‘Phantom Fathers’ and ‘Test-Tube Babies’: Debates on Marriage, Infertility, and Artificial Insemination in the British Media, c. 1957–60

  • Hayley AndrewEmail author


This chapter examines how reproductive science challenged conceptions of marriage and family at a time when the disintegration of ‘traditional values’ was feared. The popular media played an important role in articulating the relationship between marriage, family, and technology in late 1950s Britain. The media’s response to a sensational divorce case in 1958 – MacLennan v. MacLennan – encapsulates the importance of popular culture in leading public opinion on the controversial issue of artificial insemination. The way in which the media captured this case and reported on artificial insemination by donor (AID) in its aftermath offers a lens through which to understand both anxieties about marriage and the role of the media in reshaping moral norms during this period. This chapter argues that in actively framing a new narrative of what it meant to have a ‘test-tube baby’, the popular media pushed against public opinion on the issue of AID, and in so doing began redefining the heteronormative family.


Artificial insemination Marriage Divorce Family Media 

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Historica CanadaOntarioCanada

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