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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

1951 Planned Parenthood Pamphlet Pretty Much Says Life Begins at Conception

Posted By on Wed, Nov 30, 2011 at 7:30 AM

click to enlarge studies_in_crap_gift_of_life_cover.jpg

Your Crap Archivist brings you the finest in forgotten and bewildering crap culled from Golden State basements, thrift stores, estate sales, and flea markets.

The Gift of Life

Author: None listed, although the publishers thank a reverend, a minister, and a rabbi.

Date: 1951

Publisher: Planned Parenthood and New York state's Health Education Service

Discovered at: Berkeley estate sale

The Cover Promises: A trip to Planned Parenthood is the happiest family time of all.

Representative Quote:

"If one of the new male sperm meets and unites with an egg cell, a new life begins." (page 21 - 22)

Although its cover suggests sunshine, church windows, and the American family at its most horn-of-plenty abundant, The Gift of Life hails not from the League of Decency or second-term nap-time fancies of President Reagan.

No, what's most remarkable about this guide to where babies come from and why teens have hair there is where it itself got birthed:

click to enlarge studies_in_crap_gift_of_life_planned_parenthood.jpg
That provenance means its explanations of baby-making certainly interest us today, so let's get right to the controversial stuff before we get to the noble work of giggling at the silly pictures.

A fascinating case study of how over time political rhetoric shapes how we think of first of words and then of broader concepts, The Gift of Life is memorable first for its title, which today seems like something protesters would chant against a Planned Parenthood. Then, there's that bit above about sperm + egg = life. Then, right on page one, there's this:

"The gift of life is shown to us with the birth of each new baby."
Somehow, over the last sixty years, a sentiment as simple and true as that one -- a piety that any human would agree with -- has become fightin' words.

Your Crap Archivist has always believed that life begins when you move out of your parents' house, but I see no point in debating this here. Instead, here's something we can all agree on: This is exactly what the families in a Planned Parenthood waiting room have always looked like.

click to enlarge studies_in_crap_gift_of_life_family.jpg

The hearty can-doers of the Greatest Generation built this country without the benefit of faces or feet!

Written for parents to read to curious children, The Gift of Life addresses many of the fundamentals of sex, except for niceties like how to do it or how not to catch diseases. Here's the page on heredity:

click to enlarge studies_in_crap_gift_of_life_heredity.jpg

Junior got mom's brown hair and dad's catbutt eyes!

Here's the sex-aware family of the 1950s put where it belonged: Nude on a police lineup.

click to enlarge studies_in_crap_gift_of_life_nude_line_up.jpg

Note that the figures to the left and right are meant to be children rather than individual sperm.

Perhaps it's the Planned Parenthood connection that afforded the unidentified artists the freedom to frankness like this:

click to enlarge studies_in_crap_gift_of_life_boy_and_girl.jpg

This is an encouraging! In a decade and a genre when female sexuality was so often depicted as weak and submissive, The Gift of Life portrays the vagina as a sideways greater-than sign!

Guys, for their part, just got a half upside-down Kilroy:


Perhaps the men of the '50s could take some solace in the fact that their testes were home to the world's first earbuds:

click to enlarge studies_in_crap_gift_of_life_ear_buds.jpg

That's as explicit as The Gift of Life gets. As in most sex-ed books, then and now, the actual lovemaking is absent. Instead, the propagation of the species is presented as something of a chalkboard diagram of a football play: All flowing arrows, no sweat or grunting.

click to enlarge studies_in_crap_gift_of_life_sperm_cell.jpg

Pop Quiz! What is this next image?

click to enlarge studies_in_crap_gift_of_life_mystery_picture.jpg

A. A fetus.

B. An avocado.

C. One of those new lightbulbs that are somehow stealing America's freedom.

D. E.T. emerging from the southern end of a northbound pony.

It's a baby, of course! In a couple months, that wad of cells will look like this:

click to enlarge studies_in_crap_gift_of_life_birth.jpg

As with every other page of this book, the artists seem here to be leaving something out. I took the liberty of completing the illustration:

click to enlarge planned_parenthood_duck.jpg


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Alan Scherstuhl


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