At the turn of the century, it was rare for a woman to get a college degree or join, and stay in, the workforce. One trailblazer was Katherine McCormick. She was

At the turn of the century, it was rare for a woman to get a college degree or join, and stay in, the workforce. One trailblazer was Katherine McCormick. She was the second woman ever to graduate from MIT, a suffragist, advocate for women’s education, and later philanthropist. McCormick was also a staunch supporter of birth control, going so far as to smuggle contraceptives into the United States at a time when they were illegal or highly regulated.

In the 1950s, the birth control pill was extremely controversial. Funding for its development had been pulled. McCormick stepped in and, over time, contributed nearly $23 million (in today’s dollars) of her own money to research efforts. Her financial involvement was instrumental in achieving FDA approval and widespread acceptance of “the pill.”

But what does the the pill have to do with female education or women working? For the very first time, women were in control over if and when they would have children.

Since the mid-1960s, shortly after the pill was approved as a contraceptive in the United States, female education and labor force participation rates have skyrocketed. With the ability to control when they will have children, women are able to better plan for their academic and professional future. We may take it for granted today, but half a century ago, the pill changed the game for working women.

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