Document Actions

Dr Caroline Rusterholz

PhD (University of Freiburg)

Swiss National Science foundation, advanced post-doc research Fellow.

Contact details:

Research and teaching

  • Research interests
  • My research interests cover the fields of the histories of Switzerland, Britain and France in the twentieth century. In particular, I am interested in the social history of medicine, the history of sexuality and reproduction, the history of the family and the history of gender.
  • My current research project focuses on the evolution of medical discourses and practices related to reproduction and sexuality in England and France (1920-1970), adopting a transnational and gendered perspective. By exploring France and England, two countries with dramatic differences in terms of legal access to contraception, approaches to population issues and women’s political rights, this research addresses the process of the legitimation and medicalisation of birth control. It analyses the exchanges of knowledge between these countries, putting the emphasis on the similarities and discrepancies of this production in an era of dramatic changes relative to birth control and female emancipation.
  • My PhD thesis (completed in November 2014) focused on the reasons behind the decrease in marital fertility and the changes in models of parenthood in Switzerland between 1955 and 1970 in a comparative perspective. This research topic used tools and brought insights from the fields of historical demography, family history, history of medicine, social and cultural history and gender and sexuality studies together. The main goal of the project was to understand why parents limited the size of their family, how hegemonic models of parenthood mattered in that context, how individuals perceived and challenged these models, and what were the methods used to limit family size. To do so, I combined a range of sources and approaches, including both archival work and oral history. I adopted a life-course perspective in analysing the impact of social norms on individual behaviour. This allowed highlighting the role of gender relationships and challenging the assumption of female emancipation from traditional norms as a key element for sexual self-determination. I showed that women widened their field of expertise to sexuality through their individual adhesion to the traditional model of the mother as a housewife available and skilled for her children
  • Teaching
  • I have experience teaching courses in political history, methodology of oral history and history of gender (University of Fribourg, Unidistance)


  • Monograph
  • Caroline Rusterholz, “Deux enfants c’est déjà pas mal”, Famille et fécondité en Suisse, 1955-1970. Editions Antipodes, Lausanne, 2017
  • Articles
  • Caroline Rusterholz, Anne-Françoise Praz, “Une transition au féminin? Modèle familial et fécondité en Suisse, 1955-1970” in Genre, sexualité et société, online 2017.
  • Virginie de Luca Barrusse, Caroline Rusterholz, “Les apports et les promesses de l’économie politique de la fécondité pour l’étude de ses transitions”, Annales de démographie historique, 2016, 2, 17-39.
  • Caroline Rusterholz, “Fathers in 1960s’ Switzerland: A silent revolution?”, in Gender and History, 27(3), 2015, 828–843.
  • Caroline Rusterholz, “Costs of children and models of parenthood: Evidence from two Swiss cities”, in Journal of family history, 40(2), 2015, 208-229.
  • Caroline Rusterholz, “Reproductive behaviour and contraceptive practices in comparative perspective, Switzerland (1955-1970)”, in The History of the Family, 20(1), 2015, 41-68.

Honours and awards

  • 02.2017-08.2018        Advanced-postdoc mobility Grant Swiss National Foundation (100%)
  • 08.2015-01.2017         Early-postdoc mobility Grant Swiss National Foundation (100%)
  • 09.2013-03.2015        Doc.mobility Grant Swiss National Foundation (100%)