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Title:The Birth of Public Sexual Education in the United States: Women, Rhetoric, and the Progressive Era
Author(s):Jensen, Robin E.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Finnegan, Cara A.
Department / Program:Speech Communication
Discipline:Speech Communication
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Education, Health
Abstract:This study offers a rhetorical chronicle of the negotiation that transpired before, during, and directly after the emergence of public sexual education initiatives in the United States, while emphasizing the role that several key women played in that process. The chapters in this study follow something of a chronological structure, moving from the mid-to-late nineteenth century to the Progressive Era and World War I to the 1920s. These time periods loosely correspond with pre-public sexual education in the United States, the birth of public sexual education, and the integration of sexual education into the larger culture. Americans living during these eras saw the beginning of sexual education programs' integration into U.S. public schools, a growing tolerance toward birth control, and an increase in acceptance of female sexuality outside of procreation. I study the arguments and discursive strategies that rhetors used to advocate for and fight against public sexual education initiatives in the United States, and I demonstrate how those strategies emerged from and reacted to specific cultural values, ethics, and aesthetic norms. Drawing from a range of primary and secondary sources, this dissertation reveals a narrative in which World War I stood out as a historical moment when straightforward talk about public sexual education was increasingly possible, although not necessarily for all members of society. Before the war, people often used polysemous language or, in the case of Dr. Ella Flagg Young, subtly inserted arguments about sexual education into other, less controversial discourses in order to introduce the topic into mainstream conversations. During the war, social hygienists identified the war as an exigency that demanded public sexual education courses, at least for white men. After the war, organizations such as the U.S. Public Health Service concealed their seemingly egalitarian ideology concerning access to public sexual education within a rhetoric of difference and instantiated a "separate but equal" sexual education ideology. In the end, I pull out rhetorical lessons from this important historical narrative in an effort to contextualize and inform the contemporary debates on public sexual education.
Issue Date:2007
Description:310 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2007.
Other Identifier(s):(MiAaPQ)AAI3269925
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-09-28
Date Deposited:2007

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