First Advisor

Lynn E. Thompson

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work (MSW)


Social Work




Birth control -- United States -- History



Physical Description

1 online resource (174 p.)


The evolution of the birth control movement in the United States is the focus of this dissertation. The period of emphasis is 1873 to the present, though earlier history is briefly dealt with.

The research method used was an extensive library search of the literature, followed by categorization and analysis of the data.

The birth control movement was found to adapt to the sociological model of social movements and was discussed within this context. Two parallel movements were found to be of importance: the birth control movement itself and the population control movement. The orientations and relationships between these two movements are analyzed, as is the effect on government and public attitudes.

Other components of the birth control movement are also delineated and dealt with in this dissertation. These components include social and political attitudes, economic issues, the role of the judiciary, the religious influence, and the development of a funding base.

The major findings of this research are related to birth control as a social movement. First, until the 1970s it was found that the birth control movement, advocating individual rights, held the dominant emphasis. However, it appears that the population control movement is gaining influence as public awareness and concern increases. This is due in part to the gradual institutionalization of the birth control movement, that is, it has been absorbed into the societal structure as a necessary and functional part of society. Second, is the transition of birth control from the shadow of illegality it experienced at the turn of the century to the legal and respectable position of the 1970s. Third, the research also revealed the pattern of change regarding federal funding. This pattern indicated essentially no federal funds before the 1960s, a sharp increase and plateau during that decade, and finally decline in funds in the 1970s.

The major conclusion of this thesis is that the birth control movement has been a dynamic and important part of the twentieth century. It has had a notable impact on this society and it portends more social change and impact for the future.


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