Dr. Alice Bunker Stockham

A Quaker teacher, Dr. Alice Bunker Stockham (1833-1912) earned obstetrics and gynecology degrees from two medical colleges, one specializing in homeopathy, and one in “eclectic” medicine (herbalism).  While operating a clinic and a free kindergarten, Stockham embraced suffrage and the nonviolent philosophies of iconic writers like Leo Tolstoy.  Tolstoy Stockham’s Tokology (Greek for “obstetrics”), which maintained that neither sexual wrote the forward to longings nor resultant pregnancies were inherently unhealthy or shameful.  In both Tokology (1893) and later, Karezza (1898), Stockham promoted pre-natal self-care and blamed the “disease model” of pregnancy for the prevalence of abortion. Stockham was internationally renowned as “a loyal friend to her sex” (Chicago Tribune, 1890).  Despite—or perhaps because of—her popularity, Anthony Comstock had the 72-year-old arrested for obscenity in 1905. Her books were banned, but her admirers had already been empowered.

“[Pregnancy] is transformed from [a time] of hope, of cheerfulness … into days of suffering, wretchedness, and direful forebodings … Motherhood is robbed of its divinest joys … Ordinarily pregnancy is classed by both physicians and women among the diseases.  Physical sufferings and mental agonies are the common accompaniments of the condition.  Murderous intent fills the mother’s heart, and the fearful crime of feticide is daily committed.”

—From “Diseases of Pregnancy,” Tokology (Second Edition), 1887

“Life must be present from the very moment of conception.  If there was not life there could not be conception … Is it not plain that the violent or forcible deprivation of existence of this embryo … is its premature death, and hence the act can be denominated by no more mild term than murder …?  … The woman who produces abortion, or allows it to be produced, risks her own life and health in the act, and commits the highest crime in the calendar, for she takes the life of her own child.  She defrauds the child of the right to its existence …  When girls are given proper instruction … and understand how to govern and guard themselves; when young men are taught that virtue has as high a meaning for one sex as for another … and that paternal interest in, and responsibilities for a child are equal to the maternal, then the temptation to produce abortion … will not exist.”  

“The life of the babe in her arms is to the mother more precious than all else; her heart is filled with the pang of agony at the thought of the least danger to its life. By what false reasoning does she convince herself that another life, still more dependent upon her for its existence, with equal rights and possibilities has no claim upon her for protection?”

—From “Two Wrongs Cannot Make a Right,” Tokology (Second Edition), 1887

By Jen Hawkins