Margaret Marsh Ph.D.

University Professor of History
Distinguished Professor of History
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Email: Discipline: History Expertise: Women's Health, Politics and Policymaking, History of Medicine, Medical Ethics

Investigator Award
Infertility and Assisted Reproduction from the Development of in vitro Fertilization to the Present: Medicine, Culture, Policy, and Practice
Award Year: 2013 The United States, as virtually the only developed nation with no national policy on assisted reproduction, has been called the “wild west” of reproductive medicine. For forty years now, the federal government has refused to fund, regulate, prohibit or approve reproductive technologies or practices such as in vitro fertilization, sperm, egg and embryo donation, or the use of gestational carriers and surrogates. Societal conflicts involving reproductive technology have been so deep and divisive that the nation, unable to find common ground, has by default agreed to let the market determine access to these services. How and why did this state of affairs develop? What have been its effects on potential parents, gamete donors and surrogates, researchers, practitioners, and the larger society? And what might be done to change the situation? These questions lie at the heart of this project. We address these questions in the following ways: 1) by offering a comprehensive historical perspective of the changing dimensions of infertility treatment and the unprecedented ways by which families can be produced with the new reproductive technologies; 2) by illuminating the larger societal forces that bear on patients, practitioners, gamete donors, gestational surrogates, insurance providers, legislators and others involved in reproductive decision-making; 3) by exploring how reproductive research and practice have both shaped and been shaped by changes in medical practice, family life, gender roles, marriage, socioeconomic class, and race; and 4) by using these findings as a basis for making recommendations on policy and practice. During the three year period of the grant we intend to complete a book addressed to a broad audience of policy-makers, legislators, medical practitioners, potential patients, and the public. We also plan to create a project website, deliver papers and lectures to a variety of professional and public bodies, and produce articles to be submitted to scholarly journals.


Margaret Marsh, Distinguished Professor of History and University Professor at Rutgers University, served for thirteen years, beginning in 1998, in senior leadership positions at Rutgers, including Dean and Executive Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Interim Chancellor, both on the Camden campus. She now divides her time between Arts and Sciences in Camden and the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging Research in New Brunswick.  She was previously a professor of History and Department Chair at Temple University, and prior to that she was a professor of History at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. She has a Ph.D. in U.S. History from Rutgers.

She is the author of Anarchist Women (1981) and Suburban Lives (1990), as well as numerous articles and book chapters on a broad range of topics related to the history of women and medicine, urbanization, gender, and the family.  Her most recent books, co-authored with Wanda Ronner, are The Empty Cradle: Infertility in America from Colonial Times to the Present (1996/paperback 1999), and The Fertility Doctor: John Rock and the Reproductive Revolution (2008). Both were funded by multi-year research grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and The Empty Cradle was named an Outstanding Academic Book by Choice Magazine. Marsh has also been a History Fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow. Her teaching interests include women's and gender history, the history of medicine, and health policy.