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Reproductive Rights and Women's Health

Selected Primary Sources in the Sophia Smith Collection

Personal papers and Organizations | Subject collections | Oral histories
Related Collections


Ames Family (1844-2005). Papers include Blanche Ames Ames (1878-1969; Smith Class 1899), birth control advocate and founder of the Birth Control League of Massachusetts which became Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts (see also PPLM Records). Her papers include correspondence, records of BCLM, Family Welfare Foundation, plus information on various other birth control organizations, dating from 1916 to 1966). There is also material about the religious controversy in Massachusetts over birth control activities.
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Charon Asetoyer (1951 - ), abortion rights advocate, women's health activist, indigenous rights activist. Asetoyer co-founded the Native American Community Board (NACB) on the Yankton Sioux reservation in South Dakota in 1985, which in 1988 evolved into the Native American Women's Health Education Resource Center. Asteoyer is Executive Director of the Resource Center and has served on the boards of the American Indian Center, the National Women's Health Network, and the Indigenous Women's Network. The bulk of the papers (1985-2008, ongoing) focus on Asetoyer's activism in indigenous rights, women's health, and reproductive justice issues; major topics include Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, HIV/AIDS and Native Americans, health care for rural and underserved populations, and indigenous women's activism and leadership. See also the Voices of Feminism Oral History Project and the Native American Women's Health Education Resource Center Records.
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Mary Ritter Beard (1876-1958), pioneer in the study and teaching of women's history, writer and crusader for women's rights. Papers (1931-1958) include circa 80 letters to Dorothy Brush about Japanese birth control and the work of Shidzué Ishimoto Kato.
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Dorothy Hamilton Brush (1894-1968), writer, editor of International Planned Parenthood Federation News and crusader for women's rights, especially birth control. Included in the papers (1946-1968) are articles, pamphlets and correspondence related to sex education and birth control; questionnaires, research, and manuscript for her book on menopause; research material for a book on Margaret Sanger; a photo album of a trip to the Far East with Sanger; and an unpublished play entitled "Margaret."
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Katsi Cook (1952 - ), midwife, environmentalist, indigenous rights activist. The papers (1972-2008) document Cook's midwifery and women's health practice in the Akwesasne Mohawk community, and her involvement in the Mother's Milk Project, which she created in 1984 to document and monitor levels of PCBs and other industrial pollutants in the St. Lawrence River. Documentation of Cook's Native American reproductive health activism is extensive. See also the Voices of Feminism Oral History Project.
[Note: This collection has not been fully processed and may be difficult to use.]
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Joy G. Dryfoos, (1925- ), researcher; author; reproductive health specialist. Papers (1960-2001, ongoing) contain extensive research and printed material, primarily from Dryfoos's work at the Alan Guttmacher Institute in the 1960s and 1970s. They include her working files on such subjects as family planning and abortion as well as numerous articles, reports, and speeches authored by Dryfoos.
  [Note: This collection has not been fully processed and may be difficult to use]
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May Farquharson (1894-1992), organizer of the Birth Control League (later Family Planning League) of Jamaica. The collection (1937-1992) consists mostly of clippings, loose and in scrapbooks, related to her work for the advancement of family planning against social and political odds.
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Stella Hanau (1890-1972), writer and editor of The Birth Control Review. The collection (circa 1904-71) contains correspondence with family and friends, pamphlets, publicity texts, and published reports about birth control.
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Informed Homebirth/Informed Birth and Parenting (1977- ), a national educational organization that provides parents with information about alternatives in birth, parenting, and early childhood. Records (1975-1998, ongoing) include publications, video- and audiotapes, and teaching manuals for childbirth education and childbirth assistant training, conferences, and workshops; books and articles on home birth and midwifery; newsletters; financial records; and professional papers of founder Rahima Baldwin Dancy.
  [Note: This collection has not been fully processed and may be difficult to use]
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Una Elizabeth Jacobs (1917- ), birth control activist; member, Legislative Council of Jamaica. Papers (1950-2003, ongoing) include correspondence, speeches, clippings, photographs, videotape, writings, and printed material relating to family planning, sex education, family life and health, Child Welfare Association, the International Planned Parenthood Foundation and the Beth Jacobs Family Planning Clinic in Jamaica, 1950-1998.
  [Note: This collection has not been fully processed and may be difficult to use.]
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Margaret Sanger Research Bureau (1923-1968), founded in 1923 as Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau (BCCRB), the name was changed in 1940 to Margaret Sanger Research Bureau. It became part of the merger with the Birth Control Federation of America in 1939, which became PPFA in 1942. Records (1877-1973) contain biographical material about birth control pioneers; publications of English and U.S. birth control clinics and organizations; material about the religious controversy over birth control, birth control research, methods and catalogs, laws and legislation; and miscellaneous foreign language publications. See also Margaret Sanger Papers for substantial organization files.
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Midwives' Alliance of North America (1982- ), professional organization for midwives. The open portion of the records (1973-2004, ongoing) includes newsletters and other printed material documenting the national and regional activities of the organization, as well as the experiences and social and political issues faced by midwives, primarily in the United States, but also in Canada and Mexico. (See also the Midwifery Collection.)
  [Restrictions of Access: Only published materials in box 3 are open for research.]
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National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (1994- ), reproductive rights advocacy organization. The Records (1992-2004, ongoing) contain printed materials, such as newsletters and pamphlets, which document its mission to ensure the right to reproductive health for Latinas, their families, and their communities through education, advocacy and coalition building.
  [Note: This collection has not been fully processed and may be difficult to use]

National Women's Health Network (1975- ), womens health advocacy organization. The records (1975-1996, ongoing) include administrative files, correspondence, publications, project files, fundraising/ grant files, financial records and mailing lists. Approximately half of the collection consists of subject files relating to the NWHN's many research projects and legal organizing and public education campaigns from abortion to toxic shock syndrome.
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Native American Women's Health Education Resource Center (1986- ), women's health advocacy organization. The NAWHERC records (1986-2006) document programs relating to a broad range of Native American health issues, including teen pregnancy prevention, abortion and reproductive health, fetal alcohol syndrome, breast cancer, HIV/AIDS, environmental toxins, STDs, elderly population issues, and domestic violence. Materials relating to Charon Asetoyer's South Dakota State Senate campaign and interviews are also included. See also the Charon Asetoyer Papers and her oral history in the Voices of Feminism Oral History Project.
[Note: this collection has not been fully processed and therefore may be somewhat difficult to use. Collection is partially restricted; contact the SSC for more information.]
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Harriet Pilpel (1911-91), attorney, reproductive rights activist. Her papers (1913-81) consist primarily of reference files used when she was legal counsel for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, including her research files on sexual and reproductive cases around the country on both the state and federal levels during the 1960s-70s.
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Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) (1921- ). The records (1918- ongoing) of this on-going organization contain administrative material and information on PPFA's activities, programs and relations with other groups as well as some records of the Federation's antecedents. The collection is a significant source of information on all aspects of the history of birth control and family planning, including women's health issues; sex education; women in poverty; international population planning and policy; and the legal, political and social aspects of contraception and abortion.
  [Note: This collection is divided into two portions, PPFA I and PPFA II. PPFA I includes early records, dating from 1918 to the mid 1970s. PPFA II consists of records received since 1988, dating from the 1950s to the present, so there is some overlap in the dates.]   [Restrictions on access: the PPFA II portion has not been fully processed and may be difficult to use. Records less than 25 years are closed.]
   View finding aids:   PPFA I and PPFA II

Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts (PPLM) (1916- ) still on-going organization for which the Records (1916-74) include various antecedent organizations which became the PPLM in 1945. Correspondence, administrative records, relations with other birth control organizations, conferences, and legislative files, and clippings. Records also include significant national materials. (See also Ames Family Papers.)   View finding aid

  Rita Burreul with her seven children
Rita Burreul with her seven children, 1935. Group photo for Tucson, Arizona Mother's Health Clinic.
(Margaret Sanger Papers)

Annie Gertrude Webb Porritt (1861-1932), secretary of the American Birth Control League. Papers (1906-1976) include extensive correspondence, especially from Margaret Sanger and Stella Hanau, editor of The Birth Control Review, related to birth control; minutes of the American Birth Control League; and related flyers, pamphlets, brochures, and legislative materials. In addition, there is an unpublished outline of the history of the birth control movement.
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Florence Rose (1903-1969), birth control reformer and assistant to Margaret Sanger. Papers (1889-1987) include correspondence with Shidzue Ishimoto Kato, 1933-38, Lady Dhanvanthi Rama Rau, 1953, and Margaret Sanger, 1924-1965, related to the worldwide crusade for birth control. There is also a history of the birth control movement, legal hearings, legislation, and the Division of Negro Services, 1940-41, of the Margaret Sanger Research Bureau.
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Loretta J. Ross (1953- ), reproductive rights advocate; civil rights activist; feminist; women's health activist. The papers (1956-2005, ongoing) include speeches, writings, correspondence, organization and conference files, subject files, and periodicals related to her activism for reproductive justice for women of color. The collection is particularly strong in issues related to black women's health. Organization files include the National Black Women's Health Project, National Women's Health Network, Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights, and Women's Global Network on Reproductive Rights.
  [Note: This collection has not been fully processed and may be difficult to use]   View finding aid

Margaret Sanger (1879-1966), birth control pioneer and founder of the birth control movement. Sanger's personal and professional papers are available on microfilm. The Sophia Smith Collection also has additional papers (1800s-1973) that were not microfilmed including printed material in Sanger's subject and organization files, photographs, books, and periodicals. The Sophia Smith Collection also has the microfilm of Sanger's papers at the Library of Congress, 1900-1965.
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Adaline Pendleton Satterthwaite (1917-2005), physician; birth control rights advocate. The papers (1917-2005)include extensive correspondence, diaries, medical records and reports, photographs, writings, and subject files pertaining to Satterthwaite's career as a physican, birth control pioneer, and internationally renowned expert in family planning. The collection is rich in materials documenting Satterthwaite's work in family planning in Puerto Rico, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and China. Some materials are in Spanish.
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Thomas Thompson Trust (1901- ), charitable organization. The records (1844-2002) include documentation of the work of the Brattleboro Mutual Aid Association and the Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, including a practical nursing school and public health programs concerning maternal and infant health care. Material about the Brattleboro Memorial Hospital includes correspondence regarding the opening and the creation of a graduate (registered) nursing school.
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Martha Voegeli (dates unknown), physician and birth control advocate. Papers (1946-1965) include correspondence and articles authored by Voegeli about birth control (particularly male sterilization), overpopulation (especially in India), and correspondence from Clarence Gamble to Voegeli.
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Emma Elizabeth Walker (1864-1954), physician; birth control advocate; public health advocate. The papers (1899-1954) contain writings, lectures, biographical material and correspondence. In addition to documenting the work of a woman doctor at the turn of the century, the collection contains material relevant to women's health, the social and moral hygiene movements, turn-of-the century childrearing practices, and sexuality.
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Women's Action Alliance (1971-1997), women's advocacy organization; feminist collective. The Records (1970-1996) include documentation of the organization's projects relating to women's health. These include the Resource Mothers Project (1993-96, .25 linear ft.), a peer-driven, community-based nutrition and prenatal care training program; the Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Project (1985-88, 6.5 linear ft.); and the Women's Alcohol and Drug Education Project (1988-95, 1 linear ft.)
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Ira S. Wile (1877-1943), author, lecturer, and advocate of birth control. Papers (1915-1942) include correspondence and printed material on social, economic, political, legal, religious, medical, and moral issues related to birth control. Also materials relating to birth control conferences, the American Birth Control League, and the Birth Control Federation of America.
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YWCA of the U.S.A. (1860-2002).  Social service organization founded in the 1850s to provide services, job training, education, and recreation to employed women. The YWCA defined health, which it considered "the right of every individual" as physical, mental, and social well-being. Its program of "positive health" a term coined by its first Secretary for Health, Dr. Anna L. Brown encompassed not only activities related to physical health, such as health examinations, health education, and physical recreation opportunities; but also the opportunities for creative expression, cultural enrichment, rest and relaxation, social interaction, and other forms of personal fulfillment and spiritual growth. Records include minutes, mailings, reports, studies, correspondence, surveys, and publications. Major topics include physical health, mental health, sex education, marriage and family life education (consisting of relationships education, sex education, and balancing work and family); menopause; "health" shoes; nutrition; exercise and sport; and various forms of indoor recreation, such as arts, crafts, dancing, and parties. Since the 1980s, the YWCA has had especially active teen sexuality, and breast and cervical cancer awareness programs.
  View finding aid


Abortion Collection (1936-1995) contains mostly published materials such as articles, pamphlets, newsletters, books, newspaper clippings, and legislative records. There are also memorabilia and audiovisual materials. The collection documents the efforts of both the anti- and pro-choice movements from the 1930's to the present, although the bulk of the collection dates from the 1970s. The Legal status section documents specific court cases, with an emphasis on the Roe v. Wade case (1973), including court transcripts and audiotapes from the Supreme Court hearing. Organizations represented include the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) and the Women's National Abortion Action Coalition (WONAAC).
  View finding aid

Birth Control Collection (1923-2000) consists mostly of books, plus one box of pamphlets, flyers, and other publications. The collection dates from 1923 to 2000, with the bulk of the materials dating from the 1930s. Topics relate primarily to uses and misuses of contraception; family planning, sex in marriage, sex instruction, histories of the treatment of contraception by the church, population problems, fertility, and sterility.
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Health Collection (1818-1990s) documents the evolution of medical and scientific thinking and practice relating to women's health from 1818-1990s. There are small amounts of material on such topics as abortion, birth control, childbirth, eugenics, female genital mutilation, lactation, infant mortality, marriage instruction, mental hygiene, motherhood, nutrition, obstetrics, sexuality, sterilization, and AIDS.
  View finding aid

Midwifery Collection (1972-1999) comprised entirely of printed materials pertaining to the practice of midwifery and home birth. Included are publications of organizations such as the Alliance of Radical Midwives, the Alternative Birth Association, National Midwives Association and the American College of Nurse Midwives. The collection also contains information on schools and training for midwifery, insurance, legal status, and protocols of practice.
  View finding aid

Population Problems Collection (1896-1979) contains mainly printed material on issues pertaining to world population problems in the 20th century; the international birth control movement; and development programs and agencies that assist poor women and their families. Related issues such as sterilization and eugenics are also documented. Types of materials include books, pamphlets, booklets, newspaper clippings, articles and essays.
  View finding aid

The Periodicals Collection includes Birth Control Review (1917-40), The Eugenics Review (1937-60), Lucifer the Lightbearer (1897-1901), Sexology (1954-56), and many other relevant titles. See also the Margaret Sanger Papers for a large number of periodicals related to birth control.   View finding aid


See the Oral Histories list for full descriptions:

Cheri Appel, birth control advocate; physician.

Margaret Hays Baum, birth control advocate.

Population and Reproductive Health Oral History Project. Oral history interviews of pioneers in the birth control movement, population planning, and reproductive health from the 1960s to the present.

Schlesinger-Rockefeller Oral History Project. Documents women in health services, maternal and childcare, family planning, marriage counseling, and sex education.

Voices of Feminism Oral History Project

Edris Rice-Wray, birth control advocate and physician.

For related collections, see the Women in Medicine and Health Subject Guide.

For secondary sources, see the Browsing and Reference collections in the SSC Reading Room.

(Note: The SSC is actively collecting the papers of women's health and reproductive rights advocates and their organizations, especially those documenting women of color. Please contact us for updated information on our holdings.)

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