19th Century Contraception

Humanae Vitae proponents, saddened at the widespread bypass Catholics seem to be making around the Church ban on contraception, seem fond of blaming the 60’s and the Pill. But the American tendency to limit family size while enjoying sexual intercourse goes back even before the 1860’s.

This piece on LiveScience.com contains this bit of information:

(R)ecord sales of two family planning books published in the 1830’s suggest that the public was eager to keep families small, regardless of religious or political pressure.

“There’s a flurry of publications in the mid-19th century giving readers advice on how to control family size,” (SUNY Binghamton historian J. David) Hacker told LiveScience.

“Moral Physiology” by Robert Dale Owen and Charles Knowlton’s “The Fruits of Philosophy” became popular for advocating contraception methods. Owen described coitus interruptus, where a man ejaculates outside of the woman’s body. Knowlton’s book included instructions for women on how to wash with a spermicidal solution.

In 1873, it became illegal in the US to send contraception information in the mail.



About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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