The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution

Norton. Oct. 2014. 416p. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9780393073720. $27.95. SCI
Journalist Eig (Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig) chronicles the individuals most responsible for the development of Enovid, the first FDA-approved oral contraceptive, in the 1950s. These are doctor Gregory Pincus, the scientist who founded the research-focused Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology after being dismissed from Harvard University; Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood; Katharine McCormick, the millionaire who bankrolled the research; and doctor John Rock, a gynecologist who helped with research and promotion. Eig situates the four among the changing cultural and legal attitudes toward sex, contraception, and the role of women in the home and society, arguing that while the pill did not start the sexual revolution—despite the book's subtitle—it was a major aspect of it. Additionally, the author examines ties among eugenics and population concerns and the development of the pill, noting the complex and questionable attitudes toward the poor and minorities held by activists such as Sanger.
VERDICT More biography than science, this work will appeal to readers interested in popular history and cultural shifts during the 1950s. However, those seeking information on the biological and pharmaceutical aspects of birth control pills will be disappointed.
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