Sex Ed, Segregated

Sex Ed, Segregated

The Quest for Sexual Knowledge in Progressive-Era America

Courtney Q. Shah

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Demonstrates that the intersection between race, gender, and class formed the backbone of Progressive-Era debates over sex education, the policing of sexuality, and the prevention of venereal disease.
Against the backdrop of the Progressive Era, World War I, and the 1920s, sex education burgeoned in the United States through institutions like the YMCA, the popular press, girls' schools, and the US military. As access to sexual knowledge increased, reformers debated what the messages of a sex-education curriculum should be and, perhaps more important, who would receive those messages.

Courtney Shah's study chronicles this debate, showing that sex education then, just as in our own era, had as much to do with politics and morals as it did with biology and medicine. Examining how different population groups in the United States were given contrasting types of sex education, Shah demonstrates that such education was used as a tool to reinforce or challenge racial segregation, women's rights, religious diversity, and class identity.

Courtney Shah is an instructor of history at Lower Columbia College in Longview, Washington.

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Table of Contents

The Origins of the Sex Education Movement
Parental Prerogative and School-Based Sex Education
Sex Education for Whites Only?
Venereal Disease and Sex Education for African Americans
Sex Education in the American Expeditionary Force
Policing Sexuality on the Home Front
Sex Education in the 1920s


Very classroom friendly, and would be a welcome addition to specialized courses on the American Progressive Movement of the History of Sexuality in the United States, as well as general courses in American social and cultural history or the medical humanities. AMERIKASTUDIEN

[A] nuanced and inclusive account.... The result is compelling insight into aspects of American sexual history that have until now gone without substantial analysis. SOCIAL HISTORY OF MEDICINE

Shah's telling of their story is ultimately well written and interesting, making this book a useful introduction for those familiarizing themselves with America's contentious sex education debates. BULLETIN OF THE HISTORY OF MEDICINE

Shah's compact volume is well written and is ideally suited for undergraduates seeking a broad synthesis of the role race, gender, and class played not only in the development of sex education but also in the Progressive Era more generally. H-NET

[Shah] exposes ways that whiteness denoted purity and middle-class respectability, excluding racial minorities, the working class, and poor, rural, and Southern populations from many reform efforts. Recommended. CHOICE

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