Devices and Desires: A History of Contraceptives in America

Devices and Desires: A History of Contraceptives in America

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by Tone
     
 

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ISBN-10: 080903817X

ISBN-13: 9780809038176

Pub. Date: 06/01/2001

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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

Overview

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.

Andrea Tone, an associate professor of history at the Georgia Institute of Technology, is the author of The Business of Benevolence and the editor of Controlling Reproduction: An American History. She lives in Decatur, Georgia.

A down-and-out sausage case 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 fascinating individuals who make up the history of contraception in America. Scholars of birth control typically frame its history as one of physicians, lawmakers, and political activists. But 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. She combines lively portraits of figures with a thorough history of technological and industrialdevelopments.

Tone begins with the passage of the 1873 Comstock Act, which criminalized the birth control business, and ends with the inventions of today (including Depo-Provera and Norplant). Along the way, she assesses the social and economic effects of chemical prophylaxis kits for World War I soldiers, condoms, the Lysol antiseptic douche, and the 1973 Dalkon Shield disaster (among others). In lively and engaging prose, her book illuminates the industry's transformation from an illicit trade located in basement workshops and pornography outlets to one of the most successful, legitimate businesses in American history.

"Marvelously eye-opening . . . Brings an original dimension to the story by recounting the development of the American contraceptive industry, and demonstrating its resilience in the face of militant attempts to suppress it . . . Tone convincingly upends [long-held views and] offers fascinating vignettes."—Daniel J. Kevles, The New York Times Book Review

"Marvelously eye-opening . . . Brings an original dimension to the story by recounting the development of the American contraceptive industry, and demonstrating its resilience in the face of militant attempts to suppress it . . . Tone convincingly upends [long-held views and] offers fascinating vignettes."—Daniel J. Kevles, The New York Times Book Review

"Once in a while, you come across a book that is so original, so persuasive, so meticulously researched and documented that it overrides some of your most taken-for-granted assumptions and beliefs. Devices and Desires is such a work."—Barbara Seaman, The Nation

"The best historians are great detectives, able both to ferret out facts hidden beneath the apparent surface of events and to construct new narratives that make those facts convincing. Andrea Tone is such a historian . . . [She] employs superb research skills to investigate questions of business and social history in three periods: the black market era of the late nineteenth century, the time of growing legitimacy during the first half of the twentieth, and the years of new technology and medicalization following World War II. Drawing effectively on trade journals, business records, personal papers, medical studies, credit reports, and arrest records, Tone demonstrates what Americans did rather than what they were told to do . . . This important book presents remarkable new material about the multifaceted contraceptive business and should command the attention of American historians. Well written and engaging, it compels the profession to alter its outdated understanding of sexual knowledge and practice. With its publication, historians can no longer plead ignorance of its facts in their own defense."—Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz, Smith College, The Journal of American History

"[A] revealing and often riveting work."—Jonathan Saltzman, Chicago Tribune

"Tone's beautifully written history introduces many vital but neglected participants in the history of contraception."—Janet Golden, The Women's Review of Books

"What happens when we view birth control as a business? The rewards are rich, as Andrea Tone's Devices and Desires elegantly demonstrates . . . Devices and Desires is lively, engaging, and beautifully written. Tone has done extensive and creative research in primary and secondary sources. She covers astonishingly vast and varied terrain, including fascinating discussions of changing technologies, contraceptives in the military, oligopolization of the condom industry, eugenics, and population control . . . Devices and Desires is a marvellous book, one that fulfills the promise implied in this journal's title. Seamlessly connecting the history of intimacy to the history of business, it is a most wonderful demonstration of the relation of enterprise to society."—Wendy Gamber, Indiana University, Enterprise and Society

"Andrea Tone's fascinating book, Devices and Desires, takes the wraps off birth control's long journey from illegality in the nineteenth century to legality in the twentieth. Women today are still suffering the aftereffects, not only from their less-than-perfect methods of birth control, but also from America's failure to develop better methods for all women at all times during their reproductive lives. How couples 'made do' with the often faulty methods available makes one marvel at our human ingenuity. Devices and Desires is must reading for anyone in women's rights and health."—Alexander Sanger, chair, International Planned Parenthood Council

"A brilliant and original work of research, Devices and Desires promises to transform our historical understanding of the place of birth control in American life. Professor Tone does a superb job structuring a sophisticated and subtle examination of a sensitive subject. Devices and Desires is very well written, packed with interesting people, fascinating analysis, and surprises: a work of significant scholarship that is fun to read. Tone's book has major policy implications not just for the issue of birth control but also for the debate over health care in the United States. It is a work of the first importance."—Michael Bellesiles, author of Arming America

"In this fascinating and engaging book Andrea Tone brings together social and business history with the material culture of contraception. Peppering her narrative with revealing personal stories. Tone provides a vibrant history that is as timely as today's headlines. I highly recommend it!"—Judith W. Leavitt, author Typhoid Mary

"Andrea Tone provides valuable new insights into what it was like to make, sell, buy, and use contraceptives in a period when contraception developed from an illicit trade to a big business. Her account challenges the conventional view that contraceptive history is a tale of progress in which bad, over-the-co

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780809038176
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
06/01/2001
Edition description:
1 ED
Pages:
366
Product dimensions:
6.34(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.25(d)

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Devices And Desires 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I used this book for a paper in college and actually read it cover to cover. 6 years later I still quote from the book. Tone did a great job of putting the history of contraceptives in prespective. Great read, perfect for any history buff.