The Birth of the Pill:
How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution
by Jonathan Eig
Despite being an avid reader, I am not one to publicly promote books. However, I came across this informative gem of a book in the last couple weeks and was riveted. Being a firstborn, a teacher, and a nurse, I feel compelled to “tell” everyone to read this fascinating narrative that altered the course of humankind.
Let me ask you something. When you consider birth control and access to it, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Prescription? Cost? Ease-of-use? Thank-God-I-Only-Had-Two-Children? If you are like me, the ability to control our personal birth rate is something I never really appreciated. I wanted three kids. I had three kids. Not 6. Not 10. And it was a decision between my husband and myself. Not just my husband. Not the government. Not my doctor. Not our religious leaders. Kind of a no-brainer. You make a choice – you follow through. (Wellllll….there are those occasional “oops”.)
It never dawned on me just how incredibly fortunate Western society is to have these options when just a mere 50 years ago (yes! my lifetime!) women were literally begging for help, desperate to control their personal birth rates.
Well….let me put it into an example many mothers can relate to:(Cue the sound of happy, chirping birds…) You awake on a beautiful, sunny morning and gaze lovingly into your well-behaved, compliant, perfectly attired children. You reflect on the previous romantic evening with your life partner in which the love-making was earth-shattering and mutually satisfying. You prepare to go off to work where you are appreciated and adequately paid. Or maybe you chose to be a stay-at-home mother…which means you will soon be off and running to some committee meeting or another. Life is good.
Okay. Maybe that is fantasy world. But consider what reality was a mere 50-60 years ago:
(Cue the sound of roosters crowing….) You awake on a lovely, sunny morning and your eyes glaze over the 5-10 children standing at your feet looking for something to eat for breakfast. You are exhausted because, even though you love your husband, you know the dutiful quickie last night will likely result in another baby – one you are not physically, mentally, or emotionally prepared to care for. A worried, sleepless night followed. The weariness is taking it’s toll – you are unsure if all your children are present and accounted for. “How many rug-rats do I have now?” you ponder… No matter. If they are hungry they will show up. You pick up a bowl and begin the routine of caring for your brood. You love them, but you know the exhaustion is getting the better of you. If only there was a way to limit the number of children born to you. You know someone that performs abortions…should you try that? So many women die when they try to abort, yet the thought of another child to care for is disheartening and overwhelming. Desperate times, desperate measures.
This is a reality of women’s history that is not taught in our schools. However, The Birth of the Pill by Jonathan Eig, documents the journey of four innovative individuals with a passion to improve the lives of all humanity, not only women.
Margaret Sanger: Famous for founding Planned Parenthood, Sanger understood that sex could be fun for women as well as men – not just a baby-making activity. She wanted women to have the ability to be in control of their fertility, and therefore of their lives. Can you imagine that it was not considered “OK” for women to enjoy sex? Aye Aye Aye. Thank you, Margaret!
Katharine McCormick: An MIT graduate (unheard of back in 1920’s), the wealthy McCormick financed the research. She felt there was no point in championing for women’s rights and higher education until women had reproductive freedom. Without the ability to prevent unwanted pregnancies, women would never be free to live their authentic lives. Sadly, McCormick’s desire to have The Pill available for women in impoverished and developing countries was never realized in her lifetime – and has yet to be realized in ours. Re-read that second secenario…it is a reality for women around the world.
Gregory Pincus: A brilliant visionary and scientist who believed anything was possible when it came to reproductive health – and was willing to do whatever it took to make it happen.
John Rock: A Catholic gynecologist who felt this natural method of birth control would be a perfect fit with the church’s teachings.
- Rock and Pincus set out on a journey of research and compassion that would change the world.
- Sanger and McCormick understood the physical, mental, and social implications this little magic pill would have on women, children, families, communities, and even globally.
- Combined – they were a force to be reckoned with.
Because this was the first drug developed for something other than a treatment for disease or illness, their research methods and the evidence they offered to back up their results were quite sketchy. Their methods would not be respected in this day and age – thank goodness they were rebels in their field!
To truly understand and appreciate our modern day birth control options, digging into the history about the perseverance of these four random visionaries who pursued their passion and entwined their talents is a must. I predict this will be a movie. Yes. It is that entertaining. (I see the plucky Jennifer Lawrence playing a young Margaret Sanger….Just sayin’.)
To demonstrate the historical and current impact of The Pill on society, this clever little ditty will entertain and educate on the past, present, and where our future is leading if we are not careful.