What Planned Parenthood Taught WWII Veterans About Birth Control

When the Birth Control League was founded in 1921, the organization focused on women, their health, and their right to birth control information. The birth rate declined, but that was probably due more to the effects of the Great Depression and World War II than the League's efforts. Then, when soldiers began to return home from the war, everything changed. Women relinquished their wartime jobs to the veterans, and the returning soldiers wanted to settle down to a normal civilian life, with a home, job, and a wife. The League changed its name to the Birth Control Federation of America in 1939, and then started focusing their efforts on men as well as women. And then less on women altogether.   

In 1942, the Birth Control Federation of America changed its name to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and began focusing on family planning and spacing out births, rather than women’s rights.

By the end of the war, the organization had “largely abandoned the women-centered approach of the earlier birth control movement,” writes Peter Engelman, in A History of the Birth Control Movement in America. This new message “appealed more to men and the male-dominated public health departments, hospital, legislatures, and government agencies that were integral to the future success of the movement.”

To this end, Planned Parenthood issued booklets discussing family issues aimed at men. They were partly humorous, but emphasized the importance of family planning to one's continued happiness. Take a look inside those booklets at Atlas Obscura.

(Image from the New York Academy of Medicine Library)

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