Birth Control Movement and African American Women in Kentucky
The Kentucky Birth Control League (KBCL) in Louisville began the birth control movement in the state. The organization was founded by Jean Brandies Tachau, who served as the first president.
The KBCL was affiliated with the American Birth Control League, which focused on women and family planning. The first clinic opened in Louisville, KY, in 1933: Norton's Infirmary provided services for "whites only," so arrangements were made with Dr. John Hammons to see African American women in his office until there was a regular clinic for colored women.
Dr. Hammons had been director of the Venereal Clinic, was on the staff of the Red Cross Hospital, and was a member of the NAACP and the Urban League. When the second clinic opened at 624 Floyd Street in Louisville, it served both African American and white women but on separate days during the week. In 1936, the African American birth control clinic, known as Adler Mothers Clinic, opened in the parish house of the Church of Our Merciful Savior. Doctors Hammons, Laine, and Ballard, social worker Robert B. Scott, and nurse Louise Simms were the staff.
In Lexington, the Maternal Health Clinic, the city's first birth control clinic, opened in 1936 at Good Samaritan Hospital, with services provided to both white and African American women. During the 1930s, there were also clinics in Berea and at Pine Mountain Settlement School.
Birth control was not new to the women of Kentucky, but prior to the 1930s it had not been as accessible through public health services. There was opposition from several fronts, and a number of theories are discussed in the literature as to why birth control was being provided to women of particular classes and races.
During the early 1930s and The Depression, birth control became one of the most profitable new industries, marketed heavily to women consumers. Hundreds of birth control ads were placed in both white and African American media for a variety of mail order products in spite of federal and interstate distribution laws; the items were sold as feminine hygiene products. By 1938, annual sales for birth control totaled more than $250,000,000 and continued to increase.
For more information on the Birth Control Movement in Kentucky, see J. G. Myers, A Socio-historical Analysis of the Kentucky Birth Control Movement, 1933-1943 (dissertation), University of Kentucky, 2005; D. McRaven, Birth Control Women: Controlling Reproduction in the South, 1933-1973 (dissertation), University of Kentucky, 2006; and the website Planned Parenthood of Kentucky: a history. For more on marketing during the Birth Control Movement, see Women and Health in America, by J. W. Leavitt.