From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
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.--Olson, Ray Copyright 2010 Booklist
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Oral birth control medication, known to a generation of Americans as "The Pill," became available in 1960. May (Univ. of Minnesota) constructs a historical overview of The Pill for its golden anniversary. She also wrote in honor of her father, Dr. Edward Tyler, head of the Planned Parenthood clinic in Los Angeles and a clinical researcher who was a key figure in the FDA approval process. The Pill began as a dream of radical women's rights advocates such as Emma Goldman, who believed women could not find freedom and self-determination without gaining control of their fertility. Development was pushed through by Margaret Sanger and funded by Katherine McCormick in the 1950s as researchers dreamed of controlling world population and creating universal peace and prosperity. May's central argument is that as women's liberation leaders and ordinary women took control of The Pill and made demands for addressing safety issues, the small pill became a large force for women's emancipation in the late 1960s and 1970s. This useful overview adds little new information to the history and controversies of birth control. Summing Up: Recommended. General readers and lower-division undergraduates. S. D. Reschly Truman State University
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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) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the birth control pill to the American market, May (American studies & history, Univ. of Minnesota) explores its development and its acceptance into American society, becoming a standard in contraception and women's health management. Although she includes pharmacological background on research and development, May's focus is on the political and cultural implications of the pill within American society. Using archival research and oral interviews, she shows that the pill has been used as an instrument of empowerment for women. As a tool in arguments over population control, family planning, and feminism, the pill has had unanticipated implications for gender, class, race, and economic status. Compared with several other recently published scholarly and popular works on women's menstrual management, May's is the most comprehensive regarding the birth control pill itself and contraception. It serves as a good companion to Lara Friedenfeld's The Modern Period: Menstruation in Twentieth-Century America. VERDICT Recommended for both general popular culture collections and academic libraries supporting a gender studies program.-Kate Wells, Armstrong Atlantic State Univ. Lib., Savannah, GA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.