How Has the Pill Affected Women’s Lives?

This month, the birth control pill turns 50. The pill, as it quickly came to be known, was originally used to treat infertility and menstrual disorders. The Food & Drug Administration approved the pill as a contraceptive on May 11, 1960. Within two years of its approval, 1.2 million American women were taking the pill every day. By 1964, the pill was the most popular contraceptive in the country. It unleashed a contraceptive revolution. For the first time, women had access to an effective form of birth control that did not require men’s cooperation or even their knowledge.

Press play to listen to Your Call with Rose Aguilar: “How Has the Pill Affected Women’s Lives?”:

Press play to listen to Your Call with Rose Aguilar: “How Has the Pill Affected Women’s Lives?”:

But at the time, the pill was more than a convenient and reliable method to prevent pregnancy. For its advocates, developers, manufacturers, and users, the pill promised to solve many of the world’s problems, including population growth, poverty, and unwanted pregnancies.

Historian Elaine Tyler May says as it turned out, many of those promises fell flat, but the pill did become a major player in many of the most dramatic and contentious issues of the last half of the 20th century, namely women’s emancipation.

How did the pill change society? How did it affect you?

Guest:

  • Elaine Tyler May is author of “America + The Pill: A History of Promise, Peril, and Liberation. She’s professor of American Studies and History at the University of Minnesota. Her parents, Edward and Lillian Tyler, were involved in the pill’s early development and distribution.

Rose Aguilar is the host of Your Call, a daily call-in show on KALW 91.7 FM in San Francisco and KUSP 88.9 FM in Santa Cruz. Follow her on Twitter.