Contraceptive Knowledge in the Mid-19th-Century United States
December 5, 2019
Circulating Now welcomes guest blogger Donna J. Drucker, MLS, PhD, Senior Advisor, English as the Language of Instruction at Technische Universität Darmstadt, Germany. Here, Dr. Drucker explores the changing availability of knowledge about contraception.
What do pennyroyal, fish skins, horse riding, and ergot of rye have in common? They are all contraceptive methods that have been used for centuries. In preliterate societies, information on regulating pregnancy was likely passed down orally from one generation of women to the next as they helped each other with pregnancies, births, and child spacing. In the mid-nineteenth-century US, however, more and more women were literate and information was more securely captured in print. Examining three mid-nineteenth century medical guides, available online and searchable in the NLM Digital Collections, shows the range of information available to those who could access and read books.