Women’s Health & Mental Health: Collections
Women’s health and well-being is a diverse and complicated topic with a long, often problematic history that’s closely tied to the continued development of, and education surrounding, women’s rights from the early 1900s to the present day. From sexual and reproductive health, including menstruation, pregnancy, menopause and hormones to domestic violence and mental health (and mental illness) to sex education (sex ed) and health education, the history of women as patients has been plagued with issues of discrimination. The fight for a fair approach to women’s health care, mental and sexual well-being, and education goes hand in hand with feminism and the battle for women’s rights. When exploring this topic, it’s essential that researchers view the material through an interdisciplinary lens, acknowledging the role of gender, race, and class in relation to women as patients, women’s health, and mental health. The primary sources available in Gale’s Women’s Studies Archive form an essential education resource for researchers looking to examine or teach sex and gender in relation to health, from public health practice, policy, and psychiatric approaches to sex and sex education and personal experiences and activism.
Perhaps one of the most prominent issues relating to women’s health that can be explored through the archive is sexual and reproductive rights. The struggle over safe sex and sexual and reproductive rights has been central to women’s liberation movements, and attempts to regulate reproductive freedom are prevalent throughout history on a global scale. The fight for reproductive freedom largely began with Margaret Sanger in the early 1900s who, starting with a clinic in New York, fought to educate women on sex and contraception and was a major advocate for women’s right to birth control, sexual and reproductive rights, and the sex education that came with them. This fight has formed a central pillar of women’s activism, continuing in the campaigning that dominated the 1960s and 1970s with the primary goal of improving care and education for all women, through to the antiabortion violence that targeted many women and practitioners in the 1980s and 1990s during the struggle to attain safe, legal abortion. By examining the collections available in Gale’s Women’s Studies Archive series, researchers can begin to build a thorough understanding of the connections between contraception and abortion and sex education and women’s rights.
These collections also provide the ideal formula to go beyond the fight for sexual and reproductive rights. Researchers can access primary sources that discuss all aspects of women’s health care and education. Mental health, from general mental well-being to mental illness, is covered, with pamphlets, newsletters, and reports covering various aspects of women’s psychology and psychiatric care, including mental illnesses such as depression. Scholars can also find primary sources on concepts relating to family life. These cover sex, family planning, and motherhood, including childbirth, infants, infant care, and breastfeeding, as well as information on relationships, including divorce and affairs. Violence and discrimination against women has been recognized as a major problem worldwide, and the materials in these collections also allow for exploration of this topic, covering not only violence against women in the form of domestic violence and rape but also the effect of pornography and the way in which racism intersects with women’s health. Numerous periodicals in the archive discuss sex, sexuality, and sex education, alongside women’s medicine, while coverage of such diverse topics as eugenics, nutrition and dieting, hygiene, menstruation, menopause and hormones, and LGBTQ rights are also represented.
By using the main content in Gale’s Women’s Studies Archive, researchers and scholars have the perfect formula to examine and teach about the history of issues relating to female patients, including menstruation, contraception, pregnancy and maternity, abortion, menopause and hormones; sex and sex education, alongside other forms of health education; harassment and other forms of gendered violence; and mental health and mental illness, psychiatric support, and mental health services. These primary sources illustrate global historical perspectives on the intersection of health, education, and the fight for women’s rights.