Year of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Department or School/College
Department of History
Sara Hayden, Kyle Volk
reproductive rights, eugenics, sexuality, gender, military, Commission on Training Camp Activities, American Social Hygiene Association, Progressive Era, Venereal Disease, social reform, World War I
University of Montana
In 1914, a group of professionals chartered the American Social Hygiene Association (ASHA), a private reform agency dedicated to the eradication of venereal disease. Over the next several years, the ASHA formed partnerships with other reform organizations and championed education and legal reform. In 1917, during World War I, the ASHA partnered with the federal government to set standards of sexual health for all American citizens. Chapter One explores the origins of the ASHA, focusing on the organization’s attention to international issues surrounding prostitution as well as its organizational partnerships with like-minded domestic reform agencies. By placing itself in dialogue with other organizations, the ASHA identified its allies and pursued its goal of eliminating venereal disease (and associated evils such as prostitution) via educational campaigns and legal reform. Chapter Two examines the ASHA’s educational and legal strategies, which included reaching out to parents, educators, children, and the public. Contributors to ASHA publications--the Journal of Social Hygiene and American Social Hygiene Association Bulletin--included many of the foremost doctors, lawyers, and social workers in the country. The ASHA used films, traveling exhibits, lecturers, pamphlets, billboards, and signs in public restrooms. Its legal reforms included abolishing segregated vice districts, supporting age-of-consent laws, and prohibiting the advertisement of quack cures. Chapter Three details the ASHA’s partnership with the federal government once America entered World War One. High rates of venereal infection among enlisted men translated to a loss of manpower. With both government and private support, ASHA helped set up a series of isolation camps and hospitals to remove women from the training camp environs where servicemen risked exposure. Using its already established message of education and legal reform, the ASHA enlisted support across the country for the eradication of venereal disease as essential to the protection of democracy. The conclusion describes the influence of the ASHA throughout the twentieth century to showcase its continuing influence in partnership with the federal government. The conclusion also examines the increasing role the federal government has played in policing citizens’ sexual health via the eugenics movement and restrictions on reproductive rights.
Blackman, Kayla, "Public Power, Private Matters: The American Social Hygiene Association and the Policing of Sexual Health in the Progressive Era" (2014). Graduate Student Theses, Dissertations, & Professional Papers. 4295.
© Copyright 2014 Kayla Blackman