Women's and Gender Studies Program


Date of this Version



Published in Social History of Medicine Vol. 27, No. 3 pp. 594–627. doi:10.1093/shm/hku013


Copyright © 2014 Rose Holz. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for the Social History of Medicine. Used by permission.


As Manon Parry explains in her interesting new book, ‘Many of the women who wrote [to the Birth Control Review] noted that they had read about [Margaret] Sanger’s work in the press, confirming the important role of the mass media in publicizing and building support for the movement’ (p. 13). Therein lies the crux of Parry’s project: the use of publicity was central to the family planning movement and a sustained analysis of its use over time is long overdue. To that end, she challenges several long-standing historiographic assumptions and unearths more than a few fascinating stories. For example, she refutes the long held view that in its early days the ‘birth control movement traded controversy for propriety in their efforts to win mainstream approval.’ Parry persuasively argues instead that each new publicity effort brought a new round of ‘outrage and censorship’ (p. 3). Additionally, in charting the shifting publicity mediums—from film, to radio, and finally to television—she illustrates how the particularities of each shaped the messages the family planning movement delivered.