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The Racial Imperatives of Sex: birth control and eugenics in Britain, the United States and Australia in the interwar years

Journal Article


Abstract


  • While most historical studies positionWestern birth control campaigns as arising out of

    the women’s movement, this article suggests they were primarily eugenic, rather than

    feminist, even if many of the leading figures were women. Birth control gained

    support largely through its representation as a tool for (white) racial progress and population

    control, rather than as an issue of women’s rights. Indeed, in the interwar years

    birth control and eugenics were so intertwined as to be synonymous. The article explores

    the Malthusian writings of Annie Besant; the remarkably similarly ways that Marie

    Stopes and Margaret Sanger promoted birth control as a eugenic tool; the support for

    birth control within both British and American eugenics organisations; and finally

    Australia’s largest eugenic organisation, the Racial Hygiene Association, which

    founded the country’s first birth control clinic in 1933 and later reinvented itself as

    the Family Planning Association. Recovering these links allows us to see how birth

    control was fundamentally linked to broader, transnational discussions of race and

    reproduction, and of how sex should be harnessed for racial purposes.

Publication Date


  • 2012

Citation


  • Carey, J. L. (2012). The Racial Imperatives of Sex: birth control and eugenics in Britain, the United States and Australia in the interwar years. Women's History Review, 21 (5), 733-752.

Scopus Eid


  • 2-s2.0-84867569775

Ro Metadata Url


  • http://ro.uow.edu.au/lhapapers/1777

Has Global Citation Frequency


Number Of Pages


  • 19

Start Page


  • 733

End Page


  • 752

Volume


  • 21

Issue


  • 5

Place Of Publication


  • United Kingdom

Abstract


  • While most historical studies positionWestern birth control campaigns as arising out of

    the women’s movement, this article suggests they were primarily eugenic, rather than

    feminist, even if many of the leading figures were women. Birth control gained

    support largely through its representation as a tool for (white) racial progress and population

    control, rather than as an issue of women’s rights. Indeed, in the interwar years

    birth control and eugenics were so intertwined as to be synonymous. The article explores

    the Malthusian writings of Annie Besant; the remarkably similarly ways that Marie

    Stopes and Margaret Sanger promoted birth control as a eugenic tool; the support for

    birth control within both British and American eugenics organisations; and finally

    Australia’s largest eugenic organisation, the Racial Hygiene Association, which

    founded the country’s first birth control clinic in 1933 and later reinvented itself as

    the Family Planning Association. Recovering these links allows us to see how birth

    control was fundamentally linked to broader, transnational discussions of race and

    reproduction, and of how sex should be harnessed for racial purposes.

Publication Date


  • 2012

Citation


  • Carey, J. L. (2012). The Racial Imperatives of Sex: birth control and eugenics in Britain, the United States and Australia in the interwar years. Women's History Review, 21 (5), 733-752.

Scopus Eid


  • 2-s2.0-84867569775

Ro Metadata Url


  • http://ro.uow.edu.au/lhapapers/1777

Has Global Citation Frequency


Number Of Pages


  • 19

Start Page


  • 733

End Page


  • 752

Volume


  • 21

Issue


  • 5

Place Of Publication


  • United Kingdom