The Significance of the Birth Control Pill

What does it mean for something to be significant? From its definition on google, we know that significance is “sufficiently great or important to be worthy of attention.” But what does this word really represent? In class, to build our understanding of significance, we read the definition of historical significance on The History Thinking Project. This helped me to outline that to make something significant, it has to meet the criteria, including its importance, profundity, quantity, durability and relevance. 

To take our class understanding to the next level, we completed individual research projects to show the significance of a specific topic. We chose our topics from the Billy Joel song “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” which mentioned more than 100 events that took place between 1949, which was the year of Joel’s birth, until 1989 when the song was released. 

Through our events within this song, we had to answer the question:

How do we make choices about what is worth remembering? 

From the number of event choices mentioned in the song, I wanted to choose something that had to do within the realm of human rights and equality. I ended up getting my number one choice, the birth control pill, which was a significant contributor to the women’s rights movement and women’s rights within the workplace. 

To truly show the significance of the creation of the birth control pill for my final project, I created an interview-style podcast to get multigenerational opinions on the making of the pill and its relevance to today. The three women I got interviews with were ages 30, 48 and 76. 

Before we talk about the podcast, let’s take a step back and look at the process leading up to my final product. After picking our topic, our first assignment was to do some basic research about our topic and write a two-page writing sample answering the following question:

  • Who / What is your topic? What’s the basic Who, What, Where, When, Why, How? 

  • Why is it significant? Or Who do you think it was most significant to? 

  • Why were YOU drawn to it? You may use “I” in this writing sample. Convince me this is the topic for you. 

  • Initial thoughts on “communication.” We just started, but what are some possibilities of how you may communicate this information to your peers? 

At first, I thought that this would be quite a bit of writing. However, once I began researching the birth control pill, I learned so much about its history and creation that 2 pages of research and answering the questions above was very doable.

Significance of Birth Control There is a long history of birth control dating back to the Ancient Egyptian times. However, many of these forms of birth control were often unsafe and did not work. It was not until the 1950s that research began for oral contraceptives, aka the birth control pill. A chemist by the name of Carl Djerassi created the first version of the pill in 1951; however, he was not equipped to proceed with testing, production and distribution. During this same time, a woman by the name of Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, met with Gregory Pincus to discuss the idea of creating a girl control pill for women. Her objective being that she wanted to give women the ability for women to be in control of their bodies. The following year scientists Gregory Pincus, Min-Chueh Chang and John Rock, began their testing to create a safe and effective birth control pill. With the financial help of Katherine McCormick, a biologist and women’s rights activist by the mid-1950s, birth control pill trials on women occurred. The first of which took place in 1954, where 50 women were tested in Massachusetts. Following this successful smaller-scale trial, a larger clinical trial was conducted in Puerto Rico, where there were no laws against birth control methods. This trial was also proving itself a success. The FDA then approved the pill in 1960, and within a two years, 1.2 million women were on birth control pills. Although approved by the government and available at the time, the pill strung up a great deal of controversy religiously, philosophically, ethically and socially. Half the states prohibited the use of the pill for unmarried women. Nonetheless, oral contraception positively changed women’s lives forever. Women had control of their bodies and able to prevent unwanted pregnancies. It also opened up scholarly opportunities to pursue future education and pursue a career. These were significant steps for women’s rights during this time, as many women were expected to stay at home and raise a family while the man of the house would be the breadwinner. During the women’s rights movements in the 1960s and 70s, many women marched for their reproductive rights as having control over having a baby was a physical symbol for a greater chance of equality. In 1965 the Supreme Court said that married couples have the right to use birth control and ruled that it as a “protected in the Constitution as a right to privacy.” This was another significant step as it solidified women’s rights to use contraception. For this project, I wanted to pick a topic within “We Didn’t Start the Fire” that fell along the lines of human rights and equality. Having been a part of an international educational and peacekeeping organization called CISV, who’s mission is to “educates and inspires action for a more just and peaceful world” ( Many of the values instilled in me from this organization surround their educational content, which includes human rights, sustainable development, conflict resolution and diversity. As these areas are such vital parts in what I believe in, I wanted to pick a topic that resonate with them. My top 5 topics were all along the lines of human rights; however, I decided to go with birth control because of the significance oral contraception has had on women rights and independence from their creation until today. Since this project is so open-ended towards how we would like to present the significance of our topic, it’s challenging to narrow it down. Initially, I thought of two different ways to potentially exhibit the importance of birth control to the class. One of which is a video and the other a piece of conceptual art. For the video, I was thinking that I could use the power of perspective by interviewing several people from a variety of ages about the importance of birth control in our society. Having opinions from people who were around during the time that birth control was created to modern-day perspectives. While also including the historical significance during the time. Although I’m not entirely sure how I would encompass these perspectives in a way that solidifies the importance of my topic. From creating videos in past years of PLP, the videos with views from outside sources are the ones that are the strongest. For last year’s exhibition, when our class created pieces of conceptual art to represent some aspect of the Vietnam war. I found creating a piece of conceptual art had a very powerful impact as it gave something that upon first glance might not seem important a deeper meaning. By using conceptual art, I think with some more research, I could create a piece of art that represents the significance of birth control within society throughout the 1960s until today. I believe that either one of these ideas could be used to show the importance; however, as we were only given our topic last class, I’m not sure that these are the ideas I will pursue.

Following learning and understanding the basics about our topic, we then moved onto the next step, asking questions! Within the questions, I decided I wanted to target mine towards the birth control’s impact on women in education and the workplace. Writing down all my questions got me to think about the why behind what we were learning. Looking at why certain things are significant and how they affect outlives today. 

driving question:

What impact did the creation of the birth control pill have on women’s rights during the 1960s and 70s?

With a driving question constructed and many other questions unanswered, the next phase of this project was intensive research to really grasp a deeper understanding of the birth control pill. I used different sources and investigated to find what I needed, which included analyzing what life was like for women before, during and after oral contraception was created. One of the things I found interesting was the people involved in the creation of the pill. Specifically, the women who funded over $2 million (equivalent to $23 million today) to research and development of the birth control pill. Katharine McCormick was a women’s advocate, a biologist and the second woman to graduate from MIT. Without her aid, I don’t think oral contraception would have been created so quickly.

Before I created the podcast, myself and my teacher unanimously decided that I would create every aspect of my podcast from the music to writing the script and question to getting my own interviews. This was the right choice, as it meant that I didn’t have to deal with any copyright issues. Also, it felt more rewarding at the end to say that I created this entire podcast. To create my own music I used GarageBand and to edit my podcast together I used an App called Ferrite

Background Music on GarageBand


I mentioned before how I got interviews with three women ages 30, 48 and 76. These were great because it allowed me to learn about the impact of the pill from first-hand experiences. Having gotten an interview with a woman who was around before the immense spread of the birth control pill, it was interesting to hear her experiences and perspectives regarding birth control options. Specifically, she mentioned that many times it relied on the man to be in control of contraception, whereas the birth control pill allowed women to be in control. My favourite quote from this interview was “the pill became what everybody used, so it became universal.” I liked this quote because it really showed the massive effect the pill had on people all over the world.

During my second interview with the women who’s 48, listening to her perspective was great as she both is an entrepreneur and has a family. When I asked her about how the birth control pill affected her won life she could really relate to being able to establish her business then have a family when she felt ready. A quote that really goes along with that is when she said, “the introduction fo the pill gave women and their partners the ability to plan when they could have children, which allowed women time to establish more of a career.”

My last interview was with my cousin, who is 30 years old. She is a very career-focused person and is working as an engineer. Her advocation for women’s rights really showed through in her responses as she talked about the impact the pill had for women’s rights not only in the workplace and education but in relationships as well. She was also an excellent representation for the younger generation in regards to my question I asked about societal stigma in the younger generation as she could relate to her own experiences as a teenager not too long ago. It was so fascinating to see the difference between the different ages as it opened my eyes to see some various different perspectives.


When editing the interviews, this was quite challenging as I had 20 minutes of audio from each one, and I had to edit to down to 15 minutes. All of what was being said seemed like valuable information, so choosing what I was going to keep was probably one of the hardest parts. On top of going through and editing down the audio multiple times, I also cut out as the long pauses, repeating words, likes and umms. This was a lengthy process; however, in the end, it was definitely worth it.


After creating my podcast and becoming a master of my own learning, the next step was to present the significance to my class. To have something up behind me while I was speaking I created a Keynote with some images which emphasized what I was talking about while displaying my thesis and driving question.

Birth Control Pill Presentation

Create cinematic presentations, share them with a link, and collaborate with others in real time.

During my presentation to the class about the significance of the birth control pill, I started off by showing my introduction clip to my podcast, which highlighted some of the most essential points from my interviews. Then I followed up by giving a brief history of the pill and also mentioning the significance in terms of the number of people affect and its relevance to women today. To solidify the points I was making, I then showed one of my favourite interview clips, which emphasized how the pill gave women the ability to control when they wanted to have a family and build a career they were proud of. During the interview, it was stated that “the pill gave us as women control over our own bodies,” which highlighted the fact that women now have control over their own fertility. I finished off by talking about the progression of the pill and how its creation has laid the stepping stones for more advanced birth control methods in the future. This final statement was a combination of my own perspective I gained from my research and the women I interviewed views of how birth control will progress in the future. 

This project was one of those experiences which taught me way more than I would’ve learned from a textbook. I allowed me to go into more depth about a subject that I’m passionate about and learn about its significance from people who have first-hand experience. It allowed me to ask questions and discover the why behind its impact on the workplace and women’s rights. Best of all it allowed me to relate what I’m learning to today’s society and truly look at the impact that the birth control pill will have in the future.

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