Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts Records
Scope and Contents of the Collection
The following abbreviations are used for the organizations in these records:
American Birth Control League: ABCL
Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau: BCCRB
Birth Control Federation of America: BCFA
Birth Control League of Massachusetts: BCLM
International Planned Parenthood Federation: IPPF
Massachusetts Mothers' Health Council : MMHC
National Committee on Federal Legislation for Birth Control: NCFLBC
Planned Parenthood Federation of America: PPFA
Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts : PPLM
The original members of the PPLM were primarily devoted to amending the Comstock laws of the 1870s which prohibited the giving of advice on birth control on the grounds that it was obscene and therefore illegal. The PPLM Records reflect the many ways the organization undertook to change Massachusetts law from its early origins in 1916 to the mid 1960s. Minutes of meetings of executive committees, boards of directors, and staff organizations from the first PPLM organization, serve as the best introduction to the activity of each organization.
After the police closed the Mother's Health Office clinics in 1937, PPLM (at that time the MMHC) directed its energies toward changing the Massachusetts law. The two initiative and referendum campaigns, launched by PPLM in 1942 and 1948, as well as subsequent test cases and legislative attempts are documented in the legislative files in SERIES VI. LEGISLATIVE FILES. This series contains legal briefs and hearings, correspondence with lawyers and supporters, voting records and background information for PPLM's own research. Much of the material in other series is the result of programs developed by PPLM in conjunction with these legal campaigns. Publicity in the form of publications, brochures, form letters, essay contests, the Speakers' Bureau (an extensive program that arranged to have prominent businessmen, lawyers, and doctors talks to various organizations and groups about the need to control births) evidence PPLM efforts to stimulate the public to concern themselves with birth control and family planning, and ultimately bring about a change in the law.
Offshoot organizations such as the Clergymen's Advisory Committee conducted publicity campaigns similar to those conducted by PPLM itself yet aimed at specific community members. These campaigns were well documented and are reflected in the records collected here. The Conference on Tomorrow's Children organized in the early forties by Eugene Belisle, then Executive director of the MMHC, and held during three consecutive summers at Harvard University, brought to the Boston area many of the leading population theorists. The conference series contains speeches presented at this conference and other related correspondence.
The PPLM Records provide a unique source for the study of the establishment and development of an organization largely run by women. SERIES III: CENTRAL ADMINISTRATIVE FILES and SERIES VI. LEGISLATIVE FILES provide the richest documentation in the collection. The former contains the central administrative files dating from the organizations inception in 1916 and the latter covers the Initiative and Referendum Campaigns of the 1940s. The material reveals PPLM's connections and conflicts with the Catholic Church and physicians' publicity campaigns. Correspondence with various groups and individuals illustrates their strong support of PPLM's cause.
This collection is organized into ten series: