The Pill and the Women’s Movement

In the above video (click on the image above), Sylvia Clark discusses her ability to move into the workforce as a result of the pill. [1]

Within the context of the women’s rights movement, the birth control pill became significant. During this time, an invention such as the pill was the perfect prescription to fulfill women’s needs. It gave females more control over their own bodies, and consequently, more choice and freedom when deciding on when and whether to have children. This became more and more necessary as the public sphere began to incorporate women’s work. In Leah Lawrence’s discussion of the pill and social reform, she notes that “with more choices about the timing of starting a family, women could complete or extend their education and then remain in the work force longer before having children.”[2] During and after World War II, women were extending their roles in the workforce. Looking back on the women’s movement, Epstein describes the trends that emerged:  “by the late fifties many women-mostly white middle-class women with some college education-were taking such jobs [those that required further education], partly because there were not enough men to take them, partly because families and women needed more income, and partly because some women were tired of domesticity and needed jobs.”[3] By the sixties and seventies, women of both the middle and working classes were entering the labor force. This is evident in 1969 when Tom Davidson described the changes that had taken place in the demographics of his workplace. The family dynamics of employees were changing. Previous to the pill, employees typically had a twenty-two year old child while they were working in their forties. By the start of the 1970’s however, it was typical for workers to have children as young as thirteen or fourteen.[4] Women began demanding equality in the workplace and in the home, the pill certainly allowed women more control over their lives than they ever had before. This is a significant achievement within the context of the women’s movement.

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