While most of us are at least somewhat familiar with the history and debate surrounding contraceptive use, Andrea Tone’s fascinating book alerts us to a much longer history of efforts to prevent unwanted pregnancies.
There was a thriving cottage industry of “home cures” throughout much of the 19th century, and though it’s impossible to assess their effectiveness, fertility rates did drop steadily after 1800. In 1873 the Comstock Act deemed contraceptives “obscene” and the industry went underground until the policy was reversed after World War I.
Tone follows the story through 1970, not only profiling important personalities like activist Margaret Sanger, but also considering the impact of technology and economics. Devices and Desires is a must read for all who want to know more about the history of women came to have power over their reproductive lives.