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America and the Pill: A History of Promise, Peril, and Liberation Paperback – September 6, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Trade Paper Edition edition (September 6, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465024599
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465024599
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #315,149 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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. (May 3)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

To mark the fiftieth anniversary of FDA approval of an oral contraceptive for women—the pill—historian May, whose professional focus has been on marriage, divorce, and the family in America, offers a notably uncontentious précis of the pill’s half-century in American life. She sticks to the evidence to recall the now extravagant-seeming hopes and fears the pill first elicited, how the pill became a symbol of the 1960s sexual revolution without demonstrably affecting it, how feminists used the pill to push for an analogue for men as part of their gender-egalitarian agenda, and how reaction to the pill’s ill effects on many women contributed to the late-twentieth-century dissipation of respect for professional and institutional authority. She concludes with a review of modern young women’s feelings about the pill and a summary to the effect that the pill has fulfilled some but hardly all of the hopes and fears amid which it debuted. Understanding that the book is fundamentally, nonargumentatively pro-pill, one couldn’t ask for a better short history of its subject. --Ray Olson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By ED on May 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Historian May traces the development of the contraceptive pill and concludes: The feminist movement liberated women and used the pill as an important tool to gain control over their lives; there is no evidence that the pill caused a boom in premarital sex; and the pill has had little impact on world fertility rates or overpopulation.
May shows that the pill simply enlarged the repertory of methods available to women to reduce the power gap between men and women. "The pill has been at the center of the major transformations in women's lives over the past half-century." And she shows "how much has changed and how much has remained the same."
May traces the legal battles over contraception and also focuses on the Vatican "old boys club" 1968 rejection of its own theological commissioners' 73 to 10 recommendation that it relax its opposition to contraception, a rejection ignored by the overwhelming majority of Catholics. This book easily rates five stars.
--- Edd Doerr, President, Americans for Religious Liberty
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Frederick S. Goethel VINE VOICE on February 5, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book provides a short, but interesting history of the birth control pill in America and discusses some of the positives and some of the negatives that have come to be associated with the pill.

I doubt many younger people are aware that birth control was illegal in many states until about 1960. If fact, it remained illegal in Connecticut and Massachusetts until the Griswold case in 1965. Doctors who prescribed any sort of birth control were in danger of going to jail, and the primary method of birth control was rhythm roulette or the withdrawal method. The doctors who undertook the work of developing the pill did so under the cloak of controlling "women's issues" rather than as birth control.

It was believed that when the pill came out, the level of promiscuity among women would rise. In fact, no such thing happened, although women in marriage had a bump in their libidos, as they no longer had to worry about getting pregnant at every turn. The release of the pill really didn't unleash the wave of sexual freedom that was feared and sometimes credited to the pill.

The book discusses issues for women such as side effects of the pill and the gradual movement toward a low dose pill that was much safer than the original pill. Some women had real issues with the pill while others had no problems at all. It was interesting to see the mix.

The book also described the effort to invent a birth control pill for males, although so far, all efforts of that front have been unsuccessful. Indeed, many women pointed out that if men had to take the pill, they would be a whole lot less interested in sex, as it is documented that men's libidos are tied directly to their fertility.

The book was a very interesting read on the history of the pill, as well as some of the societal and physical side effects. I would recommend this book to anyone who doesn't know the history of the pill as it is quite enlightening!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mike B on December 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is a short look at the repercussions of the Pill in American society since its introduction in 1960. As the author contends, its impact has not been as revolutionary as initially foretold (the world is still filled with many problems) and because it is individual women who take the Pill - some women love it (finding it empowering, efficient) and others come to loath it (for the side affects or other reasons).

At times this book is a little too cursory (with other recent books used as sources) and given to generalizations. For instance when speaking of this current century and the fear of pregnancy (on page 149) she states: `Today there is no longer the terror of facing an illegal abortion, a shamed reputation, banishment to a home for unwed mothers, or hasty abortion'. Oh really - to begin with in many states it is very difficult for a teenage girl to obtain an abortion. Unfortunately when it comes to sexual behavior and `shamed reputation' there is always someone who wants to push his or her view of the world unto a young person (particularly if it is a puritanical point of view).

But regardless the author provides a brief but good history. Elaine Tyler May is obviously in favour of contraception and the education of women and men to make an informed choice. She points out that Republican presidents over the years have always tried to repress access to birth control knowledge and devices - the most recent one was trying to promote abstinence to the detriment of basic contraceptive knowledge. In the best chapter in the book (A Pill for Men) she illustrates that men are very willing to take a drug (with various side affects) that enhances their virility but are extremely reluctant to have a drug to prevent fertilization.

My favourite quote in the book (from page 25) "Every child should be a wanted child. Those who want them should be able to have them; those who don't should be able to prevent them".
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Nicki Shipman on April 30, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book was incredibly informative. As a young woman who has grown up with free access to the pill, I was amazed at how much women in the 50's and 60's had to go through to change that.
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