Anthologies about Abortion and Homosexuality?
February 15, 2012 4:45 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone know of any good anthologies featuring true stories, told in first or third-person, about (a) abortion in the United States before Roe vs. Wade, or (b) homosexuality in the United States in the 1960s and before, when it was very heavily stigmatized? I have some social conservatives in my family, along with some newly minted moderates and liberals, and I'd like to give the former some things to ponder, and the latter some talking points and fuel for their progressive opinions.

The It's So Personal series on Andrew Sullivan's blog approximates the impact I'd hope such an anthology would have, as does this blog post from a doctor dealing with the aftermath of an unsafe abortion... although I would prefer non-contemporary stories from before Roe vs. Wade.
posted by The Confessor to Society & Culture (19 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I read Choice: True Stories of Birth, Contraception, Infertility, Adoption, Single Parenthood, & Abortion a few years back and really enjoyed it. It came out in 2007 but I'm pretty sure some of the stories in there are from pre-Roe vs. Wade times, but there are also obviously lots of modern tales.
posted by jabes at 4:48 PM on February 15, 2012

You may be interested in reading about the Jane Collective. (Sorry, I don't have any specific recommendations.)
posted by phunniemee at 4:52 PM on February 15, 2012

Seconding Choice and The Story of Jane. This is also not an anthology (I'm sorry!) but a very good first person account.
posted by shes_ajar at 5:07 PM on February 15, 2012

This isn't quite what you're asking for, but The Girls Who Went Away may be relevant to your interests. It's a collection of interviews with women who gave their children up prior to the passing of Roe v. Wade, and it is brutal. It was recently mentioned in this Metatalk comment.

Yes, I recognize the irony of injecting commentary on adoption into a question about abortion.
posted by athenasbanquet at 5:07 PM on February 15, 2012

Did you see this comment by sonascope?
posted by theodolite at 5:13 PM on February 15, 2012

Take a look here.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:15 PM on February 15, 2012

For (b), you want to search for "pre-Stonewall" and "pre-Stonewall gay experience". I've never watched this documentary, but it looks really interesting.
posted by guybrush_threepwood at 5:25 PM on February 15, 2012

Stone Butch Blues hits what you want, but not quite in the time frame you're after.

Quite frankly, if you're looking for descriptions of oppression, you don't have to limit yourself to pre-Stonewall.
posted by entropone at 5:30 PM on February 15, 2012

A book was made from the excellent documentary Word is Out. Not sure if it is still in print, but in terms of gay and lesbian history, it is very much what you're looking for.
posted by Wordwoman at 5:37 PM on February 15, 2012

Not an anthology-- a single poem, aka: Somebody Who Should Have Been Born is Gone
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 5:47 PM on February 15, 2012

Not an anthology, but the pseudonymous Martin Avery's Confessions of an Abortionist, published in the '30s, is really interesting stuff - performing abortions in the days before legality, pregnancy tests, and penicillin. He includes a lot of stories of the women he helped and, in some cases, the women he didn't. A fascinating, surprisingly moving read.
posted by posadnitsa at 6:07 PM on February 15, 2012

Gay New York by George Chauncey is a pretty awesome history of gay communities at the turn of the 20th century, painting a picture that suggests that not only were they not heavily stigmatized, but the gay/straight dichotomy hardly even existed yet.
posted by mikeh1978 at 6:10 PM on February 15, 2012

Oh, I've got one -- Color of Darkness by James Purdy is a collection of short stories, some of which are really harrowing portraits of gay life in the 1950s. Actually, all the stories are kind of harrowing, but they harrow on different topics.
posted by escabeche at 6:56 PM on February 15, 2012

Doctors of Conscience by Carol Joffe. This is a series of interviews of people who fought to provide safe abortions prior to Roe. It's worth noting that not every provider was a "butcher" and that many of our stereotypes of the era leave out the hard work of many individuals who took great risks to provide quality care. While that might not help with the relatives, it's worth being accurate.
posted by allen.spaulding at 9:11 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Not abortion but adoption in the same time period, when many women had little real choice in that area either, but were sent away and expected to surrender their child.

"The Girls Who Went Away" by Ann Fessler is a great collection of true stories of mothers who were sent away to homes for unwed mothers in the years before legal abortion. It is another sad side of that story that is seldom told as adoption has been for many years shrouded in secrets and lies, much like abortion and homosexuality in the same time period.

Sorry not sure how to make links you can click on, but you can find Ms. Fessler's book by googling it.
posted by mermayd at 5:03 AM on February 16, 2012

Thanks to all, and particularly to those who challenged my premises (i.e. abortion vs. adoption).
posted by The Confessor at 6:37 AM on February 16, 2012

I'm From Driftwood collects stories from gay folks from all over, many of which are from people who lived through the era you're describing. Check it out. Find some of the personal accounts. Pass those along.
posted by jph at 7:13 AM on February 16, 2012

A few more things that might be useful:

Interview with Reverend Howard Moody, who created an extensive network of clergy members and abortion providers in the years prior to Roe. (Part of the forgotten history of abortion rights is that in the 1950s and '60s, a number of religious organizations and institutions actively worked FOR safe, legal abortion out of compassion and concern for the desperation women felt, and the often dangerous lengths they would go to, in order to end a pregnancy.)

Interview with Dr. Mildred Hanson, who provided abortions prior to Roe.

Both are taken from Voices of Choice, a film created by Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health.
posted by scody at 11:23 AM on March 10, 2012

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