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Radio Shows | The Birthday of the Pill | mp3wmawav

The Birthday of the PillFor most women, the birth control pill is a part of life, but this tiny pill has a large role in history.

Some believe it was more liberating to women than the right to vote.

The pill gave women control over their reproductive systems leading to new careers and the march toward gender equality. First introduced in 1960, the Pill turns 50 this year thanks to a few tenacious individuals.

The driving force was a nurse named Margaret Sanger. In 1916 she founded the first birth control clinic in the U-S and was often jailed and prosecuted.

She wasn’t deterred and in 1942 founded the Planned Parenthood Federation.

Yet forty years later, Sanger was frustrated there remained no oral contraceptive for women. At the age of 72 she met Gregory Pincus, an American biologist who believed hormones could be key to making an effective pill and agreed to help Sanger.

At the time a chemist named Carl Djerassi in Mexico City had just created an orally effective synthetic form of progesterone. Once Pincus knew, he worked to confirm that a progesterone pill was able to prevent ovulation in rabbits and rats.

But Pincus needed more money to continue his research so Margaret Sanger once again set to work. After Sanger talked to her friend, Katherine McCormick, the heir to the vast McCormick fortune then wrote a 40-thousand dollar check which enabled Pincus to develop the Pill.

In a clinical trial with fifty women, Pincus used a protocol of 21 days of pills and 7 days off to allow for menstruation which is how the Pill is still administered today.

None of the 50 women ovulated while on the drug and in 1960 the Pill was approved for the mass market. Today women take the pill for granted… which when you consider it perhaps was the goal.

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For more information…

The Public Broadcasting System show, American Experience showed a film entitled "The Pill". The website has extensive information and links about the history of the pill, a timeline, links to the people involved, as well as a teacher's guide. All this here.

Another short history of the pill can be found here.

About.com: Inventors has a very nice summary of the development of the pill as well some useful links for additional information here.

Medicine.net also has an extensive time line about the development of birth control starting as far back as 3,000 B.C. with the apparent invention of the condom in Egypt.
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