The items in this online exhibition evoke the stories of American women through the ages.
Click on any image to begin.

Lambskin condom, 19th century

Photo by Kevin Grady/Radcliffe Institute

Photo by Kevin Grady/Radcliffe Institute


Condoms have been around since ancient times, with early examples being made of linen or, like this one, animal skin. As condoms grew in popularity, they were attacked by moralists, such as Elizabeth Blackwell—the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States, who believed that access to condoms promoted prostitution and moral impurity. Despite severe restrictions placed on their distribution by the Comstock laws, condoms became the most popular form of birth control in the United States by the end of the 19th century. 

The Blackwell Family Papers is one of the Library’s fully digitized collections. 

Blackwell Family Papers

Catalog record:


Learn more:

See the Schlesinger Library research guide on abortion, birth control, contraception, and family planning.

Learn about the Blackwell Family collection.


Heather Min