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Birth Control for the Masses #359: Stella Hanau Papers

American Heritage Center
Cover of the Birth Control Review journal, October 1933. Box 1, Stella Hanau papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

In 1916, activist Margaret Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in New York, but anti-vice laws quickly shut it down. Thirteen years later the first legal birth control clinic opened in the U.S. Contraceptives could only be prescribed for medical purposes like preventing life-threatening pregnancies. Availability of contraception varied widely by city and state. Women in rural areas often lacked access to birth control compared to their urban counterparts.

By the 1930s, medical schools had begun teaching doctors about birth control. And the American Birth Control League was publishing a monthly journal, titled Birth Control Review. Access to contraception allowed a family to space their children out and was a contributor to improved maternal and child welfare. But birth control in the 1930s had a sinister side. Women judged to be sickly, lazy, incompetent, or defective were often forced to use contraceptives or even sterilized.

Learn more about birth control in the 1930s by reading the Stella Hanau papers at UW’s American Heritage Center.

For more information, visit the American Heritage Center site.