1936 May 2

YWCA to Include Sex Education in its Program


The YWCA announced on this day that it was adding sex education to its programs for young women. This step was one of many indicators of growing public acceptance of sex education and birth control in the 1930s.

The increase in public demand for greater access to birth control information and devices was largely the work of birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger. Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in the U.S. on October 16, 1916. About a week later she was arrested for violating New York state law. She was convicted, and in early 1917 served a month in jail.

The most celebrated incident involving sex education in the late 1920s and early 1930s involved the federal prosecution of Mary War Dennett who was convicted of sending her sex education pamphlet, The Sex Side of Life, through the mails (April 23, 1929). Her conviction was overturned on appeal in an important victory for both sex education and freedom of expression (March 3, 1930).

What the YWCA does today: “In addition to questions of access to and cost of health care, reproductive health is an especially important issue for women because it involves a comprehensive set of issues that relate to a woman’s ability to conceive and bear children. Reproductive health includes, but is not limited to, issues such as contraception, emergency contraception, sexual violence and abuse, and HIV/AIDS. These medical concerns can result in life-threatening complications and/or death. As a result, these issues are vital to the lives and well-being of women and must be fundamental components of quality health care for women.”

Check out Today’s YWCA Programs: www.ywca.org

Learn more: Ellen Chesler, Woman of Valor: Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control Movement in America (1992)

Learn about the long history of birth control: http://www.ourbodiesourselves.org/book/companion.asp?id=18&compID=53

Learn about Planned Parenthood’s sex education programs: http://www.plannedparenthoodaction.org/issues/sex-education/

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