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Abortion, Birth Control, Contraception, and Family Planning  

A research guide to manuscript collections and periodicals related to abortion, birth control, contraception, and family planning.
Last Updated: Apr 15, 2015 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts
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Table of Contents

Welcome! This guide is an introduction to the library's manuscript/archival collections related to reproductive matters including abortion; birth control; contraception; and family planning.

It is meant to help you begin your research but it is not a complete list of relevant collections. Please Ask A Schlesinger Librarian if you have any questions or want further suggestions


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Manuscript / Archival Materials

Many of our collections are stored offsite and/or have access restrictions, including most A/V material. Please Ask a Schlesinger Librarian in advance of your visit to check on the availability of materials.

  • Nicole Armenta
    Collection consists of pro- and anti-abortion brochures, posters, reports, and other printed material that Armenta assembled while writing her undergraduate thesis at Harvard/Radcliffe in 1995.
  • Thea Rossi Barron
    Attorney Thea Rossi Barron worked with physician and pro-life advocate Mildred Jefferson (1926-2010) as the first lobbyist hired by the National Right to Life Committee in 1976. In 1979 Barron returned to private practice and continued to represent Jefferson in her role as president of the Right to Life Crusade.
  • Bass and Howes, Inc.
    As the former national campaign director for ERAmerica and a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Marie Bass and Joanne Howes brought together over 30 years of experience to form Bass and Howes, Inc. While it operated largely in a male-dominated field, Bass and Howes came to be centrally involved in most of the key women's policy issues of the 1980s and 1990s, including reproductive rights, women's health, family and medical leave, domestic violence, and women in politics.
  • Birth Control League of Massachusetts
    Established in 1916 to disseminate birth control information in the state of Massachusetts.
  • Boston Association for Childbirth Education
    The Boston Association for Childbirth Education was incorporated in 1958, although its founders had begun meeting as early as 1953 to discuss how best to reform obstetrical and maternity care and to disseminate information about natural childbirth. Some of the early educators were Justine Kelliher, Abigail Avery, and Sylvia D. Sawin. In seeking to further the acquisition and application of information concerning family-centered maternity care and breastfeeding, BACE sponsored studies, held workshops and classes, published newsletters and other printed material, and collaborated with the International Childbirth Education Association.
  • Boston N.O.W.
    A chapter of the National Organization for Women (N.O.W.), Boston NOW brings a feminist voice and vision to a wide variety of issues addressing the economic, political, social, and personal dynamics that affect women's everyday lives.
  • Boston Women's Health Book Collective
    Started in 1969, the Collective helped to create worldwide networks of women involved in health education and advocacy.
  • Boston Women's Health Book Collective, Additional Records
    Started in 1969, the Collective helped to create worldwide networks of women involved in health education and advocacy.
  • Majorie Braude
    Psychiatrist, advocate for women's health care issues, and activist against domestic violence, Marjorie Braude advocated gender equality in medical research, sought to ensure women's access to abortions, supported the introduction of the abortion pill into the American market, and was editor of "Women, Power, and Therapy." She also held a landmark conference on domestic violence in Los Angeles in 1994, and was an activist, writer, and speaker on women's medical and psychological issues.
  • Mary Steichen Calderone (179)
    Calderone was a physician and leader in public health, birth control and sex education. A compelling speaker, she was especially popular with youthful audiences who appreciated her candid no-nonsense factual replies to their questions. Dr. Calderone spearheaded a virtual revolution in liberalizing U. S. attitudes toward sex education and as a result, became the target of extremist groups.
  • Mary Steichen Calderone, Additional Papers (MC 622)
    See above description
  • Mary Steichen Calderone, Additional Papers (73-150--81-M35)
    See above description
  • Mary Steichen Calderone, Additional Papers (83-M184)
    See above description
  • Florence Clothier
    A psychiatrist and author, Clothier, who married George Wislocki, was director of the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts (1945-1957) and League president (1953-1956), before becoming assistant to the president of Vassar College, her alma mater, in 1957. She was also president of the Greater Fall River Committee for Family Planning and a board member of the Euthanasia Educational Council.
  • Mary Dent Crisp
    A fervent supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment and of abortion rights, Crisp was an active member of the Republican Party, first on the local and then on the national level, for over 20 years.
  • Sarah Thomas Curwood
    Sociologist, professor, lecturer, and tree farmer, Sarah Thomas Curwood (1916-1990), daughter of Maurice and Sarah "Sadie" E. (Dorsey) Thomas, was born in Binghamton, New York. One of the few African Americans attending Cornell University at the time, she graduated in 1937, and went on to attend Boston University (Ed.M. 1947) and Radcliffe College (Ph.D 1956). She also attended the Nursery Training School of Boston (1942-1944). Curwood married James L. Curwood (born 1908), a businessman, in 1936; they had a daughter, Sarah "Sally" (born 1938) and a son, Steve (born 1947). James Curwood committed suicide in 1949. In addition to her professional activities, Curwood served on the boards or as a trustee of the Massachusetts Mothers' Health Council, Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, the Eliot-Pearson School of Tufts University, Region One of the Girl Scouts USA, and the American Friends Service Committee in Philadelphia.
  • Mildred Emeline Danforth
    Danforth worked as a librarian and teacher, and during World War II was in the Women's Army Corps. Her collection includes Danforth's anti-abortion writings and cartoons, letters, and lists of anti-abortion groups nationwide.
  • Mary Ware Dennett
    Suffragist, pacifist, artisan, and advocate of birth control and sex education, Mary Coffin (Ware) Dennett was a founder of the National Birth Control League, director of the Voluntary Parenthood League, and editor of the Birth Control Herald.
  • Mary Ware Dennett, Additional Papers
    See above description
  • Bette L. Ellis
    Ellis has been active in the pro-life movement in Rapid City, S.D.
  • Morris Leopold Ernst
    Ernst (1888-1976) was a lawyer who represented physician Hannah Stone in United States v. One Package of Pessaries, a successful legal action against the U.S. government, which had seized some contraceptives shipped to Stone from Japan.
  • Family Planning Oral History Project Interviews
    From 1973 to 1977, the Schlesinger Library carried on an oral history project, funded by two two-year grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, on the role of women in the family planning movement. The project concentrated first on the birth control movement and then on abortion law reform. This collection contains tapes and transcripts of the 24 oral histories. The interviews discuss the family background, education, marriage, children and careers of the interviewees.
  • Family Planning Oral History Project Records
    From 1973 to 1977, the Schlesinger Library carried on an oral history project, funded by two two-year grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, on the role of women in the family planning movement. All but one of the interviewees were women, and many were physicians or nurses. The project concentrated first on the birth control movement and then on abortion law reform. This collection contains research materials collected by the interviewers, consisting of printed and manuscript material and photographs.
  • Feminist Ephemera Collection
    Collection consists of feminist flyers, pamphlets, directories, statements, bibliographies, curricula, programs, invitations, manifestos, articles, catalogs, and other printed materials.
  • Wanda Kay Franz
    Wanda Kay Franz, an associate professor of family resources at West Virginia University and a specialist in child development, has been active in the pro-life movement, publishing and speaking widely against abortion.
  • Sarah Merry Bradley Gamble
    Sarah Gamble and her husband, Clarence James Gamble (1894-1966) were active in the birth control movement in the U.S. and internationally.
  • Charlotte Perkins Gilman (177)
    A socialist and deist, Gilman was an independent thinker, author, and speaker who was an intellectual leader of the women's movement from the late 1890s through the mid-1920s. An advocate of economic independence for women, Gilman considered the ballot of secondary importance. Her interests ranged from sensible dress for women, physical fitness, more rational domestic architecture, and professionalized housework, to birth control, Freud, and immigrants.
  • Charlotte Perkins Gilman (MC 588)
    See above description
  • Charlotte Perkins Gilman (A/G487)
    See above description
  • Charlotte Perkins Gilman (A/G487a)
    See above description
  • Charlotte Perkins Gilman (A/G487b)
    See above description
  • Charlotte Perkins Gilman (A/G487c)
    See above description
  • Charlotte Perkins Gilman (A/G487d)
    See above description
  • Charlotte Perkins Gilman (A/G487e)
    See above description
  • Patricia Gold
    Paticia Gold was involved in the women's liberation movement in the Boston, Mass., area and active in a number of organizations, including MORAL (Massachusetts Organization to Repeal Abortion Laws), local chapters of the National Organization for Women, and the Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus. A nurse in Watertown, Mass., she served on the Health Task Force of the Governor's Commission on the Status of Women and was co-chair of Boston NOW's Abortion and Birth Control Task Force.
  • Debra Haffner
    Co-founder and executive director of the Religious Institute, Debra Haffner is a graduate of Wesleyan University, Yale University School of Medicine (MPH), and Union Theological Seminary (MDiv). She is an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister, and worked for Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington before becoming chief executive officer of SIECUS, the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, from 1988 to 2000. In 2001 she co-founded the Religious Institute, a multifaith organization advocating sexual health, education, and justice in faith communities and society. She is the author of several guides for congregations on sexuality as well as a college sexuality education textbook and books for parents on raising sexually healthy children.
  • Louise Kapp Howe
    Louise Kapp Howe was the author of Moments on Maple Avenue: The Reality of Abortion (1984).
  • Institute for Women's Policy Research
    The Institute for Women's Policy Research was founded in 1987 by Heidi Hartmann, a pioneering feminist economist and recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship Award. A leading think-tank on women's issues, the Institute develops comprehensive, women-focused, policy-oriented research on employment, education and economic change; democracy and society; poverty, welfare, and income security; work and family; and health and safety.
  • Mildred Jefferson
    A surgeon and national spokesperson for the pro-life movement. Jefferson became involved in the pro-life movement in 1970. She was a founding member of the Value of Life Committee (VOLCOM) in Massachusetts and subsequently helped formed Massachusetts Citizens for Life (MCFL), which was incorporated in 1973.
  • Lawrence Lader
    Author and activist Lawrence Lader (1919- ) has written extensively on abortion rights and family planning in the United States. He was founding chair of the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (now the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League) in 1969, and was instrumental in the campaign that produced the 1970 New York State law legalizing abortion. Beginning in 1976 he served as president of the Abortion Rights Mobilization, and has worked for the introduction of RU 486 to the United States.
  • Lucile Lord-Heinstein
    Gynecologist and birth control advocate (Tufts College Medical School, M.D., 1927), Lord-Heinstein was on the staff of the New England Hospital for Women, Physician-In-Charge of the Mothers' Health Office in Salem, MA, and a marriage and family counselor.
  • Kristin Luker
    Professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, Kristin Luker is the author of five books, many of them on abortion and teenage pregnancy.
  • Massachusetts NOW
    The Massachusetts Chapter of the National Organization for Women (N.O.W.) was organized in early 1973 as a way to link and support the activities of all local chapters in the state. It mobilizes people to fight for women's rights and to end violence against women, lobbies the state legislature, advocates before government agencies, and organizes public demonstrations for a broad range of issues that reflect the diversity of women in Massachusetts.
  • Edna Rankin McKinnon
    Birth control advocate, McKinnon worked with the Margaret Sanger Research Bureau (1936-1947) establishing birth control clinics around the country, was Executive Director of the Planned Parenthood Association, Chicago area (1947-1957), and a field worker for the Pathfinder Fund, a private organization for international family planning (1958-1966).
  • Emily Hartshorne Mudd
    Marriage counselor, advocate for family planning, researcher, and educator (University of Pennsylvania, M.S.W., 1936, Ph.D., 1950), Emily Borie (Hartshorne) Mudd married microbiologist Stuart Mudd in 1922. Mudd became counselor and then executive director of the newly founded Marriage Council of Philadelphia (MCP) in the early 1930s. The MCP affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in 1952; in 1956 Mudd became the first woman full professor in the medical school.
  • NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts (Organization)
    The Massachusetts Organization for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (MORAL) was incorporated on September 11, 1972, as the Massachusetts state affiliate for National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (NARAL). MORAL was a non-profit, political organization whose purpose was to develop and sustain a constituency which utilized the political process to protect a woman's right to a legal abortion.
  • National Abortion Rights Action League
    A national lobbying and membership organization devoted first to obtaining, and later to maintaining, the availability of safe, legal abortion. The initials stood for National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws from the organization's founding in 1969 until 1973, when the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade made abortion legal.
  • National Abortion Rights Action League additional records
  • National Abortion Rights Action League, State affiliates newsletter collection
    Formed in 1969, the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) was the first national gathering of grassroots activists advocating the repeal of state abortion laws. Collection consists of NARAL affiliate newsletters and newsletters of of unaffiliated groups/organizations in the United States.
  • National Organization for Women
    The National Organization for Women was formed on June 30, 1966. The Statement of Purpose declares that "the time has come to confront, with concrete action, the conditions that now prevent women from enjoying the equality of opportunity and freedom of choice which is their right, as individual Americans, and as human beings."

    Of particular interest is Series XLI: Reproductive Rights: NOW v. Scheidler, 1975-1998, 2002. In June 1986, after a series of abortion clinic arsons and bombings, NOW, the Delaware Women's Health Organization, and the Pensacola Ladies Center filed a complaint against Joseph Scheidler, the Pro-Life Action Network, and other individuals and organizations of the "pro-life" movement. This series contains records relating to the suit; it is divided into five subseries.
  • Obscenity Trials Collection
    Collection consists of court records, etc., from New York City concerning obscenity charges brought against Charles Manches and Charles McCabe by Anthony Comstock of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice. Manches was charged with sale of contraceptives and McCabe with the sale of an obscene pamphlet.
  • Katherine Brownell Oettinger
    Social worker, dean, and government official. Oettinger in 1965 was the first public official to speak out in favor of family planning.
  • Harriet F. Pilpel
    Harriet Fleishl Pilpel (1911- ) is a lawyer who has specialized in family and marriage law, birth control, copyright and literary property, and civil liberties.
  • Harriet F. Pilpel, Oral History Interview
    Audiotapes and transcript of an interview with Pilpel, a lawyer who specialized in family and marriage law, birth control, copyright and literary property, and civil liberties. Topics covered include her education, work as a lawyer, abortion legislation, etc. The interviewer was Eleanor Jackson Piel.

    Please note: Written permission of Eleanor J. Piel is required to view this collection.
  • Pro-life movement collection
    Collection consists of mailings, pamphlets, and ephemera from pro-life organizations.
  • Pro-life movement newsletter and periodical collection
    Collection includes pro-life movement newsletters and periodicals for which the Schlesinger Library holds three or fewer issues. Newsletters were created by state-wide pro-life groups, individuals, "crisis" pregnancy centers, religious groups, etc.
  • Martha Ragsdale Ragland
    Civic worker, political campaigner, and advocate of civil rights, birth control, and women's rights, Martha (Ragsdale) Ragland helped organize Planned Parenthood groups at the local and state levels in the 1930s and early 1940s, and in 1938 organized a speaking tour for Margaret Sanger in Tennessee. She held offices in the League of Women Voters at the local, state, and national levels, and worked for better housing and health services, tax equalization, and reform of the Tennessee constitution. In 1948 Ragland headed the women's division of the Democratic Party in the general election, and chaired the women's division in the Estes Kefauver (1948) and Albert Gore (1952) campaigns for the U.S. Senate. A delegate to the Democratic National Convention and member of the platform committee (1952), she was a member of the Democratic National Committee (1952-1956).
  • Barbara Rochelle
    Barbara Rochelle has studied and collected material by and about the pro-life movement in the United States.
  • Barbara Seaman
    Barbara Rosner Seaman (1935- ): feminist and author, (Oberlin, B.A., 1956) was a columnist and contributing editor at Ladies' Home Journal (1965-1969), child care and education editor at Family Circle (1970-1973), and author of articles and reviews in numerous newpapers and magazines. The author of The Doctors' Case Against the Pill, Free and Female, and Women and the Crisis in Sex Hormones, she was cited for her part in seeing that appropriate written warnings to patients accompany each prescription.
  • Barbara Seaman, Additional Papers
    See above description
  • Sybil Shainwald
    Attorney and expert in women's health law, Sybil Shainwald graduated from the College of William and Mary (B.A. 1948), Columbia University (M.A. 1972) and New York Law School (J.D. 1976). She has litigated thousands of cases involving drugs and medical devices that have injured women and their offspring, including DES (Diethylstilbesterol); the Dalkon Shield Intrauterine Device; silicon breast implants; Parlodel, a drug to suppress lactation; and Norplant, a contraceptive device. She has also served as co-counsel in cases involving other product liability actions. Shainwald was chair of the board of directors of the National Women's Health Network, and on the boards of the Consumer Interest Research Institute and the Hysterectomy Educational Resources and Services Foundation.
  • Sybil Shainwald, Additional Papers (2013-M193, 2013-M214, 2014-M1)
    See above description
  • Ruth Proskauer Smith
    An advocate of family planning and legal abortion, Smith began her career in 1946 as a field worker for the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts where she later served as executive secretary. Moving to New York, she administered the family planning service at Mount Sinai Hospital (1953-55), and was executive director of the Human Betterment Association for Voluntary Sterilization (1955-64) and the Association for the Study of Abortion (1964-66). In 1967 she helped organize the National Association for Repeal of Abortion Laws (now the National Abortion Rights Action League), and in 1970, as a member of the Abortion Rights Association of New York, Smith worked to implement a new state law legalizing abortion.
  • Society for Humane Abortion
    The Society for Humane Abortion was founded by Patricia Maginnis in 1962 as the Citizens Committee for Humane Abortion Laws. The name was changed in 1964, and the society was incorporated in California as a non-profit educational organization in 1965. Endorsing "elective abortion", SHA supported the repeal of all abortion laws, sponsored symposia on abortion procedures for physicians, maintained a Post-Abortion Care Center, and was active in public education. It was disbanded in 1975.
  • Robert D. Spencer
    Robert D. Spencer practiced general medicine in Ashland, Pa., and was willing to perform abortions before the procedure was legalized.
  • Hilda Crosby Standish
    Physician and lecturer on family planning, she became medical director of the first birth control clinic in Connecticut, which opened in July 1935; birth control was then illegal in Connecticut and most other states.
  • Felicia Hance Stewart
    Obstetrician, gynecologist, and advocate for women's access to emergency contraception and abortion services.
  • Ellen Willis
    Journalist and feminist Ellen Willis was a founder of Redstockings, a radical feminist group begun in 1969, and, in the 1980s, of No More Nice Girls, a street theater and protest group that focused on abortion rights.
  • Elizabeth C. Winship
    Beginning in 1963, Winship wrote an advice column for teenagers, "Ask Beth," after it was suggested to her by an editor at the Globe. In 1970 the Los Angeles Times Syndicate picked up "Ask Beth," which at its peak had 70 subscribing newspapers. In addition to her column, Winship tackled various health and sexuality issues in numerous publications, including Ask Beth: You Can't Ask Your Mother (1972) and Human Sexuality (1988). She regularly spoke with high school students, parents, and community groups on the topic of teenage sexual behavior and was also a consultant for a variety of family life educational programs.
  • Mary Winter
    A pro-life activist, founded People Concerned for the Unborn Child, in southwestern Pennsylvania. She also served on the Advisory Board of Feminists for Life.
  • Women's Community Health Center (Cambridge, Mass.)
    Women's Community Health Center in Cambridge, Mass., was incorporated in February 1974 as a women-owned and women-controlled health center. Initially staff offered self-help programs and gynecological services, and by May 1975 were performing first trimester abortions. Other educational programs centered upon sexuality, menopause, and natural birth control, and WCHC literature was translated into Spanish and Portuguese. The WCHC operated on a suggested fee system of payment, and funding was often dependent upon contributions from supporters.


Many of our books and periodicals are stored offsite. Please Ask a Schlesinger Librarian in advance of your visit to check on the availability of materials.


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