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Dirty Words

The Rhetoric of Public Sex Education, 1870-1924

Robin E. Jensen

Publication Year: 2010

Dirty Words: The Rhetoric of Public Sex Education, 1870-1924, details the approaches and outcomes of sex-education initiatives in the Progressive Era. In analyzing the rhetorical strategies of sex-education advocates, Robin E. Jensen engages with rich sources such as lectures, books, movies, and posters that were often shaped by female health advocates and instructors. Her narrative demonstrates how women were both leaders and innovators in early U.S. sex-education movements, striving to provide education to underserved populations of women, minorities, and the working class. Investigating the communicative and rhetorical practices surrounding the emergence of public sex education in the United States, Jensen shows how women in particular struggled for a platform to create and circulate arguments concerning this controversial issue.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii

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pp. ix-x

I have learned so much about research, rhetoric, sex education, and, most importantly, the generosity of others throughout the process of writing this book. I am glad to have this opportunity to think back on and thank those who have played a role...

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pp. xi-xxiv

On August 22, 1996, the 104th U.S. Congress and President William J. Clinton, a Democrat, passed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. Better known as the 1996 Welfare Reform Bill, this act drastically...

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1. Engaging Ambiguous Discourse

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pp. 1-35

When Dr. Prince A. Morrow founded the “social-hygiene” movement in the early 1900s, his aim was to teach U.S. citizens how to stop the seemingly exponential spread of venereal diseases. In his book Social Diseases and Marriage, Morrow claimed...

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2. Championing the Chicago Experiment

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pp. 36-66

In the fall of 1913, over twenty thousand Chicago high school students completed the first public sex-education program in U.S. schools. The program consisted of three lessons designed to inform students about “personal sexual hygiene,” “problems of sex instincts,” and “a few of the hygienic and social facts regarding...

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3. Propagating Wartime Sex Education

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pp. 67-90

When the Chicago School Board decided not to continue Dr. Ella Flagg Young’s Chicago Experiment after the 1913–14 school year, many Chicago residents probably believed that the city (and the nation) would revert back to talking about...

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4. Speaking for Women at War's End

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pp. 91-114

By the end of World War I, Dr. Rachelle Slobodinsky Yarros had traveled throughout the United States giving hundreds of talks on sex education under the auspices of the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) and the American Social Hygiene Association...

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5. Campaigning for "Separate but Equal"

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pp. 115-148

Directly after World War I, the U.S. Public Health Service, in cooperation with state boards of health and the American Social Hygiene Association, developed and publicized several sex-education campaigns. In 1919, they released “Keeping Fit...

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pp. 149-160

In the second decade of the twentieth century, Dr. Ella Flagg Young’s strategically fragmented argumentation strategy helped her to garner support for the first sex-education program in U.S. public schools. She integrated arguments in favor of public...


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pp. 161-178


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pp. 179-194


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pp. 195-202

About the Author, Publication Information

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pp. 203

E-ISBN-13: 9780252090172
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252035739

Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 2010