Lea Eisenstein

Wolf Humanities Center Undergraduate Fellow

20182019 Forum on Stuff

Lea Eisenstein

Health and Societies

CAS, 2019

Lea Eisenstein is a Health and Societies major concentrating in gender and health and minoring in Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies. She is interested in the history of science and medicine in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and her favorite areas of study include Victorian-era medicine, LGBTQ and women's health, and health activist movements of the twentieth century. She also writes satire for Under the Button, makes costumes for Penn's female sketch comedy troupe, Bloomers, and tutors at the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing. She is a lifelong lover of “stuff,” and can often be found digging through old photographs and dust-caked women’s magazines at yard sales. Sometimes, she writes papers about what she finds; usually, she does it for fun.

From Icon to Bygone: The Rise and Fall of the Contraceptive Diaphragm in Twentieth-Century America

This project examines how and why the contraceptive diaphragm, once the number one physician-recommended form of birth control, became nearly obsolete by the start of the 21st century in the United States. Many speculate that the diaphragm's popularity gradually nosedived because it was too messy, invasive, and difficult to use. But as the market for similar vaginal devices for other purposes—like menstrual cups and tampons—continues to expand today, this explanation seems overly simplistic. As it turns out, the diaphragm experienced several declines and rebirths over the course of the 20th century, as manufacturers, physicians, and women fought for control over the contraceptive. This project analyzes perceptions of the device among these three groups of historical actors over the past 150 years to understand how the diaphragm went from icon to bygone and back (and forth) again.