Pathfinder Fund records open for research!

1965 new year's greeting with staff photos. Transcription is in the caption.
1965 New Year's Greetings. We Pathfinders send congratulations to you, as our co-workers for family planning. Your work in spreading this new freedom helps parents to choose the number and time of arrival of wanted children. This makes for healthy and happy families. Clarence and Sarah Gamble, Edith Gates, Margaret Roots, John Gordon, Edna McKinnon, David Burleson, Charles and Bernadine Zukoski, Sarah Lewis in England, Pansy Belling in the Philippines. Pathfinder Fund records, 1948-2019 (inclusive), 1954-1981 (bulk), H MS c635. Harvard Medical Library, Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, Boston, Mass.

The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to announce that the Pathfinder Fund records are now open for research. This new collection complements the existing Clarence James Gamble papers, H MS c23. There is some overlapping material in the new Pathfinder Fund records dating from Clarence J. Gamble’s tenure as director, while the majority of the records date from Richard B. Gamble’s tenure as executive director (1970-1983).


The Pathfinder Fund was founded in 1957 in Milton, Massachusetts by Clarence J. Gamble (1894-1966) to promote contraception and population control around the world. Through the Pathfinder Fund, Gamble sponsored field workers like Edith M. Gates (1898-1977), Margaret F. Roots (1895-1971), and Edna Rankin McKinnon (1892-1974). Field workers visited countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America to encourage the founding of family planning associations and clinics. Gamble also supported contraception research in Puerto Rico and Colombo, Sri Lanka. Gamble’s work included eugenic ideas such as discouraging reproduction of people considered unworthy or unable to care for children.

Around Clarence J. Gamble’s death in 1966, the organization underwent a transition into a more formal structure. Gamble’s son, Richard B. Gamble, eventually became executive director in 1970 until 1983. During this time, the Pathfinder Fund developed a relationship with United States Agency for International Development (USAID), funding birth control grant projects with USAID money. Pathfinder also focused on operations in a smaller number of countries and on IUD research. As part of IUD research, Pathfinder distributed the Dalkon Shield, which was removed from the U.S. market in 1974 after reports of infections, spontaneous septic abortions, and other complications.

The Pathfinder Fund records contain materials from directors Clarence J. Gamble and Richard B. Gamble, board member Julia G. Kahrl, and field workers Edith M. Gates and Margaret F. Roots. Clarence J. Gamble’s records consist of his research into the contraceptive foam Emko, intrauterine devices (IUDs), and oral contraceptive pills in Puerto Rico (with Adaline Pendleton Satterthwaite), Sri Lanka, and Massachusetts. There are also reports and correspondence from field workers Edith M. Gates and Margaret F. Roots created during their work for the Pathfinder Fund, which align very closely to Series III: Countries Correspondence and Records in the Clarence James Gamble papers.

Materials from board member Julia G. Kahrl relate to the transition of the Pathfinder Fund from a family-run project to a formal nonprofit organization. Most of the materials date from 1952 to 1968.

Materials from executive director Richard B. Gamble consist of Pathfinder board and committee files, including meeting minutes, project proposals, correspondence, and reports. There are also correspondence and subject files created in Gamble’s role as executive director. These include discussions and reports on Pathfinder’s programs.

For more information on the Pathfinder Fund and the Pathfinder Fund records, please view the collection’s online finding aid. For information about accessing the collection, please consult the Center’s website or contact Public Services.