The Pursuit of Parenthood: Reproductive Technology from Test-Tube Babies to Uterus Transplants. John Hopkins University Press, 2019.


“Marsh and Ronner masterfully interweave narrative, historical, and demographic materials in beautiful prose to tell a compelling story that will enlighten even those who specialize in this area. . . . Ultimately, [the authors] have stitched together an amazing amount of historical, legal, medical, and quantitative material. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of reproductive technology.” I. Glenn Cohen, Science (August 30, 2019)

“. . . . This book is a page-turning history of how new reproductive technologies and treatments have transformed women’s experiences with infertility. Marsh and Ronner mix a medical narrative, enlivened with quotations from interviews with many of the physicians involved, with moving stories of individual women and families, and with discussion of the social and political contexts in which changes occurred. They provide a rich and absorbing account that informs current debates.” — Judith Walzer Leavitt, University of Wisconsin–Madison, author of Brought to Bed: Childbearing in America, 1750–1980

“This book is much more than a medical and technological history of infertility treatment. It is that, but it is also a story of generosity and greed, joy and sorrow, triumph and tragedy, politics and policies, miracles and mistakes. It is a story that is both moving and enlightening.” — Elaine Tyler May, University of Minnesota, author of Barren in the Promised Land: Childless Americans and the Pursuit of Happiness

“It is rare that one runs into a book this prescient on what was to be the technology that vanquished barrenness. Epochal if well-grounded, the searing, indeed gripping, narrative remains ever-captivating from prologue to epilogue.” — Eli Y. Adashi, MD, MS, The Warren Alpert Medical School, Brown University

“Medicine’s ability to help infertile couples has outpaced American society’s willingness to assess the ramifications of, and develop regulations for, assisted reproductive technologies. Marsh and Ronner describe this fascinating history from all angles―the social, the scientific, the medical, and the personal. They have written not only a history of the complexities and consequences of infertility treatment, but also a history of the triumphs, tragedies, and moral ambiguities inherent in modern American medicine.”— Jacqueline H. Wolf, Ohio University, author of Cesarean Section: An American History of Risk, Technology, and Consequence

“Another triumph from this complementary pairing―the ‘infertility sisters’ have produced an accessible, sensitive, and thought-provoking history of assisted reproduction in contemporary America. Tracing the perspectives of both patients and practitioners within their social and political context, this controversial and fascinating history is a must-read for anyone with an academic or personal interest in infertility and its treatment.”—Gayle Davis, The University of Edinburgh, coeditor of Abortion across Borders: Transnational Travel and Access to Abortion Services

“The dynamic sister duo Marsh and Ronner are at it again, seamlessly weaving historical and gynecological perspectives to tell new stories about the age-old issue of infertility. The Pursuit of Parenthood focuses on the crucial issue of technological interventions into reproduction from the twentieth century to the present. This book will stand as an essential history of assisted reproductive technologies, providing a fascinating and eminently-readable overview of the social and political changes shaping modern-day family formation in the context of infertility. “— Rene Almeling, Yale University, author of Sex Cells: The Medical Market for Eggs and Sperm

“An accurate portrayal of the history of the pioneers of assisted reproductive technologies, combined with a fair assessment of current ethical issues and tales of developments to come, all presented with a humanistic bent. An immediate classic.”— Alan DeCherney, MD, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development / National Institutes of Health

“An engaging, well-written, and well-researched account of all aspects of reproductive technology over the past few decades: political, social, and ethical. Marsh and Ronner are the ideal authors for such a book. Here, they carefully tease out the multiple factors that contributed to the current messy state of assisted reproduction. The Pursuit of Parenthood is accessible, important, and very timely.”— Wendy Kline, Purdue University, author of Coming Home: How Midwives Changed Birth

“In this timely and engaging study of the past, present, and future of assisted reproduction, historian Margaret Marsh and physician Wanda Ronner have marshalled their complementary strengths to sound a clarion call for a saner approach to the business of making babies in America.”—Elizabeth Siegel Watkins, University of California, San Francisco, author of The Estrogen Elixir: A History of Hormone Replacement Therapy in America

The Fertility Doctor

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The Fertility Doctor: John Rock and the Reproductive Revolution, (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008). Co-authored with Wanda Ronner.

“A fascinating biographical study of a key figure in twentieth-century America… a complete portrait of John Rock as a son, brother, husband, father, student, doctor, researcher, and public figure.”—Elizabeth Siegel Watkins, author of On the Pill: A Social History of Oral Contraceptives, 1950–1970, and The Estrogen Elixir: A History of Hormone Replacement Therapy in America

“A spell-binding analysis of the development of modern reproductive medicine.”—Luigi Mastroianni, Jr., M.D., University of Pennsylvania

“A fast-paced narrative that weaves the characters and the times into a fascinating story.”—Teresa K. Woodruff, Nature America

“The authors bring a man and a century to life as they recount two primary discoveries underlying women’s still controversial reproductive rights.”—Publishers Weekly

“Marsh and Ronner’s collaborative efforts make for a fascinating and important study of Rock and his contributions to the science and culture of reproductive medicine.”—Wendy Kline, Isis

“This book will hold an important place in the Archives of reproductive medicine.”—Alan H. DeCherney, New England Journal of Medicine

The Empty Cradle

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The Empty Cradle: Infertility in America from Colonial Times to the Present. Co-authored with Wanda Ronner. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996/paper 1999.

“[Marsh and Ronner create] a highly successful combination in which faultless clinical detail and a broad social and cultural approach are seamlessly woven to produce a very impressive and beautifully written historical work of the first importance.”—Irvine Loudon, Journal of the Social History of Medicine

“Marsh and Ronner have sought to go beyond the published medical literature to disclose the voices of those most affected by the physiological and cultural condition of infertility… they have restored to the historical record the anguish and the hopes of women who experienced infertility.”—Rima D. Apple, American Historical Review

The Empty Cradle demonstrates the profound impact of politics as well as culture on the development of medical practice. It is an excellent model for future scholarship on the complex relationship between science and society.”—Elaine Tyler May, Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences

Suburban Lives

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Suburban Lives. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1990.

“Marsh’s aim. . . is to question the association of suburbanization and domesticity that has been central to both historians of women and historians of the 1950s.”—Leila J. Rupp, Journal of American History

“Marsh writes trenchantly, but with grace and humor. . . . most of [the] chapters are gems of insightful presentation.”—William H. Wilson, Reviews in American History

“A fresh interpretation [of] the history of white middle-class suburbs in the United States.”—Elaine Tyler May, American Historical Review

Anarchist Women

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Anarchist Women, 1870-1920. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1981.

“This gracefully written and organized book well demonstrates the validity of examining a political movement through the perceptions and lives of its more critical women participants.”—Anita Clair Fellman, Journal of American History

“No volume before this one has specifically addressed ideological problems females in this movement had to confront. . . . Particularly illuminating is the chapter on sexuality and reproduction.”—Constance Ashton Meyers, American Historical Review

“An adroit historian, . . . Marsh not only draws discriminating and delightful portraits of her subjects, but she also shows how each differed from the mainstream feminism of her era.”—Alden Whitman, Philadelphia Inquirer