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Letter on Birth Control From Marion, circa early 1900s

 Item — Box: 6, Folder: 2019-085

Scope and Contents

A frank letter about women's birth control options from the early 20th century addressed to one Marion and signed by another Marion. Further research is required to determine if this is an example of a circular letter or written from one Marion to a younger, perhaps namesake, Marion.

Description and partial transcription provided by the seller:

"The author begins this letter by noting with some trepidation that she has "been debating a long time as to whether I ought to tell you anything about preventing conception or not... Perhaps you won't thank me if I do and then again someone else may have told you what to do." She continues "From my own experience I know I was very glad when I found out how one could prevent conception for I didn't care to have any baby the first year. After the first six months or the first year is over is the best time to carry a child for it takes at least six months to become accustomed to each other's ways and habits." Noting that her correspondent is planning to teach school next year, Marion advises that she "ought to know how to prevent conception from taking place."

"She then spells out two "common methods that are not harmful"--methods that "are enough for most of the time." The first is coitus interruptus: "A man can tell when the sperm is ready to leave the body. He therefore has time to withdraw and discharge the sperm in a cloth." However, she notes "this is rather hard to ask a man to do, especially when first married"--and what's more, even when men may "intend to do it, sometimes some of the sperm is deposited in the vagina." The second method is using a douche to syringe the vagina, which she actually recommends doing "after every act." She notes--to the horror of the modern reader--that "Many doctors recommend Lysol which can be bought at any drugstore" where one can also purchase a "syringe or a hot water bottle with attachments." When undesirable conception occurs, she notes, there are "medicines that one can take to bring on the menstrual flow. I know of one which I could get for you if you should care to write for it. It costs $2.00 a box." However, she doesn't recommend this method "to anyone unless they have positively made up there mind that a baby isn't desired at that time."

"Marion worries that her correspondent will think her "a perfectly terrible person for having written this"--but notes that if couples let nature run its course a woman would have a child at least once a year. "That isn't fair to either the mother or child as the mother becomes run down and too frequent childbearing causes the children to be weaklings." Bringing her letter to a close, she remarks, "Guess this is enough of a sermon, don't you?" and extends the offer of any assistance to her addressee before or after she gets married--such as buying a syringe. "That wouldn't bother me in the least but it would have before I was married."


  • Creation: circa early 1900s

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0.001 Cubic Feet (1 folder) : 1 letter

Language of Materials


Custodial History

Purchased from dealer James E. Arsenault & Company on December 11, 2019.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Nebraska at Omaha Archives & Special Collections Repository

Archives & Special Collections
Dr. C.C. and Mabel L. Criss Library
6001 Dodge St.
Omaha Nebraska 68182-0237 United States