The Birth of the Pill

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A book review of The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution by Jonathon Eig

A book review of The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution by Jonathon Eig

Stars: ****

W. W. Norton & Company (2015)
History of Medicine/Birth Control
416 pages

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Summary: We know it simply as “the pill,” yet its genesis was anything but simple. Jonathan Eig’s masterful narrative revolves around four principal characters: the fiery feminist Margaret Sanger, who was a champion of birth control in her campaign for the rights of women but neglected her own children in pursuit of free love; the beautiful Katharine McCormick, who owed her fortune to her wealthy husband, the son of the founder of International Harvester and a schizophrenic; the visionary scientist Gregory Pincus, who was dismissed by Harvard in the 1930s as a result of his experimentation with in vitro fertilization but who, after he was approached by Sanger and McCormick, grew obsessed with the idea of inventing a drug that could stop ovulation; and the telegenic John Rock, a Catholic doctor from Boston who battled his own church to become an enormously effective advocate in the effort to win public approval for the drug that would be marketed by Searle as Enovid.

Spanning the years from Sanger’s heady Greenwich Village days in the early twentieth century to trial tests in Puerto Rico in the 1950s to the cusp of the sexual revolution in the 1960s, this is a grand story of radical feminist politics, scientific ingenuity, establishment opposition, and, ultimately, a sea change in social attitudes. Brilliantly researched and briskly written, The Birth of the Pill is gripping social, cultural, and scientific history.

The Birth of the Pill

I bought this book because it sounded interesting. I only took the pill for a very short time as I primarily used other methods of birth control. It’s the only medicine in history that is known as THE PILL instead of just A pill. I had to know more.

The book is on the longer side. Also because it involves four different people it takes a while to get to where they all come together. However it was all very interesting. Since the book is about the history of birth control it also talks about the history of sex. How it was viewed during those years is also considered.

Although the majority of the book takes places in the 50s-70s it does talk about viewpoints/happenings before and after that as well.

The viewpoints about birth control back then seem strange to me. I grew up in the 80s and 90s. I can’t believe people didn’t think it was okay to have sex without procreation. The invention of birth control has however led to casual sex and infidelity.

However I do think that women should have the right to pace the distance between children. A lot of the families who needed birth control back then were having so many children they couldn’t afford to feed them. They were overwhelmed taking care of a lot of children, often with an alcoholic husband or one who was away. Sometimes the mother’s life was at risk if she gave birth again. But still society told women it wasn’t right.

It was a very interesting read and I recommend it, especially if you take The Pill yourself.

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About Kathleen

I've been a nonfiction lover for as long as I can remember. I love children's nonfiction as well and love to share my knowledge and the books I gained them from, with the world. I wish more people would give nonfiction a chance.