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Naturally Clean and Wholesome; Women, Sex Education and the United States Public Health Service, 1918-1928
Launched in 1918, the Public Health Service's (PHS) sex education programs sought to educate Americans,both male and female, young and old, on 'what they could do to help the Government stamp out venereal diseases. The PHS called upon Americans to provide sex education in their homes, schools, churches and community organizations. The programs which emerged in the wake of this directive were diffuse. According to the PHS, the 'crusade against ignorance' required a 'wide use of pamphlets, lectures, motion pictures and exhibits'. Women, girls, boys and men were all targeted in this campaign. While the PHS was most aggressive in creating a program for young boys, whom they believed to be at the greatest risk of contracting VD, the materials they created for women and girls sought to reverse women's patterns of sexual behavior. Created as a parallel to its programs for boys, the PHS's sex education program for women was never as focused as its male counterpart. Unlike the boys campaign, which relied heavily on one pamphlet and one message, the program for girls and young women used a variety of pamphlets and tactics. While the reasons for this approach were varied, the diffuse nature of this campaign meant that the PHS's message never really reached its intended audience. Not surprisingly, this program failed to alter young women's sexual behavior.