1st Edition

Development and Women's Reproductive Health in Ghana, 1920-1982

By Holly Ashford Copyright 2023
    266 Pages 15 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book investigates the history of women’s reproductive health in Ghana,

    arguing that between the 1920s and 1980s, it was largely driven by discourses of

    development and population control rather than a concern for women’s health or


    Between the 1920s and 1980s, the choices that Ghanaian women made

    regarding their reproductive health were defined by development policy and

    practice. Spanning the colonial and immediate postcolonial periods, this book

    demonstrates that whilst the substance of development discourse shifted over

    time, principles of development continued to be used to impact and legitimise

    reproductive health policy and practices well after independence. The book

    explores Ghana’s pluralist health system, the introduction of maternal and child

    welfare, the dominance of the Red Cross in Ghana’s maternal and child health

    landscape, nationalist pronatalism and global population activism. In order to

    understand how global iterations of development and health policy impacted

    ordinary lives in Ghana, the author uses evidence from multiple ‘levels,’ including

    private papers, national archives and records of international and transnational

    organisations. Providing balanced archival perspectives, the book includes

    extensive oral history interviews carried out with both rural Ghanaian women and

    traditional birth attendants, as well as with midwives, doctors and family planning


    This book will have an important impact on a number of historical fields

    including Ghanaian history, global health history, global histories of population

    and family planning and histories of development. It will be of interest to

    researchers and students in the history of public health, development, Africa,

    Ghana and gender.

    List of Tables vi

    List of Figures vii

    List of Abbreviations viii

    Acknowledgements x

    Introduction 1

    1 Hoping for Growth: Population and Development in

    Colonial Gold Coast 1920–1939 24

    2 Humanitarianism in the Gold Coast 1932–1939: The

    Establishment of Maternal and Infant Welfare 57

    3 Social Development and Medicalising Reproduction,

    1940–1956 86

    4 Reproducing the Nation in Nkrumah’s Ghana, 1951–1966 123

    5 Establishing the National Family Planning Programme,

    1966–1974 157

    6 From Population Control to Primary Healthcare?: Rural

    Health Interventions in Ghana, 1969–1982 189

    Afterword 220

    Bibliography 229

    Index 249


    Holly Ashford completed her PhD in History at Cambridge University, UK.