Paperback / softback
July 11, 2001
7 b&w illus.
9.00 Inches (US)
6.00 Inches (US)
.6 Pounds (US)
.6 Pounds (US)
$30.00 USD, £22.00 GBP
v2.1 Reference
Electronic book text
March 7, 2011
7 b&w illus.
9.00 Inches (US)
6.00 Inches (US)
$30.00 USD, £22.00 GBP
v2.1 Reference

On the Pill

A Social History of Oral Contraceptives, 1950-1970

"In 1968, a popular writer ranked the pill's importance with the discovery of fire and the developments of tool-making, hunting, agriculture, urbanism, scientific medicine, and nuclear energy. Twenty-five years later, the leading British weekly, the Economist, listed the pill as one of the seven wonders of the modern world. The image of the oral contraceptive as revolutionary persists in popular culture, yet the nature of the changes it supposedly brought about has not been fully investigated. After more than thirty-five years on the market, the role of the pill is due for a thorough examination."—from the Introduction

In this fresh look at the pill's cultural and medical history, Elizabeth Siegel Watkins re-examines the scientific and ideological forces that led to its development, the part women played in debates over its application, and the role of the media, medical profession, and pharmaceutical industry in deciding issues of its safety and meaning. Her study helps us not only to understand the contraceptive revolution as such but also to appreciate the misinterpretations that surround it.

About the Author

Elizabeth Siegel Watkins is an associate professor in the History of Health Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco.


"This is an exemplary study of how the nation which first had access to oral contraceptives first came to terms with their advantages, and their drawbacks."—Jon Turney, Times Literary Supplement

"Intelligent and well-structured . . . An admirable exercise in social history."—Richard Davenport-Hines, Nature

"A particularly fascinating issue, trim and focused, sophisticated and helpful, fresh and very interesting."—Rickie Solinger, American Historical Review

"In every carefully organized, lucidly written chapter Watkins provides surprising corrections to conventional thinking about the new birth control method . . . One especially noteworthy theme is the book's exploration of the politics of the pill, including Planned Parenthood [Federation] of America's concerted efforts to rebut critics, federal officials' dramatically shifting positions from the 1950s to the 1970s on birth control, population control and family planning, and pill-induced tensions among feminists."—Janet Farrell Brodie, Journal of American History

"Any study of the development of the birth-control pill will be centrally concerned with the expansion of women's reproductive choices. But, as this book so clearly demonstrates, it involves other questions too. In part, it is about the risks that come with the ingestion of oral contraception. It is about the relationship between women and doctors, between women and their partners and betwen science, medicine and the media. Not least, it is about how women have responded differently to this intervention into their bodies. Underpinned by some excellent archival material, interviews with key individuals and an extensive use of the newspapers, magazines and medical journals of the time, this study is particularly strong in its discussion of concerns over the safety of the Pill . . . This is not the only area of interest within this valuable book. Anyone concerned with the debate over scientific advance and medical authority will find this a highly stimulating study . . . For her, the Pill brought the possibility of voluntary pregnancy, and feminist (and other) critics of its medical effects and social repercussions will need to engage carefully with her arguments if this important debate is to be taken to a new level."—Martin Durham, Journal of American Studies

The Johns Hopkins University Press

9780801868214 : on-the-pill-watkins
Paperback / softback
208 Pages
$30.00 USD
9781421403717 : on-the-pill-watkins
Electronic book text
208 Pages
$30.00 USD

Other Titles by Elizabeth Siegel Watkins


edited by Jeremy A. Greene and Elizabeth Siegel Watkins
Apr 2012 - Johns Hopkins University Press
$68.00 USD - Hardback
$33.00 USD - Paperback / softback
$33.00 USD - Electronic book text

The Estrogen Elixir

Elizabeth Siegel Watkins
Jan 2010 - The Johns Hopkins University Press
$50.00 USD - Hardback
$30.00 USD - Paperback / softback

Other Titles in SOCIAL SCIENCE / Abortion & Birth Control

Abortion across Borders

edited by Christabelle Sethna and Gayle Davis
Mar 2019 - Johns Hopkins University Press
$59.95 USD - Hardback
$59.95 USD - Electronic book text

Studies in Biopolitics

Judit Sandor
Jan 2014 - Central European University Press
$24.95 USD - Paperback / softback

Other Titles in History of the Americas

The Black President

Claude A. Clegg III
Oct 2021 - Johns Hopkins University Press
$34.95 USD - Hardback
$34.95 USD - Electronic book text

America's Original Sin

John Rhodehamel
Sep 2021 - Johns Hopkins University Press
$27.95 USD - Hardback
$27.95 USD - Electronic book text


William D. Lopez - new foreword by former US Secretary Julián Castro
Aug 2021 - Johns Hopkins University Press
$22.95 USD - Paperback / softback