In 1960, the FDA approved the contraceptive commonly known as "the pill." Advocates, developers, and manufacturers believed that the convenient new drug would put an end to unwanted pregnancy, ensure happy marriages, and even eradicate poverty. But as renowned historian Elaine Tyler May reveals in America and the Pill, it was women who embraced it and created change. They used the pill to challenge the authority of doctors, pharmaceutical companies, and lawmakers. They demonstrated that the pill was about much more than family planning-it offered women control over their bodies and their lives. From little-known accounts of the early years to personal testimonies from young women today, May illuminates what the pill did and did not achieve during its half century on the market.
University of Minnesota historian May hits pay dirt with this brief but lively history of oral contraceptives on the 50th anniversary of the pill. She places the pill in its historical context: coming in the middle of the baby boom, it helped fuel a nascent sexual revolution, a growing youth culture that challenged authority, and feminism. Drawing on an Internet survey she conducted, May offers a treasure trove of stories about a medical and cultural movement that convinced a whole generation of women they were free to take sex, education, work and even marriage when and how they like. Nearly 12 million women in the U.S. today take the pill and take it for granted. I just couldn't picture a fully functioning society without it! one pill user proclaims. Still, May (Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era) tosses away a unique chance to bring history to life by revealing in only a brief aside that her parents were involved in the early development and distribution of the pill.