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Women receiving their supply of contraceptive pills at an Egyptian family planning clinic.(M. Jacot/WHO)


A little more than 50 years ago, the idea that a woman could have intercourse for fun, and without worrying that nine months later she’d give birth, was a radical proposition. Then the birth control pill arrived. It was an innovation that changed how families expand, how women see themselves at home and at work, and how we as a species interact. Margaret Sanger, a reluctant wife and mother, made the creation of the pill her lifelong pursuit. But she didn’t work alone. She toiled alongside three other vital missionaries, including a brilliant and off-beat Jewish doctor named Gregory Pincus. What drove Sanger, Pincus, and their colleagues John Rock and Katherine McCormick? What challenges did they face in their work? These are the questions writer Jonathan Eig set out to answer in The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution.

Eig joins Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry to discuss the questionable methods the team used to convince women to take early versions of the pill, the particular prejudices Pincus (a Jew) and Rock (a Catholic) faced in their careers, and whether the pill has liberated women or led to the destruction of the family unit.





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