“Don’t Risk Disaster”: Early Advertisements for Contraceptives in American Periodicals


Author/Creator ORCID




Bachelor's Degree

Citation of Original Publication


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This paper is an in-depth analysis on an advertisement for a contraceptive drug in a 1950 issue of The Afro-American from Goucher College’s Special Collections and Archives. I was caught by the vague and fear-mongering language used by the writer of the ad and was drawn into exploring the history of contraceptive drugs in the United States. Discrete marketing was a necessary staple of the contraceptive drug industry in its early days, but this permitted manufacturers to use misleading and manipulative language that preyed on the fear of unwanted pregnancies and put consumer health at risk. The paper unpacks the history of these drugs, their legal status in the US, and the structural violence implied in this advertisement, while also contextualizing the structural, social, and health issues historically posed by pregnancy.