Pregnancy, Motherhood, and Choice in Twentieth-Century Arizona

Mary S. Melcher (Author)
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Early twentieth-century Arizona was a life-threatening place for new and expectant mothers. Towns were small and very far apart, and the weather and harsh landscape often delayed midwives. It was not uncommon for a woman to give birth without medical care and with the aid of only family members. By the 1920s, Arizona was at the top of the list for the highest number of infant deaths.

Mary Melcher’s Pregnancy, Motherhood, and Choice in Twentieth-Century Arizona provides a deep and diverse history of the dramatic changes in childbirth, birth control, infant mortality, and abortion over the course of the last century. Using oral histories, memoirs, newspaper accounts, government documents, letters, photos, and biographical collections, this fine-grained study of women’s reproductive health places the voices of real women at the forefront of the narrative, providing a personal view into some of the most intense experiences of their lives.

Tackling difficult issues such as disparities in reproductive health care based on race and class, abortion, and birth control, this book seeks to change the way the world looks at women’s health. An essential read for both historians and public health officials, this book reveals that many of the choices and challenges that women once faced remain even today.

"This impresseivly researched and well-written book reveals a most fundamental yet rarely recorded part of human life. Public historian Melcher uses oral histories among other sources to examine what it was like to give birth and control fertility in the southwestern US during the 20th century."—CHOICE


"Melcher's timely book provides cultural and environmental context to an issue too often interpreted only through legal and political lenses."—Journal of Arizona History
Pregnancy, Motherhood, and Choice in Twentieth-Century Arizona
Book Read Excerpt

“Women’s stories of their experiences in childbirth, their struggles to care for their babies, and their attitudes, beliefs, and experiences related to fertility control are a vital part of our past. By examining the experiences of those who came before, in Arizona and the Southwest, we learn how geography, income level, ethnicity, culture, and laws have affected this area of life, providing greater knowledge of women’s lives in this place and time and more understanding of how to move forward into the future.” —Mary S. Melcher, from the conclusion

264 Pages 6 x 9 Published: 2016 Hardcover (9780816528462)
Ebook (9780816536795)

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