Date of Defense




First Advisor

Dr. Gwen Raaberg

Second Advisor

Dr. Nicole Constable

Third Advisor

Dr. Michael Swords


Since the advent of legal contraception and abortion in the United States, just 30 years ago, our society's sexual values, norms, and behaviors have dramatically changed. Problems have arisen because our society's values have not changed as rapidly as our behaviors. The history of women's social movements for birth control reflects the society's change in values and behaviors during different times. The very first movements in opposition to birth control advocated long-term celibacy for married couples and disapproved of contraception as a form of fertility control. Their values reflected a denial of human sexuality, a denial of women's sexuality that was inherent during the late 19th century and the early 20th century. Self-control was a highly regarded value during this period. Later, during the 1920's, birth control was advocated as a means of empowerment of working-class women. During this time, the medical profession "became the first established moral authority in the United States to endorse the separation of sex from reproduction through contraception" (Gordon, 1976: 178). This period also created Margaret Sanger who actually coined the phrase "birth control." Sanger, who stated, "no woman can call herself free who does not own and control her own body," could be considered one of the first reproductive rights advocates (Rothstein, 1983). And in the 1940's the term "planned parenthood" was created. The 1960's 1 brought about legalization of contraception and abortion, and thus birth control became a highly political issue; and has remained one ever since (Gordon, 1976: xv) .

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Campus Only