Lesbian motherhood and the artificial insemination by donor scandal of 1978

Rebecca Jennings*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


In January 1978, the London Evening News informed its readers of its shocking discovery that British lesbians were conceiving babies by artificial insemination by donor (AID). Assisted by a respected London gynaecologist, Dr David Sopher, the women were planning and raising children in the context of lesbian relationships, challenging conventional family models and the widespread presumption that lesbianism and motherhood were mutually exclusive identities. The debate which was sparked by the Evening News expose and taken up in Parliament, the national and local media and on the streets in the subsequent weeks, offers an insight into attitudes towards lesbian motherhood in the late 1970s. This article explores constructions of lesbian mothers and the impact on the experiences and identities of lesbian mothers themselves. The late 1970s marked the beginnings of a shift in practices of conception by British lesbians from lesbians who conceived their children in the context of previous heterosexual relationships, to women who utilized AID and other forms of donor insemination to forge new family structures, and this article analyses the stories of some of these women as they emerged from the 1978 debate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)570-594
Number of pages25
JournalTwentieth Century British History
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017
Externally publishedYes

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