Farm Workers Picking Oranges

Graduate Student Profiles

Sarah Mellors

Cohort Year: 2013
B.A.,Haverford College, 2009, East Asian Studies
M.A., University of California Irvine, 2015, History

Advisor: Dr. Jeffrey Wasserstrom and Dr. Emily Baum
First Field: Chinese history
Second Field: World history
Thematic Emphasis: Modern Chinese History, Gender & Sexuality, History of Medicine

Dissertation Topic: From Vinegar and Cotton Balls to Diaphragms and Vasectomies: Birth Control in Republican and Mao-Era China

Research Abstract:
Much has been written about population policies in China since the One-Child Policy’s enactment in 1979, but few scholars have approached this topic from a historical and ethnographic perspective. Drawing on archival research and interviews, this project examines contraception use in three cities during the 50-year period preceding the One-Child Policy. I show that: women experimented with both Chinese and Western contraceptive techniques; socioeconomic status, education, and geography critically shaped access to birth control; and, despite the spread of prophylactics, high levels of abortion use persisted. By interrogating individual reproductive experiences, I grant users of birth control agency in a scholarly discourse dominated by top-down policies.