Helen Hunter

Penn Humanities Forum Undergraduate Fellow

20152016 Forum on Sex

Helen Hunter

2015-16 Undergraduate Humanities Forum Steering Committee


College of Arts and Sciences, 2016

Helen Hunter is a history major focusing on race and gender in American history. Also an anthropology minor, Helen is particularly interested on the way societal norms affect individuals, and vice versa. Helen has been able to explore independent research both through her history coursework and through employment at the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, and the Philadelphia History Museum at the Atwater Kent. Helen’s honors thesis and project for the Forum investigates the personal life and career of birth control and marriage counseling pioneer Emily Hartshorne Mudd, also Penn Medicine’s first female professor. This project was inspired by Helen’s interest in reproductive rights and the history of contraceptives.

Redefining American Motherhood: Emily Mudd's Mission at Home and Abroad

In 1929, Emily Hartshorne Mudd risked arrest by volunteering as a nurse at Philadelphia’s first birth control clinic. Visibly pregnant with her second child, Mudd relied on an antiquated law that barred the incarceration of a pregnant woman in order to serve women in need of contraceptive advice. Before this bold venture, Emily Mudd had worked for a decade as her husband’s unpaid research assistant in immunology and had personally experienced the conflicting pressures of a woman in the early twentieth century who aspired to be both a mother and a professional. Over the next seventy years, Mudd became a key player in the development of marriage counseling as a way to help women navigate their maternal and professional ambitions. Scholars have remembered Mudd for her contributions to the field of marriage counseling but have criticized her for her methods and her failures. This limited view of her career detracts from her larger professional ambitions. Mudd’s professional shortcomings, reexamined, reveal a strong-willed and pragmatic idealist working against a rapidly changing social order.