About the Archive
Digital Archive of the Birth Control Review
About the Birth Control Review:
The Birth Control Review (BCR) ran from 1917-1940. Margaret Sanger founded the magazine with the aim of repealing laws that severely restricted access to and discussion of birth control methods and devices. The BCR, which was edited, published, and often financed by Sanger, conscientiously merged artistic texts with the political agitation. The BCR regularly published stories, plays, poems, and drawings. Many of these works were written or created by modernist artists. The BCR was a non-profit organization and, according to Sanger’s autobiography, had a circulation of 15,000 by 1924. Sanger stepped down from the position of chief editor in 1929, at which point it became the official newsletter of the American Birth Control League (later Planned Parenthood). Issues of the BCR are currently available from several online sources as well as at least two print publishing companies:
Indiana University via HathiTrust makes available vol. 1-3 (1917-9)
University of Michigan via HathiTrust makes available vol. 2 and 4-7 (1918; 1920-3)
The anti-abortion group LifeDynamics makes most issues (1917-40) available through its “Archives of the American Holocaust”
Google Books makes available volumes 1-3 (1917-9)
Ulan Press prints the Birth Control Review, Volumes 1-3 and 5-6
Nabu Press prints the Birth Control Review, Volumes 1-3 and 5-6
(Various offprints of uncertain quality are available on Amazon.com)
Mission and Contribution:
The mission of the Digital Archive of the Birth Control Review is two-fold. It will provide a single location for access to issues and information about the BCR, and it will create a searchable index of the issues. Currently, methods of access to the magazine leave much to be desired: 1) researchers can access issues through two separate databases that nevertheless do not provide comprehensive coverage, or 2) they can access issues through a politically charged web site (the “Archives of the American Holocaust”), which houses issues in a manner not conducive to open-minded academic inquiry. The Digital Archive of the Birth Control Review will consolidate issues in a single location designed for scholars and students. An index of the BCR does not exist in any of the digital or print versions. The Digital Archive of the BCR aims to create a searchable index of all issues as well as guided collections on topics that are likely to be of interest to researchers (eugenics, race, global activism, modernist art, socialism, and so forth).
The magazine is of clear interest to scholars of literature, women's rights, the history of science, eugenics, and race relations. Scholars interested in reproductive rights and modernism will find the BCR a particularly valuable resource.
Visitors to the archive will be invited to tag documents and submit curated collections of items for inclusion in the archive’s “Browse Collections” page.
This archive builds on the growing interest in modernist little magazines and complements existing archives like the Modernist Journals Project, the Modernist Magazines Project. The archive aims to use crowdsourcing to generate searchable tags and themed collections similar to the FSU Card Archive.
Current and Future Goals:
Copyright: Currently, the biggest hurdle is the issue of copyright. Per UPenn, "no issue copyright renewals exist for this serial." Nevertheless, HathiTrust only makes issues before 1923 fully available; the rest are only searchable. Judy Ahronheim of HathiTrust explains that only issues before 1923 are available “because we cannot be certain that individual articles within those journals have not been previously separately copyrighted or renewed. We are not staffed to perform the level of research required to vet so many items.” I am in the process of contacting various organizations (Planned Parenthood, the Margaret Sanger Papers Project, etc.) to ascertain copyright status. In the meanwhile, the Digital Archive of the Birth Control Review acts as a metadata repository – a collection of information about the magazine that links to the locations that house the issues rather than making the issues directly available. While the archive can still meet its main goals (providing an index and a single point of access) in this fashion, the metadata collection method is not ideal because the sites housing the issues could change or deny the access they currently provide. I welcome anyone with information about the copyright status of the BCR to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Teaching: The addition of a “For Teachers” section would increase the usability of the archive by providing teachers with examples of activities and assignments that make use of the archive. By asking students to tag documents or curate a collection of items around a theme, these assignments will involve students in the creation of a digital archive – thereby acquainting them with the skills necessary to work with the many primary source documents available online – while also providing cultural, literary, and political context to issues of continuing importance.