Black Market Birth Control: Contraceptive Entrepreneurship and Criminality in the Gilded Age, 1887

“A majority of businesspeople arrested for the crime of birth control were petty proprietors. Many were immigrants, women, or Jews. Few possessed a formal education. Denied the credit and social or educational credentials needed to claim professional respectability or ascend the financial ladder, they were drawn to a trade whose illicit character and low capital requirements made it welcoming to ordinary people. After months of joblessness and nights passed on park benches, the German Jewish immigrant Julius Schmid began selling skin condoms made out of freshly slaughtered sheep intestines in the late 1880s, when he was in his early twenties. Joseph Backrach, a Jewish immigrant with a “common education,” supported a family of nine making rubber womb veils, condoms, male caps, and ticklers in his Brooklyn residence.”

Immigrants were considered to be criminals. In the 1880’s immigrant women and men were the ones selling contraceptives which was questionable morally to even be using contraceptives. Contraceptives were only legal to married women, not single.  A Polish-Jew, Morris Glattustine  Colgate was arrested for selling condoms. These particular immigrants were considered to be uneducated, with bad morals, and rarely respected because they were Jewish. At this time they didn’t have any other choose but to find jobs like this to support themselves.

Sources: Tone, Andrea. “Black Market Birth Control: Contraceptive Enterpreneurship and Criminality in the Gilded Age.” The Journal of American History 87, no. 2 (2000): 444.

Black Market Birth Control: Contraceptive Entrepreneurship and Criminality in the Gilded Age, 1887

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