The illegal Birth Control Handbook printed by McGill students in 1968

A little piece of McGill University history was recently highlighted in a post from Atlas Obscura called The Illegal Birth Control Handbook that spread across college campuses in 1968


Under Canada’s Criminal Code at the time (1968), the dissemination, sale, and advertisement of birth control methods were all illegal, and abortion was punishable by life imprisonment.

Originally aimed at McGill students, the Birth Control Handbook was mostly self-funded, but students at 10 other Canadian universities, as well as Princeton University and the University of Maine, also chipped in. The McGill Daily wrote that the Handbook hoped to “bridge the gap between high school hygiene courses and street corner advisory sessions.”

The handbook did much more than bridge that gap, providing much-needed information that many women today still struggle to access about their own bodies and reproductive health. It also still holds up pretty well and is quite explicit even by today’s standards.

Definitely worth flipping through if not only for the beautiful images included. You can check out and flip through the handbook in full on (my favourite place to visit online).


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For more on the handbook and legal landscape at the time of printing and distribution of The Birth Control Handbook, you can check out the original article from Atlas Obscura.