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The Mother-Hygiene Office in Norway

Dublin Core

Title

The Mother-Hygiene Office in Norway

Subject

Moller, Katti Anker
Stopes, Marie

Description

The first “Mother-Hygiene Office” was opened in Oslo in 1924 by Katti Anker Moller. The office provided information about contraception and sold books and pamphlets about sex, motherhood, and nursing. The office did not have a clinic on site, but would refer patients to a doctor in the area if necessary.

Creator

Moller, Katti Anker

Source

Margaret Sanger, ed. International Aspects of Birth Control (New York, 1925), 61-65.

Publisher

American Birth Control League

Date

1925

Contributor

Collens, Jackie (created stub)
De Bel, Heather (metadata and transcription)

Rights

The American Birth Control League became Planned Parenthood Federation of America in 1939.

Format

JPG

Language

English

Type

Article

Text Item Type Metadata

Text

THE MOTHER-HYGIENE OFFICE IN NORWAY

By Katti Anker Moller

In the Labour Party's woman clubs we had often spoken about the married woman's deplorable position.

In Norway formal prostitution is abolished and the unmarried mother and her child are now protected by better laws. But the condition of the married woman and her children under the present marriage and the religious understanding prevailing over this institution is such that it gives the husband an unlimited right to sexual intercourse, without any regard to the wife's health, and to the procure of children in no proportion to the family's income. Most wives have to endure incessant pregnancies and go through childbirth with ever diminishing physical strength and economic power to meet the growing difficulties. For many of them marriage is felt as a permanent outrage and the birth of a new child is cause for serious grief.

I had written two pamphlets, "The Emancipation of Motherhood" and some years afterwards, "The Birth-Politics of the Women." They had created much sensation and had been discussed in almost every newspaper in Norway. So that public opinion was prepared.

I translated Mrs. Stropes' little book, "Letter to the Over-worked Mother," and tried to get it sold. We sent the book to the head of the medical department and said that if the medical authorities would not take necessary steps to stop the present violation of mothers, we would.

This compelled the medical faculty of the University of Oslo to discuss and resolve of the question. The faculty's resolution, which we published, said (1) that contraceptional measures were not injurious to health; (2) that it was desirable that the overworked mothers got this knowledge; (3) that in most cases it was the economical situation of the family which made a limitation necessary for conscientious parents; (4) that only doctors should give the desired information.

This resolution has been of great help to us and has had great influence in changing public opinion on Birth Control in Norway. We were very glad for it, though we did not agree to the doctor's monopolishing such a right over the families. If this resolution should be supported no changes would take place.

We opened our own office. The Labour Party said it would stand with us and help us. We started last April, 1924, in the centre of the capital of Oslo.

We have no clinic. We prepared to give verbal knowledge concerning the different contraceptional means and to be able at the same time and at the same place to sell all the necessary apparatus.

We also sell books and pamphlets concerning sex-relations and motherhood and the nursing of babies. We give information about hygienic precautions during pregnancy and sell garments suitable for that condition. We instruct the mothers in nursing babies and sell baby-garments. This is a very much needed work as in Norway we have very few child-welfare centres.

The deepest cause of the mother's subjection and the difficulty in helping them is their total lack of knowledge concerning themselves as mothers and concerning their most prominent work in life, to create and rear children. Our office is therefore also a sort of shop.

In eight out of ten cases the mothers help themselves by reading Dr. Stopes' earlier mentioned brochure, which I have changed a little, by our instructing them and by an illustrated pamphlet of instructions. If they do not feel that they can rely upon themselves concerning adjustment of contraceptive devices, we give them the addresses of several doctors, especially women doctors of the town, who we know will help them. But we supply them with card of introduction from our office and with the apparatus they want before they leave. In difficult cases we send them direct to the doctors.

This was of combining an instruction office with a shop is an easy and inexpensive way of meeting the present difficulties. The sales help pay for the office. I am quite aware this is not the most perfect way, and we hope by experience to establish something better, but buying garments for the babies gives the mothers a clear pretext to visit our institution. And we have a welcome opportunity to demonstrate that we are not against child-bearing per se. On the contrary, that we will only try to protect the overburdened mother so that she may be the best possible mother for the family she already has.

We do not give instructions to unmarried girls and we try not to make any fuss concerning out work, but we are obliged to advertise. Both the office and especially the advertisement is on the border of the law. But the authorities have left us in peace. This means, I dare say, that public opinion concerning an earnest and decent work for Birth Control, when necessary, has changed in our favor.

Our office is open from 9:00 to 3:00 every day. A married nurse is present; she explains and sells. As I live far away in the country (I am not a doctor, alas), I can only be present a few days every fortnight. I have the responsibility of the office this first year. From April, 1925, the Labour Party will have it in their charge.

On the whole we are content with our work. We have from two to twelve mothers every day and send books and parcels all over Norway.

In the beginning we had a little trouble on account of the misunderstanding of our work. Some people believed we practiced abortion. This is now clearing up. We have had one case of failure, but we say beforehand that none of the present contraceptional means are absolutely sure. We want to get better information and better clinical instruments from the International Headquarters, which we hope will soon come into being. Our office is considered a central office. We are going to have local offices in more parts of Norway. One is already planned for Bergen. Yesterday, I got information that the Labour Party is going to prepare a propaganda for Birth Control all over the country to restrict the families to a reasonable proportion and to help the overburdened mother.