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Publisher's Summary

The fascinating story of one of the most important scientific discoveries of the twentieth century.

We know it simply as "the pill", yet its genesis was anything but simple. Jonathan Eig's masterful narrative revolves around four principal characters: the fiery feminist Margaret Sanger, who was a champion of birth control in her campaign for the rights of women but neglected her own children in pursuit of free love; the beautiful Katharine McCormick, who owed her fortune to her wealthy husband, the son of the founder of International Harvester and a schizophrenic; the visionary scientist Gregory Pincus, who was dismissed by Harvard in the 1930s as a result of his experimentation with in vitro fertilization but who, after he was approached by Sanger and McCormick, grew obsessed with the idea of inventing a drug that could stop ovulation; and the telegenic John Rock, a Catholic doctor from Boston who battled his own church to become an enormously effective advocate in the effort to win public approval for the drug that would be marketed by Searle as Enovid. Spanning the years from Sanger's heady Greenwich Village days in the early 20th century to trial tests in Puerto Rico in the 1950s to the cusp of the sexual revolution in the 1960s, this is a grand story of radical feminist politics, scientific ingenuity, establishment opposition, and, ultimately, a sea change in social attitudes. Brilliantly researched and briskly written, The Birth of the Pill is gripping social, cultural, and scientific history.

©2014 Jonathan Eig (P)2014 Audible Inc.

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4 out of 5 stars
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    80
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    78
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    24
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Performance

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    36
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Story

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Important history but repetitive themes

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

The time was well spent, and I enjoyed the focus on 4 main characters in bringing the story alive. However I found the focus on several main themes (e.g., the context of the times) was repetitive and got tiresome. The book could have been better edited I thought.

What did you like best about this story?

I was always interested in the subject matter, as I was very active in the women's health movement in the 1970s.

What didn’t you like about Gayle Hendrix’s performance?

I was very annoyed by the narrator's cadence, her sing song manner of narrating the book, and her emphasis on wrong phrases (or so I thought). This was my least favorite aspect of the listening experience and the worst narrator I've listened to.

Was The Birth of the Pill worth the listening time?

Yes it was as an important piece of social history.

Any additional comments?

I was very struck by the details of how clinical medical research was conducted in the 40s and 50s- with little informed consent, on mental patients and prisoners with no protections at all. It was also amazing how the Pill was developed- with very little real funding and only through the largess of basically one wealthy champion, but always with Margaret Sanger at the forefront.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

must read

We take for granted a lot of things these days and women's equality is one of those things. Everyone should read this book to get a better understanding how backwards we were just 50 years ago. One of the best books I've read in a while. We are all better off when all members of our society are equal. the pill was a great equalizer for women . Before you vote this fall read this book.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Great history, medicore and grating performance

Eig does an admirable job blending medical, social, and political history in telling the story of how the birth control pill came about. The impact this medication had on culture is hard to overestimate, and its intertwining with sexual freedom, population control, women's liberation and equality, and the pharmaceutical industry is fascinating. The only negative is that I found the narrator grating and could only handle her voice when I sped up to 1.25X.
Nonetheless, recommended.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Superb and under-reported story

Great story, really highlights why reproductive rights are such an important element of women's rights. Onward!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Fascinating Story -- Below Par Narration

Would you listen to The Birth of the Pill again? Why?

I might read it again, but I don't think I'd listen to this again. The narration is distracting.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Birth of the Pill?

I enjoyed the characterization of Margaret Sanger. I enjoy the mix of science and history.

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Gayle Hendrix?

Anyone else -- this was an extremely odd narration -- the narration was a mix of robotic monotone with slightly odd pronunciations and an inappropriately placed questioning lilt -- often found in the middle of a statement. Science doesn't have to be read in a boring monotone.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No, I could only take the narration a bit at a time. I only listened to the entire book because I found the topic so interesting.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Too Detailed for Me

This book, in written form, would be great for someone who wants a LOT of details. I say in written form because this performance was lacking in my opinion. Her voice rarely changed pitch. Between that and all the detail (mostly the performance) I found it hard to finish the book. The only reason I did was because I really wanted to know the subject matter.

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Horrible Narrator

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

A better orator would have made this a better book. It is almost unbearable to listen to this woman. Her inflections are all wrong, a computer could have done about the same job.

What was most disappointing about Jonathan Eig’s story?

Too detailed...don't need to know every little thing about the characters.

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Gayle Hendrix?

Anyone!

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Her voice makes me angry.

Any additional comments?

Interesting historical story...too bad it's so drawn out and hard to listen to.Because it is my book club book I was forced to listen to it.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Fascinating review of the developemnt of THE PILL

If you could sum up The Birth of the Pill in three words, what would they be?

It changed us.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Katharine McCormick as she was unknown to me before reading this book. The first woman to graduate with a science degree from MIT. She truly funded the research that change the world.

Any additional comments?

Margaret Sanger was the the spark that helped develop the pill. Frankly, this book has sanitized, white washed and made politically correct her true history. She did not just have "friends" in the eugenics movement, she was very much a part of negative eugenics that approached racial extermination. Explore the facts of her history. The truth is what it is. None of the 3 other main characters had this horrible flaw and I respect them and their work. I would have rated this overall higher had author not reconstructed history.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

an altogether enjoyable, skillful book of history

Jonathan Eig has done a fabulous job bringing forward the little know (to me, anyway, a history buff) of the development of the Pill. Oh, of course I remember when it the scene (fuzzy, I was in elementary school & junior high) and its early appearance on college campuses not long after, but to me, it was as if the Pill sprouted from the ground, did not have a history. That is how all everyday things, things part of the landscape, seem to us. But Eig filled that gap, in a very entertaining way, for me. He does so by weaving together the history the the "sex," family planning (Planned Parenthood), and birth control movements, with the biographies of 4 individuals central to the development, and also drug testing, drug companies, the executives at Searle and so forth. The narration is compelling. I give this book 5 stars for each of the 3 attributes.

3 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A Well Researched Book....But

while the information in this book was highly valuable, well researched and wonderfully written, the narration was sadly lacking.
The book is read in a dull, monotone style that is only equaled by the dull reading of minutes from a committee meeting of insurance salesmen.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful