Controlling Birth: Contraception and the Politics of Public Health

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"Controlling Birth" excerpts more than 100 years of the history of voluntary contraception and forced sterilization. 

This exhibit debuts as part of an event celebrating 100 years of women's suffrage in the United States. “She Rocks the Vote” is enabled by a grant from the State Library of North Carolina’s Institute of Museum and Library Services Diversity and Inclusion Mini-Grants program. Original plans for the live, in-person March event were derailed by the global pandemic COVID-19, but on September 17, 2020, the organizers of "She Rocks the Vote" will livestream a keynote address by Rep. Deborah Butler and introduce a variety of virtual exhibit, including this one. More details available at the William Madison Randall Library website. A recording of the keynote address will be made available after Sept 17, as well as links to the various exhibits.

The virtual rendition of "Controlling Birth" highlights numerous artifacts awaiting public display in UNCW's Randall Library. This display is far from comprehensive. Its objects are intended to illustrate an important story of gender and race inequity in medical and reproductive health history. Today--and for the past half dozen decades or so--the oral pill has revolutionized women's reproductive choices, though the story of its testing and approval also underscores gender and racial inequalities in the United States (a story told masterfully by historian Elaine Tyler May). Intentionally, this exhibit concentrates on the equally revealing narratives of contraceptives other than birth control piils, while recognizing the Pill's importance. The history of birth control in America reflects the importance of a healthy, democratic polity, including full-throated participation at every level by women of every background. 


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Jennifer Le Zotte, Kyra McCormick, and Rebecca Mullins