Many people wondered whether GPs and parents should be informed when a young woman was prescribed the pill, says Dame Valerie. Women have long faced discrimination in birth control. Until the mid-20th century, women were generally expected to stay home and have children while their husbands worked. They had little control over when they became pregnant. All this began to change when Maria Stopes founded the first British birth control clinic in London in 1921. Soon after, five more clinics opened and their slogan was «Children by choice, not by chance.» I was a patient of the Family Planning Association at the time when you had to bring your husband when you signed up to «prove» you were married. I found the whole atmosphere rather condescending, as if a 22-year-old graduate was barely able to make important decisions on her own. The employees were all women, but it seemed that patriarchal society (although I wouldn`t have said it that way at the time) was using FPA employees to represent traditional masculine values. Men can have sexual freedom, as they always have, but women`s freedom can only be granted with great care.
The real revolution, of course, was to allow single women to take the pill – I found that quite amazing at the time. We were still Irish homes back then, locking up mothers and exporting babies to the United States. They say that «court» once implied an implicit promise that if a woman got pregnant, the man would marry her, but as women could now control when they had children, the implicit promise disappeared. Prior to its introduction, contraceptive provision was limited to the work of non-profit family planning clinics, particularly those run by the Family Planning Association (FPA) and Marie Stopes. General practitioners` services, in particular, have been reluctant to engage in birth control or contraceptive provision. In the 1960s, the development of the contraceptive pill, the greater availability of more reliable latex condoms, and the introduction of plastic intrauterine devices led to better reproductive control. Contraceptives have become easier to use and therefore increasingly popular. Yet, in many ways, it is the pill that has been highlighted as one of the most important medical advances of the twentieth century compared to other types of contraception. It is believed to have played a leading role in the emergence of the women`s liberation movement after the war, allowing greater sexual freedom for both women and men. However, it has also sparked health fears and moral debates – which are particularly important in the context of a national health service.
By the time oral contraception became available to women, I was a mature social science student. When a hoped-for job didn`t materialize, I decided to research and write a book about the new contraceptive from a sociological perspective. Under the title «The Folks that live on the Pill» – The Ideology of Oral Contraception», I was quickly commissioned by a British publisher. Over the next few years, I explored various avenues of research into how pharmaceutical companies used a number of techniques to promote the pill. These included advertisements in medical journals with photos of women – all young, white and attractive – and packaging the pill under the slogan «Now the pill that suits her best, in the packaging she loves most! Unfortunately, I was unable to finish the book due to competing demands on my time as a social worker. Two years ago, I forwarded all my research notes, drafts, etc. to the Wellcome Institute in London. They are available there for anyone who wants to know more about this extremely interesting topic! Shortly after the pill became more widely available, I asked my GP to prescribe it for me. This caused great embarrassment: a single student, with no marriage on the horizon, too shocking to think about.
I was told to come back when I had the ring and set a date for the big day (it was in North Wales in the mid-1960s). The pill is 60 years old, to celebrate this, let`s look at the history of contraception to see where we are. In 17th century England, the use of condoms made from animal intestines as contraceptives was well documented, and in the 18th century, the beginnings of wholesale production began. Condoms made from animal intestines became obsolete in the late 19th century with the advent of the rubber condom invented by Charles Goodyear. 1976: Copper IUDs are very effective when used as emergency contraception, up to five days after the first estimated day of ovulation. Comstock`s hate campaign was cancelled by American nurse and activist Margaret Sanger.