Broadcasting Birth Control
210 pages, 6 x 9
11 illustrations
Release Date:23 Aug 2013
Release Date:23 Aug 2013
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Broadcasting Birth Control

Mass Media and Family Planning

Rutgers University Press
Traditionally, the history of the birth control movement has been told through the accounts of the leaders, organizations, and legislation that shaped the campaign. Recently, historians have begun examining the cultural work of printed media, including newspapers, magazines, and even novels in fostering support for the cause. Broadcasting Birth Control builds on this new scholarship to explore the films and radio and television broadcasts developed by twentieth-century birth control advocates to promote family planning at home in the United States, and in the expanding international arena of population control.

Mass media, Manon Parry contends, was critical to the birth control movement’s attempts to build support and later to publicize the idea of fertility control and the availability of contraceptive services in the United States and around the world. Though these public efforts in advertising and education were undertaken initially by leading advocates, including Margaret Sanger, increasingly a growing class of public communications experts took on the role, mimicking the efforts of commercial advertisers to promote health and contraception in short plays, cartoons, films, and soap operas. In this way, they made a private subject—fertility control—appropriate for public discussion.

Parry examines these trends to shed light on the contested nature of the motivations of birth control advocates. Acknowledging that supporters of contraception were not always motivated by the best interests of individual women, Parry concludes that family planning advocates were nonetheless convinced of women’s desire for contraception and highly aware of the ethical issues involved in the use of the media to inform and persuade.
To examine the broadcasting of birth control information from the silent era to the Internet, Parry thoroughly researched extensive media archives. Highly recommended. Choice
Broadcasting Birth Control covers a lot of ground in a clear and concise manner … This is a text that will be of use to both students and more experienced scholars, exemplifies the spirit of public history, and extends invitations to other projects on family planning and media. Women's Studies
Manon Parry’s engrossing book, Broadcasting Birth Control, takes readers through the arguments early sexual and reproductive health advocates had when deciding what would be the best messaging to gain popular support for the use of contraception in America. International Planned Parenthood Federation
Parry's clear, compelling, meticulously researched, and accessible book is the first to specifically examine the extensive use of mass media to garner support for the legalization of birth control during the twentieth century. Heather Munro Prescott, author of The Morning After: A History of Emergency Contraception in the United States
By showing how the popular media helped win over a skeptical public, Parry deepens our understanding of the history of birth
control . . . a subtle and persuasive reinterpretation.
Sonya Michel, University of Maryland
Broadcasting Birth Control is jam-packed with surprising historical tidbits on ways the media has been used by the family planning movement since its inception. Manon Parry has done a major service to the family planning field by capturing the history of its early engagement with the media and the evolution of that engagement with all the pitfalls and challenges along the way. Conscience: The News Journal of Catholic Opinion
Parry reveals to us many important parts of the [birth control] story we have for too long overlooked. Social History of Medicine
[A] fine survey of the meditation of birth control. Journal of American History

MANON PARRY is an assistant professor of public history at the University of Amsterdam. She is the coeditor of Women Physicians and the Cultures of Medicine.

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