Lena McQuade

Associate Professor
Women's and Gender Studies, Sonoma State University
Appointment Dates:
(Jan 31, 2017 – Jan 31, 2017)
Research Project:
The Santa Fe Maternal Health Center (1937-1945)

The Santa Fe Maternal Health Center, established in 1937, was the first freestanding birth control clinic in the state of New Mexico.  It joined more than 500 new birth control clinics established throughout the United States by 1940 as a result of a national movement to change perceptions and policy about contraceptives. By focusing on the state of New Mexico, my research foregrounds how histories of colonization shaped the experiences of working-poor, Spanish-speaking, American citizen women who utilized the Santa Fe Maternal Health Center to access a wide range of reproductive health services.  While the clinic was originally founded with a mandate from Margaret Sanger’s national birth control organization to distribute contraceptive products, the needs of the clients quickly forced the clinic organizers to expand their services to include a whole array of physical health care and support for adequate food and housing.  Clients at the clinic did seek birth control products, but much more frequently, they requested broader health and social services for their whole families—thus challenging the founders’ more narrow definition of birth control.  In this article-length research project, I seek to illuminate how differently situated women in New Mexico participated in the state’s first birth control clinic. 

Dr. Lena McQuade is an Associate Professor in the Women’s and Gender Studies Department at Sonoma State University.  She received her PhD in American Studies from the University of New Mexico in 2008.  Her research and publications address the intertwined histories of reproductive health and colonialism, gendered racism, and citizenship in New Mexico.  She has published on the history of parteras (Spanish-speaking midwives) in New Mexico and is currently writing about the first birth control clinic established in Santa Fe in the late 1930s.  More recently, Dr. McQuade has also started investigating the history of the Berkeley Free Clinic and how communities have organized around health care.  In her teaching, Dr. McQuade specializes in introducing General Education students to the analysis and insights from the field of Women’s and Gender Studies.  She received the Excellence in Teaching Award (2016-2017) from Sonoma State University.