Sex, Politics, and Contraception in England and the United States, 1793-1831: The Earliest Origins of the Reproductive Rights Movement


ACLS Fellowship Program




This narrative history recovers the lost tale of the earliest birth control movement and argues that it is the ancestor of today's reproductive rights movement. Historians have not realized that the first pro-contraception activists (Francis Place, Richard Carlile, R.D. Owen, and, indirectly, Fanny Wright) saw themselves as a united movement, nor that they saw birth control as merely one aspect of their egalitarian program to reform marriage and sexuality. In their lives as well as their writings, these radical intellectuals consciously continued the 1790s tradition of Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin; this project also contains an analysis of Wollstonecraft and Godwin’s influence on T.R. Malthus's population principle.