May 9th in (Feminist) History

enovid-birth-controljpg-4a2fe1c447960338On this day in 1960, the FDA approved the first commercially-produced birth control pill, Enovid-10, which was made by the G.D. Searle Company of Chicago, Illinois. “The pill” was initially commissioned by Margaret Sanger (the founder of organizations that eventually became Planned Parenthood) and funded by Katherine McCormick, a suffragist who became an heiress after the death of her husband.

Margaret Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in 1916, but commissioned the development of the pill in the hope of finding a better and more effective form of contraception. It wasn’t until the 1950s that two scientists, Gregory Pincus and John Rock, began to work on developing a birth-control pill, and clinical tests were initiated in 1954.

When the FDA finally approved the pill on this day in 1960, it was the first big official step towards greater reproductive freedom for women in America. Of course, this was only the first step– the original pill proved to be 10 times too high a dose and caused blood clots, and wasn’t refined properly until the 1980s– but it was still an important step.

Also on this day…

• In 1968, the death of Mercedes de Acosta, an American novelist, poet, and playwright. She had four plays produced, and published three volumes of poetry and a novel, and was also an activist, suffragist, and vegetarian. But she was perhaps most known for her lesbian affairs with numerous Broadway and Hollywood stars, including Marlene Dietrich, Ona Munson, and Greta Garbo. She is rumored (without substantiation, but still) to have said, “I can get any woman away from any man.”
• In 1914, Woodrow Wilson’s presidential proclamation established the first Mother’s Day holiday, the idea for which is credited to either Julia Ward Howe or Anna Jarvis.

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