Category Archives: Medical

Family Planning and the 19th Century Family Tree

Susan (Stanwood) Clark and daughter Beatrice, 1906 – Floodwood, Minnesota

My great grandmother, Susan (Stanwood) Clark is shown above, holding my grandmother’s sister, Beatrice. My grandmother, Goldie (Simpson) Edwards, and Auntie Bea were the only surviving children born to Grandma Susie, who was herself one of eight children, seven of which lived to adulthood. Her father, Albert Stanwood, however, was one of only four children. Albert’s father, David, was from a family of six, born to Benjamin and Betsy (Wasgatt) Stanwood. Surprisingly, I’ve stumbled on a fair number of 19th century families in my genealogy (primarily in the Wasgatt lines) where only one or two children were born to the couple, while they were married many years. While not uncommon during current times, it certainly was not the norm in days past. It made me stop and ponder the reasons for these smaller family sizes. Infertility? Possibly. Choice? Maybe. But how? The Comstock law of 1873 declared birth control both obscene as well as illegal. So, what methods of birth control did our ancestors have available to them?

According to the CDC’s MMR publication Achievements in Public Health, 1900-1999: ¬†Family Planning, discussing birth control, counseling women about family planning or distributing contraception was illegal under state and federal laws. ¬† Continue reading


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