Invention

With the invention of the birth control pill, many people saw something revolutionary in its idea. As Asbell puts it, it was the first medical development that had been created “for a purely social, rather than a therapeutic, purpose.” [1] The development of the birth control pill sprang from the early twentieth century movement to make birth control information and products available to the public, a movement that was strengthened by the presence of Margaret Sanger. During the time of this movement, many states had laws on the books, which prohibited the dissemination of birth control information under the Comstock laws. The financial strength behind the birth control movement came from Katherine McCormick, as she had inherited both the fortunes of her late husband and her father. These two women joined forces in the search for a simple and effective birth control method that could be made public and distributed amongst women in the United States. [2]

There were several reasons why both Margaret Sanger and Katherine McCormick were so invested in the development of a new form of birth control. First, Margaret Sanger was one of eleven children, though her mother had experienced eighteen different pregnancies. She also worked as a nurse for much of her life, during which time she served as witness to many families facing difficulty with the number of births in their family and their inability to financially support these unexpected increases in family size.[3] Katherine McCormick was herself, dedicated to the movement because she feared having children with her husband due to his medical condition and its increase in severity as time passed. It is likely that her husband suffered from Schizophrenia. Thus, she feared having children who may, in turn, suffer similar ailments.[4]

The birth control movement, and its progression toward the search for a simpler and more effective means for women to control their own bodies, arose out of a need to limit family size and to preserve the health of children and families. Upon discussing “The Passions Behind the Pill” Lietzell points out that the pill emerged from “individuals who were committed to the idea of a safe, reliable, and-most important-female-controlled type of contraception.”[5] Thus, although the scientific and biological components that led to the creation of the pill were largely due to the work of Pincus, Rock, and the pharmaceutical companies. The drive, the need, and the financing, which made the movement possible, came from these women.

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