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Robin E. Jensen
University of Utah (Salt Lake City, UT 84112-9049)

Research Programs

[Grant products]

$60,000 (approved)
$60,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
8/1/2020 – 7/31/2021

A Rhetorical History of Women Shaping the Trajectory of Fertility Science, 1870-1970

Research and writing leading to a book on the rhetorical practices of three American women involved in the study of fertility.

This rhetorical history project analyzes the scientific, public, and interpersonal communication of three women who were central to the development and implementation of fertility science as it is known today. Reformer Julia Ward Howe, psychoanalyst Helene Deutsch, and gynecologist Sophia Kleegman communicated from different social locations and time periods to push back against—and contribute to—scientific orthodoxy. I contend that the fissures they created in scholarly and mainstream discourses about reproductive health functioned to expand the scope of infertility diagnosis and treatment regimens, and to loosen long-held clinical beliefs about women as the central players in fertility related ills. This analysis identifies the discursive strategies that these actors employed to intervene in fertility studies and demonstrates how interventions in science often unfold not in terms of revolutions but in terms of multimodal, nonlinear, and longitudinal communicative negotiations.