Lara Freidenfelds

When Abortion Was a Necessary Sin

Anyone tempted to make facile arguments about abortion politics, on either side of the aisle, needs to read John Christopoulos’s new book, Abortion in Early Modern Italy. The book is beautifully written and the stories in it are jaw-dropping, with nearly tabloid-worthy details about individuals’ sex lives and relationships, though handled with appropriate respect. As… Read more →

Liberal Christians in the Making of Sex Education

In the 1960s conservative Christian leaders like Billy James Hargis and his “Christian Crusade” defined the culture wars over sex education as a battle between secular liberals who wanted to teach comprehensive sex ed in the public schools, and religious conservatives who demanded silence on the subject.[1] That framing has stuck in the cultural imagination…. Read more →

What About Men’s Reproductive Health?

In her latest book, GUYnecology: The Missing Science of Men’s Reproductive Health, sociologist Rene Almeling asks why all the public health messages about healthy childbearing seem to be aimed at women. What about the research that shows that men’s health is relevant to the condition of their sperm, and can profoundly affect the health of… Read more →

Pregnancy and Miscarriage on Social Media: New Metaphors to Make Miscarriages Easier to Talk About, and Easier to Bear

For someone who has been trying for a pregnancy, it is naturally tempting to want to share the exciting and potentially life-changing news of a positive home pregnancy test. Common wisdom has been to keep it secret, though, until the end of the first trimester, once miscarriage is less likely. After all, if you’ve taken… Read more →

Accessibility in America Past and Present

Bess Williamson’s Accessible America: A History of Disability and Design is a thought-provoking and edifying look at the shifting culture around disability and the design of our built environment in the United States from post-World War II to the present. I was interested to read the book both because I have a longstanding scholarly interest… Read more →

Sperm Donor Siblings Speak Their Truths

In Random Families: Genetic Strangers, Sperm Donor Siblings, and the Creation of New Kin, sociologists Rosanna Hertz and Margaret Nelson ask what it means for children to be related to each other via a sperm donor. In their rendering, this is not merely a theoretical question up for philosophical debate. What is so brilliant about… Read more →

Making Room for Miscarriage

After I miscarried my first pregnancy, I quickly realized that I needed a historical perspective to make sense of this shockingly unexpected and distressing event. Before I got pregnant, I had no idea that around 20% of confirmed pregnancies miscarry, mostly in their early months, and that miscarriages are a normal part of childbearing for… Read more →

Help! Talk Radio Ate the Presidency!

In November 2016, my Facebook feed was filled with friends’ dreaded anticipation of Thanksgiving with extended family, and particularly with that uncle: the unapologetic Trump supporter full of crude, bigoted bluster. So many white families seemed to have an uncle like this — even if in liberal families everyone had written him off as a… Read more →

In Vitro Fertilization: From Science Fiction to Reality to History

It was not that long ago that “test tube babies” only existed in science fiction. I remember my shock when, in 2007, one of my students at Wellesley College told me that she was an IVF (in vitro fertilization) baby. “The technology couldn’t be that old, could it?” I thought. In The Pursuit of Parenthood:… Read more →

Is a Historian’s Library an Archive or a Living Thing?

This week I purged my bookshelves. As a Ph.D. historian, it initially felt like a risky move — somewhere in between disowning my former self and cutting out part of my brain. In the end, though, I think the effect will be closer to pruning a big, old, tangled shrub so that it has some… Read more →