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Reproduction by DesignSex, Robots, Trees, and Test-Tube Babies in Interwar Britain$
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Angus McLaren

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780226560694

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226560717.001.0001

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“A spinster and a syringe”

“A spinster and a syringe”

Debating Test-Tube Babies

(p.109) Chapter 5 “A spinster and a syringe”
Reproduction by Design
University of Chicago Press

This chapter approaches the issues discussed in this book in a roundabout fashion by exploring a relatively obscure Canadian court case. It addresses the ways in which commentators in the interwar years attributed enormous social significance to a rarely employed but simple form of medical treatment. The Orford trial is introduced. From the mid-1930s onward, the British tabloids started to report on “test-tube babies” in the United States. A number of writers had defended artificial insemination as a form of positive eugenics. In the 1940s, nothing could rival artificial insemination in better representing reproduction by design. In so doing, it dramatically showed the splitting of sex and reproduction. In the first half of the twentieth century when the procedure was only emerging, it was predictable that its defenders would seek to portray it in the most conservative of hues.

Keywords:   test-tube babies, artificial insemination, Canadian court case, Orford trial, United States, eugenics, sex, reproduction

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