Telling Tales: Hidden Knowledge and Denunciation in French Abortion and Infanticide Cases, 1900–40
How did French women facing undesired pregnancies use these informal networks to access illegal information about alternatives to motherhood, including contraception, abortion, and places where one could secretly give birth? How and why did friends, neighbors, or rivals decide to denounce these women to police? Drawing on judicial archives, including women’s interrogations and confessions, as well as on pro-natalist publications and media coverage of abortion and contraception, this paper examines these networks as a tool for spreading hidden and often illegal knowledge about reproductive options among ordinary women in France’s countryside and regional city centers. Looking specifically at the largely rural areas surrounding Rennes, in Brittany, and the primarily urban areas near the city of Lyon, this paper asks how women shared forbidden knowledge about sex, contraception, and abortion, and why they were denounced.
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