The Pope and the pill

Sex, Catholicism and women in post-war England

By David Geiringer

The Pope and the pill


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Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-3838-5
  • Pages: 232
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £85.00
  • Published Date: October 2019
  • BIC Category: Humanities / 20th century history: c 1900 to c 2000, Humanities / British & Irish history, Roman Catholicism, Roman Catholic Church, Christian Aspects Of Sexuality, Gender & Relationships, HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain / 20th Century, RELIGION / Sexuality & Gender Studies, RELIGION / Christianity / Catholic, Religion, Modern History, History
  • Series: Manchester University Press


This book is about the sexual and religious lives of Catholic women in post-war England. It uses original oral history material to uncover the way Catholic women negotiated spiritual and sexual demands at a moment when the two increasingly seemed at odds with each other. It also examines the public pronouncements and secretive internal documents of the central Catholic Church, offering a ground-breaking new explanation of the Pope's decision to prohibit the Pill in 1968. The material gathered here offers a fresh perspective on the idea that 'sex killed God', reframing dominant approaches to the histories of sex, religion and social change. The book will be essential reading not only for scholars of sexuality, religion, gender and oral history, but anyone interested in social and cultural change more broadly.


'Geiringer offers a fascinating account that goes some way to shedding light on hitherto hidden experiences. By putting testimonies centre stage, Geiringer gives voices, for the first time, to the emotional struggles Catholic women experienced in post-war Britain.'
British Catholic History

'David Geiringer's fascinating and intimate account of the lived religious experiences of twenty-seven Catholic women in post-war England is highly revealing of the dynamics between social change, one Christian denomination's response to the 1960s 'sexual revolution' and women's experiences of each ... it should be required reading for any historian of religion, gender, sex and medicine in post-war Britain and beyond.'
Contemporary British History

'This is a pathbreaking book, packed with powerful, poignant and highly personal testimonies from Catholic women negotiating Vatican teaching - and their own experiences - of sex, marriage and embodiment across the lifecycle. Geiringer deftly demonstrates the ways in which these subjective renegotiations of the relationship between sex and religion from the 1960s onwards have critical implications for wider understandings of post-war Britain. A compelling read.'
Alana Harris, Lecturer in Modern British History, King's College London

'The Pope and the Pill is a valuable inclusion to the history of sex and history of religion. It acts as a break from traditional interpretations of the sex lives of Catholic women and as a model for academic oral history interviewing.'
Twentieth Century British History


1 Uncovering the sex lives of Catholic women
2 The Catholic Church's understanding of female sexuality
3 Sexuality in later marriage
4 Sexuality in early marriage
5 Early life and pre-marital sexuality


David Geiringer is Associate Lecturer in Contemporary History at Queen Mary University of London

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