Devices and Desires: A History of Contraceptives in America
From thriving black market to big business, the commercialization of birth control in the United States
In Devices and Desires, Andrea Tone breaks new ground by showing what it was really like to buy, produce, and use contraceptives during a century of profound social and technological change. A down-and-out sausage-casing worker by day who turned surplus animal intestines into a million-dollar condom enterprise at night; inventors who fashioned cervical caps out of watch springs; and a mother of six who kissed photographs of the inventor of the Pill -- these are just a few of the individuals who make up this riveting story.
The Secret History of Sex and Birth Control
By Barbara Seaman - July 17, 2001
When I reviewed this extraordinary book for THE NATION Magazine (issue of June 11, 2001) my piece was entitled "The Secret History of Sex." It's fun to scoop the N.Y. TIMES.! The lead review in the NY Times Book Review for July 22, 2001 is also of DEVICES AND DESIRES, and is entitled "The Secret History of Birth Control." DEVICES AND DESIRES is so original, so persuasive, so meticulously researched and documented that it overrides some of our most taken-for-granted assumptions and beliefs., It opens in 1873 when the Comstock law was passed in the U. S. Congress, banning both pornography and birth control devices. The new law must have made contraception known to some folks who had never heard of it before (or maybe the fact that it was banned made people think it might be fun) because birth control quickly grew into a huge bootleg industry, as popular as liquor was during prohibition, and offering many more products and options for both women and men... read more
An Entertaining and Important History
By R. Hardy "Rob Hardy" - August 20, 2001
We have long been used to birth control as being legal, safe, and available. There was a long history of prudery on the subject, though, which continues to have repercussions on our society and our birth rates to this day. _Devices & Desires: A History of Contraceptives in America_ (Hill and Wang) by Andrea Tone, is a sophisticated examination of how Americans went from covertly using illegal contraception in the last century to medically approved versions during this one. It is a fascinating tale, full of passion, science, repression, American ingenuity, and Horatio Alger stories of making it big in the contraception business. The dour presiding figure over all these proceedings is Anthony Comstock, who built himself up into a vice busting public servant, a special agent of the Post Office, and enforcer of the Comstock Act of 1873. He regarded contraceptives as obscenities, insisting for religious reasons that abstinence and the then poorly-understood rhythm method were... read more
compelling, engaging and convincing history of brith control
By Bruce J. Wasser - October 25, 2002
For nearly a century, from the advent of repressive Comstockery in the 1870s to the development of The Pill in the 1950s and 1960s, the history of contraception in our national history suggests several irrefutable truths. National and state governments, ignoring the realities of consumer demand for safe and effective contraception, have unsuccessfully attempted to repress not only the creation of birth control devices but have actively engaged in suppression of information about them.Despite official opposition, a semi-covert, but vibrant underground market economy developed to satisfy the insatiable demand for methods to control sexual reproduction. Professor Andrea Tone's meticulously researched and felicitously written "Devices and Desires" is at once a survey of the technology of contraception, a political analysis of the struggle for women to obtain control over the reproductive lives and an engaging social history of the advocates, producers and consumers of contraceptive... read more
Robert A. Williams Jr. boldly exposes the ongoing legal force of the racist language directed at Indians in American society. Fueled by well-known negative racial stereotypes of Indian savagery and ...