Profs and Pints DC presents: “Condom Nation,” on our nation’s history of birth control and debates over its use, with Alexandra Lord, chair and curator of the division of medicine and science at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
Condoms, diaphragms, pessaries, sponges, abortifacients, and the pill. The National Museum of American History holds over a thousand objects related to the history of contraception.
Why would a museum collect contraceptives? What can a condom from 1930 or a birth control dial pack from the 1960s tell us about American history and who we are as a nation?
Gain insights from Alexandra Lord, a former history professor who now oversees the Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s collection of medical and scientific devices.
She’ll discuss how contraceptives have always been a part of American life even though few objects have been the subject of more debate in the U.S.
In exploring how and why contraception has been so contested, she’ll introduce you to a host of colorful characters. They include Anthony Comstock, the man behind the Comstock Act of 1873, which banned the sale and distribution of contraceptives and abortifacients and pushed the sale of contraceptives under the covers for nearly a hundred years. Also in the mix: Lydia Pinkham, whose multi-million-dollar business sold tonics that women used as abortifacients, and Julius Schmid, America’s greatest “condom king,” who went from working in a sausage factory to founding one of the largest condom companies in the world.
By calling our attention to objects drawn from the Smithsonian’s extensive contraceptive collections, Dr. Lord will ensure that you’ll never look at that drugstore aisle the same way ever again. (Advance tickets: $13.50 plus sales tax and processing fees. Doors: $17, or $15 with a student ID. Listed time is for doors. Talk starts 30 minutes later.)
Image: A Ramses condom tin from 1929. (Smithsonian National Museum of American History.)