The American Social Health Association (ASHA) records chronicle the association’s efforts to prevent and eradicate venereal disease, prostitution, and drug abuse from 1905 to 1990. The records trace the work of ASHA, which was known as the American Social Hygiene Association until 1960, and its predecessors: the American Federation for Sex Hygiene, the American Vigilance Association, and the American Society for Sanitary and Moral Prophylaxis. In particular, the records document ASHA’s legal and protective measures, research projects, and educational programs. The records also provide a rich resource on issues surrounding prostitution, venereal disease, sex education, family life education, and drug abuse. Equally important, the ASHA records also reflect contemporary attitudes about sexuality, morality, disease, and gender roles as well as the values of ASHA’s leadership and supporters.
ASHA conducted numerous investigations in support of its legal and protective efforts. Community survey records, legal reference files, research project working files and reports, and field representatives’ correspondence are among the records that document ASHA’s investigative and research activities. The association’s community surveys provide information on prostitution and VD as well as housing, recreation, sanitation, and other social factors. The studies also include information on local public health programs and the availability of “quack” remedies. ASHA also conducted venereal disease research studies. Most prominently, these studies include the Deschin Study of 600 adolescents who sought treatment for VD at New York City clinics between 1958 and 1961. Records produced by the study include the 30-page questionnaires for all 600 subjects and narrative summaries of selected cases.
In addition to legal and protective measures, ASHA attempted to halt prostitution, promiscuity, and VD through a variety of educational programs. The association disseminated information about the spread, consequences, and appropriate treatment of VD; promoted biological sex education and a healthy lifestyle; and encouraged sexual morality. Pamphlets, posters, radio scripts, periodicals, curriculum materials, public service announcements, promotional materials, board and committee minutes, staff correspondence, reports, correspondence with the public, budgets, and program materials are some of the resources that document these efforts. For example, kits containing promotional and informational materials trace the annual Social Hygiene Day from 1937.
The records also provide information on cooperation between ASHA and government agencies or other social health organizations. In particular, the files trace the association’s work the military and United States Public Health Service during the first and second world wars to prevent prostitution near military camps and provide education to soldiers on avoiding and treating VD.
The ASHA records not only document social health initiatives, but also chronicle the formation, administration and funding of a private-sector social welfare organization and reflect the development of federated fund-raising as well as its impact on a national association's program. In particular, board and committee minutes, solicitation letters and acknowledgments, correspondence, annual budgets, and reports are among the records that document the association’s fund-raising efforts and relations with community chests and funding organizations. The records also reflect the activities of ASHA staff, especially longtime executives and staff members William Snow, C. Walter Clark, Bascom Johnson, and Paul Kinsie.