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B MS c78

National Committee on Maternal Health. Records, 1923-1959: Finding Aid.

Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine)

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Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine)

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: B MS c78
Repository: Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine)
Creator: National Committee on Maternal Health (U.S.)
Title: National Committee on Maternal Health Records, 1923-1959
Date(s): 1923-1959
Quantity: 1 collection (18 boxes and 5 v.)
Language of materials: English
Abstract: The National Committtee on Maternal Health Records chronicle the activities, research, publications, and projects of the National Committee on Maternal Health. The collection also includes records from the Committee on Maternal Health, the organization's name before changing to the National Committee on Maternal Health in 1930. The collection consists of agendas, minutes of executive committee and board of directors' meetings, annual reports, reports of officers, memoranda, and secretary's correspondence for the years 1923 to 1955; the records also include some correspondence of executive directors, of Robert Latou Dickinson, and other committee members.

Conditions Governing Access:

Access requires advance notice. Consult the Public Services Librarian for further information.

Conditions Governing Use:

The Boston Medical Library does not hold copyright on all the materials in the collection. Requests for permission to publish material from the collection should be directed to the Public Services Librarian. Researchers who obtain permission to publish from the Public Services Librarian are responsible for identifying and contacting the persons or organizations that hold copyright. Reference Services and Access Information.

Preferred Citation:

National Committee on Maternal Health records, 1920s-1959. B MS c78. Boston Medical Library, Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, Boston, Mass.

Related Material in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, Center for the History of Medicine

Consult the Public Services Librarian for further information.

Historical Note

The Committee on Maternal Health was organized in New York City in 1923 by the renowned gynecologist Robert Latou Dickinson for the purpose of sponsoring the study of contraception and related issues. At first Dickinson, who had long been interested in problems of human sexuality, directed the efforts of the Committee toward taking medical control of contraception away from Margaret Sanger's Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau and the American Birth Control League. With this aim in view and with help from the Rockefeller-funded Bureau of Social Hygiene, the Maternity Research Council was created under the auspices of the Committee. Eventually, however, Dr. Dickinson and Mrs. Sanger became the mediators through whom the medical profession and the birth control movement were able to cooperate and the Clinical Research Bureau survived under the direction of Dr. Hannah Stone.
In 1930 the Committee on Maternal Health's name changed to National Committee on Maternal Health and its role shifted to that of publisher and clearing-house for public information and education. At the same time Dickinson and other members of the Committee not only served in an advisory capacity to the birth control movement at large, they also were concerned with various aspects of maternal and child welfare, among them sexual relations and marriage counseling. The Committee's sponsorship of contraceptive research received a boost in 1934 when the Standards Program was developed through the help of Dr. Clarence J. Gamble. Under this program delivery and testing of contraceptives in the. South came to be carried out on an extensive scale in the later years of the 1930s. During the 1940s the Committee focused on such timely issues as women war workers and abortion studies.
By the time of Dickinson's death in 1950 the Committee save for Gamble's Standards Program was virtually inactive. Its offices at the New York Academy of Medicine were closed in 1955 and the work of the Standards Program was transferred a few years later to the newly-established, Pathfinder Fund (a Gamble family foundation). Some of the Committee's other work was subsequently taken up by the Population Council.
For more on the inter-relations between the Committee and the birth control movement as well as its subsequent history, see James Reed, "From Private Vice to Public Virtue; the Birth Control Movement and American Society since 1830" (New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1978).

Series and Subseries in the Collection

Scope and Content Note

The National Committee on Maternal Health Archive is small but choice. There are 18 manuscript boxes containing more than 600 folders of documents (mostly agendas and minutes of meetings, reports and memoranda, correspondence, manuscript and typescript materials, reprints and bibliographies, and membership lists), 15 of. which are arranged chronologically from 1923 to 1958. Boxes 16-18 contain subject files relating to the Round Table Discussion Group, abortion and contraceptive research, federal legislation, and artificial insemination, among other topics. There are, in addition, five ledgers containing financial data.
Besides Drs. Dickinson and Gamble, others associated with the Committee during its 35-year existence included: Dr. George Kosmak, Louise S. Bryant, Randolph Cautley, Gilbert W. Beebe, Dr. Raymond Squier, Dr. Clair E. Folsome, and D. Kenneth Rose. Christopher Tietze, the director of the Standards Program during its last years, in 1969 permitted the loan of the Committee's records to the Countway Library of Medicine in Boston and in 1973 approved their permanent deposit for the use of future readers.

Container List


med00070