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Rutgers historian puts 50th anniversary of the pill into cultural medicine cabinet
Date:3/23/2010

CAMDEN Americans consume innumerable amounts of medicine, but only one pill is known precisely as "the pill." This year marks the 50th anniversary of oral contraception, an innovative collaboration between Gregory Pincus and John Rock that some have called the development of the 20th century.

As Rock's 120th birthday is commemorated on March 24, the only comprehensive biography on Rock has its origins at Rutgers UniversityCamden. Margaret Marsh, university professor of history and dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at RutgersCamden, with her sister Wanda Ronner, a clinical associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, were the first researchers granted access to John Rock's personal letters. Together they wrote the book The Fertility Doctor: John Rock and the Reproductive Revolution (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008).

According to Marsh, Rock did not fully appreciate the far-reaching impact of the pill. In fact, he predicted the pill would find its greatest popularity among married couples. But when things turned out differently, Rock wasn't upset. "When people warned that the pill would allow even more unmarried couples to have sex, he would reply that if these couples are having sex anyway then they might as well be safe from pregnancy," notes Marsh of Haddonfield.

But the RutgersCamden historian adds that no one could have possibly predicted all that transpired at the end of the 60s. "The first decade of the pill witnessed so many changes that sometimes I find it hard to believe that 1960 and 1968 are even in the same century," says Marsh.

The sexual revolution, she points out, didn't occur solely because of the pill's existence. "There were many contributing factors like Baby Boomers coming of age, more people going to college, and the huge anti-war rebellion," she says. "What the pill did do is make it possible for women to have careers. It really
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Contact: Cathy Donovan
catkarm@camden.rutgers.edu
856-225-6627
Rutgers University
Source:Eurekalert

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