The Gospel of Birth Control: Prophets, Patients, and the Transnational Family Planning Movement

  • Project Lead: Nicole Bourbonnais
  • Timeline: Preliminary Research Phase
  • Keywords: Population, Reproduction, Maternal Health, Global History, Transnational Movements, Civil Society, Feminism, Public Health 

This project explores the rise of transnational birth control campaigns, family planning activism, and reproductive health/rights movements from the 1920s onwards.  Moving past the most famous advocates, this project will use the archives of international organizations like the Population Council and Pathfinder Fund, papers of select local family planning associations, and oral histories to examine how these campaigns were shaped by a much wider range of actors, including fieldworkers who fanned out across the globe to spread “the gospel of birth control”; local nurses and women’s health activists who organized sex education classes in their communities; religious leaders who supported family planning from the pulpit; and doctors who found themselves becoming outspoken abortion law reform activists.  These “middle” men and women served as a critical bridge between international/state funded programs and local communities, while also building transnational networks that fuelled the exchange of ideas and strategies across borders.  As practitioners and/or prophets for the cause, they were on the frontlines of both shifting international paradigms and the practice of reproductive control on the ground.