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Sex, family planning and British female doctors in transnational perspective, 1920–70

Women’s medicine explores the key role played by British female doctors in the production and circulation of contraceptive knowledge and the handling of sexual disorders between the 1920s and 1970s at the transnational level, taking France as a point of comparison. This study follows the path of a set of women doctors as they made their way through the predominantly male-dominated medical landscape in establishing birth control and family planning as legitimate fields of medicine. This journey encompasses their practical engagement with birth control and later family planning clinics in Britain, their participation in the development of the international movement of birth control and family planning and their influence on French doctors. Drawing on a wide range of archived and published medical materials, this study sheds light on the strategies British female doctors used, and the alliances they made, to put forward their medical agenda and position themselves as experts and leaders in birth control and family planning research and practice.

Expanding the work of the clinics
Caroline Rusterholz

advice (as we saw in Chapter 1 ), sexual disorders and infertility were treated together. They contributed to the development of the prevention and treatment of sexual disorders and thus participated in the medicalisation of sexuality. Women doctors paved the way for the formal integration of sexual counselling and sub-fertility and the predominance of these issues in family planning clinics from the 1970s onwards. The production of scientific knowledge of sexual disorders by women doctors remains marginal and has mainly been written about as part of a broad analysis

in Women’s medicine
Open Access (free)
Caroline Rusterholz

planning and gave it a new meaning. From the mid-1930s onwards, family planning no longer encompassed solely the provision of contraceptive advice, but also advice on sexual disorders and infertility, two new subjects born out of patients’ needs and demands. Helena Wright and Joan Malleson were the forerunners of sexual counselling – compared to their colleagues who wrote and engaged with the issue of sexual pleasure in the 1930s, their approach was nothing short of radical. Wright and Malleson set up sexual counselling sessions centred on female sexual pleasure. They

in Women’s medicine
Open Access (free)
Caroline Rusterholz

manuals, audio recordings of sexual counselling sessions, autobiographies and interviews) to archival material from medical associations in both the UK and France (Eugenics Society, International Planned Parenthood Federation, Family Planning Association, Maternité Heureuse, Mouvement Français pour le Planning Familial, Medical Women's Federation, and Association Française des Femmes Médecins). These chapters are organised thematically and chronologically. In Chapters 1 and 2 , I concentrate on women doctors’ involvement in birth control at the national level through

in Women’s medicine
Caroline Rusterholz

take their patients’ experiences into account. Indeed, in their views, reliable and efficient methods were key to limiting births and, as I will show in Chapter 2 , they also developed sexual counselling as an answer to their patients’ needs. Many of the women doctors working in birth control clinics were also members of the Medical Women's Federation, such as the abovementioned Joan Malleson, who worked as a psychosexual counsellor at the Telford Clinic; Dr Olive Gimson, medical officer for the Manchester, Salford and District Mothers’ Clinic

in Women’s medicine