Social hygiene movement

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"Sex hygiene" is contrasted with "false modesty" in this frontispiece to an early 20th-century book.

The social hygiene movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries was an attempt by Progressive-era reformers to control venereal disease, regulate prostitution and vice, and disseminate sexual education through the use of scientific research methods and modern media techniques. A mental hygiene movement also developed, partly separately and now generally known as mental health, although the older term is still in use, e.g. in New York state's law.[1]

The social hygiene movement represented a rationalized, professionalized version of the earlier social purity movement.[2] Many reformers, such as Marie Stopes, were also proponents of eugenics. Inspired by Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection, they argued for the sterilisation of certain groups, even racial groups, in society. Indeed, by the 1930s thousands of forced sterilizations of people deemed undesirable took place in America and other countries each year. This continued for several more decades in some countries, though after 1945, the movement was largely discredited.[3]

This link between racial hygiene and social hygiene movements can be seen in Australia, where the Racial Hygiene Association of New South Wales is now named The Family Planning Association.[4]

Social hygiene as a profession grew alongside social work and other public health movements of the era. Social hygienists emphasized sexual continence and strict self-discipline as a solution to societal ills, tracing prostitution, drug use and illegitimacy to rapid urbanization.

The American Social Hygiene Association was formed in 1913. It was later renamed to the American Social Health Association and, in 2012, the American Sexual Health Association.

The Social hygiene approach was adopted in medical schools in Russia in the 1920s and supported by the Commissariat of Public Health. The definition adopted by Commissar Nikolai Semashko was less focussed on eugenics and more in line with what is now regarded as public health: “study of the influence of economic and social factors on the incidence of disease and on the ways to make the population healthy”. The State Institute for Social Hygiene opened in 1923. This approach was not popular with educators or with medical students. In 1930 the institute was renamed the Institute of Organisation of Health Care and Hygiene. [5]

The movement remained alive throughout much of the 20th century and found its way into American schools, where it was transmitted in the form of classroom films about menstruation, sexually transmitted disease, drug abuse and acceptable sexual behavior in addition to an array of pamphlets, posters, textbooks and films.[6]

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References[edit]

  1. ^ NYS Mental Hygiene Admissions Process
  2. ^ Simmons, Christina (July 1993). "African Americans and Sexual Victorianism in the Social Hygiene Movement, 1910-40". Journal of the History of Sexuality. 4 (1): 51–75. JSTOR 3704179. 
  3. ^ Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society: Hygiene JACQUELINE S. WILKIE.
  4. ^ Family Planning NSW: News: Announcements: 80 years of Family Planning
  5. ^ Khwaja, Barbara (26 May 2017). "Health Reform in Revolutionary Russia". Socialist Health Association. Retrieved 26 May 2017. 
  6. ^ Tupper, Kenneth (2013). "Sex, Drugs and the Honour Roll: The Perennial Challenges of Addressing Moral Purity Issues in Schools". Critical Public Health. 24 (2): 115–131. doi:10.1080/09581596.2013.862517. 

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