The birth control pill's legacy at 50: Talking with Elaine Tyler May

Historians in the News

It was probably fate that led Elaine Tyler May to write a book about the Pill.

She was 12 when the first birth control pill went on the market in 1960. Her parents were deeply involved in its development and distribution, her father as a clinical researcher, her mother as an advocate for birth control clinics in Los Angeles, where the family lived at the time.

She remembers the media swarming. No, her father told them, the Pill would not make single women promiscuous. (It was always women who were "promiscuous," not men, May said.) But it would prevent unwanted pregnancies, he insisted.

As May writes in her new book, "America + the Pill," that is perhaps the one expectation that the Pill has actually fulfilled 50 years later. It was not the miracle drug that solved the population explosion and world poverty; nor did it help defeat communism, as many of its advocates hoped. Its primary legacy today is that it gives the women lucky enough to get it the power to control the creation of life in their bodies -- and the chance to reach for their dreams.

"The Pill was hugely important in allowing women to control their fertility and their lives," said May, a professor of history and American studies at the University of Minnesota....
Read entire article at Minneapolis Star-Tribune

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