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COLLECTION Identifier: B MS c78

National Committee on Maternal Health records


The National Committtee on Maternal Health records chronicle the activities, research, publications, and projects of the National Committee on Maternal Health. The collection also includes records from the Committee on Maternal Health, the organization's name before changing to the National Committee on Maternal Health in 1930. The collection consists of agendas, minutes of executive committee and board of directors’ meetings, annual reports, reports of officers, memoranda, and secretary’s correspondence for the years 1923 to 1955; the records also include some correspondence of executive directors, of Robert Latou Dickinson, and other committee members.


  • Creation: 1923-1959


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Access requires advance notice. Consult Public Services for further information.

Conditions Governing Use

The Boston Medical Library does not hold copyright on all materials in the collection. Researchers are responsible for identifying and contacting any third-party copyright holders for permission to reproduce or publish. For more information on the Center's use, publication, and reproduction policies, view our Reproductions and Use Policy.


1 collection (18 boxes and 5 v.)

The National Committee on Maternal Health Archive is small but choice. There are 18 manuscript boxes containing more than 600 folders of documents (mostly agendas and minutes of meetings, reports and memoranda, correspondence, manuscript and typescript materials, reprints and bibliographies, and membership lists), 15 of. which are arranged chronologically from 1923 to 1958. Boxes 16-18 contain subject files relating to the Round Table Discussion Group, abortion and contraceptive research, federal legislation, and artificial insemination, among other topics. There are, in addition, five ledgers containing financial data.

Besides Drs. Dickinson and Gamble, others associated with the Committee during its 35-year existence included: Dr. George Kosmak, Louise S. Bryant, Randolph Cautley, Gilbert W. Beebe, Dr. Raymond Squier, Dr. Clair E. Folsome, and D. Kenneth Rose. Christopher Tietze, the director of the Standards Program during its last years, in 1969 permitted the loan of the Committee's records to the Countway Library of Medicine in Boston and in 1973 approved their permanent deposit for the use of future readers.

Historical Note

The Committee on Maternal Health was organized in New York City in 1923 by the renowned gynecologist Robert Latou Dickinson for the purpose of sponsoring the study of contraception and related issues. At first Dickinson, who had long been interested in problems of human sexuality, directed the efforts of the Committee toward taking medical control of contraception away from Margaret Sanger's Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau and the American Birth Control League. With this aim in view and with help from the Rockefeller-funded Bureau of Social Hygiene, the Maternity Research Council was created under the auspices of the Committee. Eventually, however, Dr. Dickinson and Mrs. Sanger became the mediators through whom the medical profession and the birth control movement were able to cooperate and the Clinical Research Bureau survived under the direction of Dr. Hannah Stone.

In 1930 the Committee on Maternal Health's name changed to National Committee on Maternal Health and its role shifted to that of publisher and clearing-house for public information and education. At the same time Dickinson and other members of the Committee not only served in an advisory capacity to the birth control movement at large, they also were concerned with various aspects of maternal and child welfare, among them sexual relations and marriage counseling. The Committee's sponsorship of contraceptive research received a boost in 1934 when the Standards Program was developed through the help of Dr. Clarence J. Gamble. Under this program delivery and testing of contraceptives in the. South came to be carried out on an extensive scale in the later years of the 1930s. During the 1940s the Committee focused on such timely issues as women war workers and abortion studies.

By the time of Dickinson's death in 1950 the Committee save for Gamble's Standards Program was virtually inactive. Its offices at the New York Academy of Medicine were closed in 1955 and the work of the Standards Program was transferred a few years later to the newly-established, Pathfinder Fund (a Gamble family foundation). Some of the Committee's other work was subsequently taken up by the Population Council.

For more on the inter-relations between the Committee and the birth control movement as well as its subsequent history, see James Reed, "From Private Vice to Public Virtue; the Birth Control Movement and American Society since 1830" (New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1978).

Series and Subseries in the Collection

  1. I.Chronological Administrative Files, 1923-1958, undated
  2. II. Subject Files, 1927-1951, undated
  3. ___ A. Round Table Discussion Group Files, 1934-1940, undated
  4. ___ B. Abortion Files, 1927-1951
  5. ___ C. Pamphlet on Marriage by Oliver M. Butterfield, 1929-1930, undated
  6. ___ D. Contraceptive Research Project of Cecil I.B. Voge Files, 1929-1935
  7. ___ E. Study by Marie Kopp Files, 1932-1933, 1936-1937, 1941
  8. ___ F. Questionnaire on Teaching of Contraception, Sterilization, and Marriage Hygiene in Medical Schools Files, 1933-1935
  9. ___ G. National Committee on Federal Legialation for Birth Control, 1934-1937
  10. ___ H. Spermicidal Properties of Commercial Contraceptives Notes and Reports, 1930s, 1943-1948, undated
  11. III. Financial Records, 1937-1959

Related Material in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, Center for the History of Medicine

  1. Papers of Robert Latou Dickinson [H MS c591]
  2. Papers of Clarence J. Gamble [H MS c23]
  3. Papers of Abraham Stone [H MS c157]

Consult Public Services for further information.

National Committee on Maternal Health. Records, 1923-1959: Finding Aid.
Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. Center for the History of Medicine.
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine) Repository

The Center for the History of Medicine in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine is one of the world's leading resources for the study of the history of health and medicine. Our mission is to enable the history of medicine and public health to inform healthcare, the health sciences, and the societies in which they are embedded.

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