Not the old days your mother told you about

“In 1914 it was estimated that 100,000 working class women took abortifacients every year, and by just before the Second World War a government investigation estimated the number of illegal abortions performed each year between 44,000 and 60,000. If self- induced miscarriages are added to that figure, the total could have been between 110,000 and 150,000 a year – comparable with figures today but in a much smaller population…. the government’s own survey …estimated that at least 40 percent of all miscarriages in the 1930s were in fact a result of induced abortions…. [a survey just before the Second World War found] that between 16 and 20 percent of all pregnancies ended in abortion.” (p. 31)

“…in 1938-39 nearly a third of all women conceived their first child before marriage, a figure that rose to to 42 percent of under 20s” getting married. (p. 32)

So how did this happen?

“The most common form of sexual intercourse pre-war was … the ‘knee-trembler’ – sexual intercourse standing up, often outdoors, which was ‘fast, furtive, and rarely fulfilling for young women’.” (p.28)

From Material girls: Women, men and work Lindsey German, bookmarks, 2007.


  • July 8, 2007 - 12:08 pm | Permalink

    “…and rarely fulfilling for young women”

    I suspect it wasn’t that fulfilling for young men either.

  • July 15, 2007 - 12:12 pm | Permalink

    It must have been fulfilling something because it was the most common form of intercourse?

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