as Clarence Gamble, Margaret Sanger, Gregory Pincus and John Rock, and less familiar figures such as Edna Rankin McKinnon, Louise Hutchins, and Mary Breckinridge. Through their work as activists, researchers, social scientists, nurses, and physicians, the efforts of these individuals led to a worldwide revolution in birth control. Although this revolution is often portrayed as a victory for women and their reproductive rights, it can also be viewed as a demonstration of western colonial power and its projection throughout the world. KEYWORDS: Contraception, Colonialism,

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)