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American Social Hygiene Association: “Youth and Life” Posters for Teenage Girls and Young Women
Introduction: At the beginning of the twentieth century venereal disease was a prevalent concern for social health organizations. Diseases such a syphilis and gonorrhea affected many people and the social stigma attached to sexually transmitted disease prevented most people from discussing or addressing means of treatment for venereal disease. In 1913, at a conference in Buffalo, New York, several organizations dedicated to fighting prostitution and venereal disease joined together to form the American Social Hygiene Association (ASHA).
During the 1920s, ASHA served as a central coordinator for the local or regional committees, doctors, public health officials, and social welfare agencies that were combating venereal disease and vice. In addition to the continued fight against venereal disease and prostitution, ASHA published the Journal of Social Hygiene and the Social Hygiene Bulletin. The organization also promoted character and sex education as a means of preventing the spread of venereal disease. The ASHA educational program emphasized preparation for a wholesome family life, avoiding venereal disease, and physical as well as moral fitness. Below are selected “Keep Fit” posters designed to educate young males. The “Youth and Life” posters displayed below were selected from a 48-poster series, designed to educate teenage girls and young women about the dangers of sexual promiscuity and urged them to embrace moral and physical fitness. It was adapted in 1922 by the American Social Hygiene Association from “Keeping Fit”, a similar series for boys and young men.
(Note: The images below were scanned from a set of 48 original posters in the Social Welfare History Archives at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. The American Social Health Association, an organization that has focused on the elimination of sexually transmitted diseases since the early 1900s, kept copies of posters that they had produced or sponsored, as well as others produced by various government agencies. ASHA donated the posters to the Social Welfare History Archives along with the rest of their historical records.)
For Further Reading:
“The Case Against the Red Light” (1920), a pamphlet created by the American Social Hygiene Association for the United States Public Health Service