Condoms for Troops in WW I
Despite restrictions on birth control devices and even discussing birth control in the U.S., the government distributed condoms to troops during World War I. This step was a wartime measure, taken to ensure the health and combat readiness of American soldiers in World War I. Condoms and information about birth control were not, however, generally available to the American public.
The battle for freedom to discuss birth control and to have contraceptive devices available was a long one. The 1873 Comstock Act (enacted on March 3, 1873), for example, prohibited the distribution of birth control information and devices through the 1930s. Margaret Sanger was arrested and convicted for opening the first birth control clinic in America on October 16, 1916. Speeches by Sanger and others were often banned or disrupted. Famously, she was banned from speaking about birth control in Boston, and in a symbolic protest appeared on stage at the event on April 16, 1929, with a gag over her mouth.
The battle over birth control largely (but not completely) ended in 1965 when the Supreme Court struck down a Connecticut law prohibiting the use of “any drug, medicinal article or instrument for the purpose of preventing conception” in Griswold v. Connecticut on June 7, 1965. Most important, the decision created a constitutional right to privacy and laid the legal foundation for a constitutional right to abortion in Roe v. Wade on January 22, 1973.
See February 14, 1978 for the beginnings of National Condom Week.
Learn more at a timeline on the history of birth control: http://www.ourbodiesourselves.org/book/companion.asp?id=18&compID=53
Read: Linda Gordon, The Moral Property of Women: A History of Birth Control Politics in America, 3rd ed. (2007)
Learn more at the “covert history of condoms”: http://www.collectorsweekly.com/articles/getting-it-on-the-covert-history-of-the-american-condom/
Learn more about National Condom Week: http://www.nationalcondomweek.com