Lade Inhalt...

The birth control pill and its consequences for German women and society

Hausarbeit 2016 11 Seiten

Medizin - Geschichte


Table of contents

1 Introduction
1.1 Research question and hypotheses
1.2 Source criticism and fields of research

2 Historical background
2.1 Birth control before the introduction of the pill (before 1961)
2.2 The introduction of the pill (1961-1970s)
2.3 The adoption of the pill in longterm (1970s - today)

3 Allocation and discussion of the results

4 Conclusion

5 References

1 Introduction

A tiny little pill has changed the life of many women around the world and in Germany. In 1961 the first birth control pill was introduced to the German market and after some initial difficulties established itself as the most prominent contraception method with more than 50% of women making use of it in Germany today[1].1 personally found the topic very interesting because it gave me the opportunity to research and reflect about a product I might be taking for granted today, but which in fact has come a long way and has left its marks. This paper will discuss the influence of the birth control pill on the Germany society by travelling through time and also by elaborating on the role of women throughout the process.

Furthermore some of the learning targets of the seminar will be scrutinized and later on adressed in the allocation of results:

- The influence of users on the innovation of the pill
- The appropriation of the new technology pill by consumers as part of the innovation process
- The consumption good pill as technical product that works as cultural sign

1.1 Research question and hypotheses

The interest of this paper lies in the adaption process of the pill and brings up the following question: “How did the birth control pill influence German women and society?”

Two hypotheses are imposed accordingly:

HI: The birth control pill transformed from a medical product to a consumption good.

H2: The pill had a massive effect on German society and the role of women.

In the following paragraphs a historical background of the development, diffusion and adaption process of the birth control pill will be provided in order to confirm or adjust the hypotheses proposed. Finally the results are allocated, taking into account hypotheses and learning targets. A conclusion rounds off the paper.

1.2 Source criticism and fields of research

The main difficulty of this paper was to find German scientific sources dealing with the topic on a purely national basis, as they were either not existing or not available via the library. Therefore other historical sources, for example materials provided by the museum for contraception in Vienna, graphs and statistics published by government institutions like the

BzgA (Bundeszentrale für gesundheitliche Aufklärung) and BpB (Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung) or old magazine articles by „Der Spiegel“ were used. When suitable US American sources were incorporated, as well. As the history of the pill started in the US the book „Disciplining Reproduction: Modernity, American Life and The Problem of Sex“ by Clarke (1998) was very insightful when paying attention to the birth control movement in the US which will be adressed within the next pages. Grossmann (1998) in her book “Reforming Sex: The German Movement for Birth Control and Abortion Reform” in comparison, was describing the situation before the introduction of the pill in Germany between 1920-1950. Both the paper by Goldin and Katz (2002) as well as the one by Birdsall and Chester (1987) were talking about the impact of the pill on the economic situation of women and were used in order to describe the role of women in the long run after the introduction of the pill. Watkins (2012) in her paper added another perspective by paying attention to the technical product pill and how, according to her, it transformed from medication to a lifestyle drug.

2 Historical background

The history of the pill will be discussed in three steps. The first step explains the status quo before the introduction of the pill, how the innovation process towards its development took place and to which extent it was triggered by women. In a second step the paper focuses on the first years after the introduction of the pill and the controversial discussion which took place in society, mainly enforced by moral standards and the church. In a last step the focus is shifted to the long term adoption and influence of the birth control pill and its consequences for birth rates in Germany.

2.1 Birth control before the introduction of the pill (before 1961)

Contraception in the United States was forwarded by Margret Sanger (1879-1966), a prominent birth control acitivist. She was deeply involved in the project of achieving women’s access to effective means of contraception in order to enhance female autonomy[2]. Sanger’s motivation was experiencing the example of her mother who, after giving birth to eleven children and many miscarriages, died very young at the age of 40 years. And not only her mother, but almost all women of that time were suffering from the many child births and miscarriages. Their desire increased to control whether, when and with whom they have children. As men still decided on contraception and women had a huge knowledge gap concerning their body and birth control, Sanger decided to open the first birth control clinic in the US in 1916. Soon afterwards women lined-up to get life-saving birth control information. Even though Sanger was sentenced to jail for a few times, she kept re-opening her clinic to pursue her mission to spread knowlegde about reproductive functions among women and fight for the women’s right to determine wheter to bear children or not[3].

Until 1938 fundamental discoveries in the field of synthetic production of the hormones estrogen and ethinylestradiol took place in Germany and scientists working together with the pharmaceutics company Schering built the basis for advanced research. The Third Reich however stopped all further developments. Whereas the federal ban against contraception was lifted in the US in 1938, allowing condoms and diaphragms, in Germany §218 remained unaltered. The paragraph defined abortion as criminal act and any prevention or interruption of pregnancy was banned in order to foster the reproduction of the “valuable race“. When breaking the law, punishments sometimes even went as far as death penalties[4].

The post war baby boom however got people and governments concerned about the growing population. In the 1950’ S the birth control movement transfered to a global scale. Taking into account these circumstances, a dinner party in New York in 1951 was held just in the right moment and can be regarded as the birth hour of the pill. The already mentioned activist Margaret Sanger (at this point in time already in her seventies) hosted the dinner party to which she invited Katharine McCormick, a wealthy widow and supporter of Sanger’s birth control movement, and the gynocologist Gregory Pincus. During a conversation Sanger asked Pincus how much it would cost to develop a cheap and efficient contraceptive. The story ended with McCormick investing two million dollars into research which allowed Pincus to develop the first birth control pill. What’s especially interesting about this story is the fact, that two women (Sanger and McCormick) were acting as drivers for the development process and hereby influencing and speeding up the innovation of the birth control pill3.

2.2 The introduction of the pill (1961-1970s)

After the introduction of the birth control pill in the US in 1960, the pharmaceutical company Schering also introduced a contraceptive pill under the name “Anovlar” in Germany one year later on June บ1, 1961[5]. In contrast to the United States, the pill was accepted way slower due to mostly moral hazards.

In the first years the pill was only distributed to married women with children. As sex before marriage was still a tabu, contraception officially wasn’t necessary for young, single women[6]. Due to this social pressure Schering advertised the pill not as contraceptive, but as a method to ease menstruation malfunction. Some gynocologist however still refused it and in 1964, 185 doctors and professors showed their protest against the pill officially in the “Ulmer Manifest“. And not just doctors but also the church expressed their disapproval, which culminated in Pope Paul VI.’s Enzyklika “Humana Vitae“. The pope forbid the pill for contraceptive reasons, as sex in his eyes should just have the sole reason of reproduction5. His strong stand divided the church by disagreement as some of the priests were of a different opinion as for example an „Der Spiegel“ interview with the Jesuit priest Dr. Jakob David showed very openly[7].

The role of the woman in this period of time was quite submissive, with neither men wanting her to be independent when it came to contraception, nor the church accepting her to steer her own nature. This role however started to change slowly as it can for example be observed in an advertisement by Enovid, a pharmaceutical company: Here, Andromeda, a female figure in Greek mythology, frees herself from her chains, symbolizing the new contraceptive and the self-determination it brought to women.5

Source: Advertisement for Enovid, the first contraceptive pill[8]

Also doctors slowly lost their prior prejudices as stated by a “Der Spiegel” article from 1966: While in the beginning the pill was accused of causing cancer, those rumors were diminished through research and by magazines like “Deutsches Ärztblatt”, received by every doctor in the country, showing its support towards the pill, paving the road for its broad acceptance[9].


[1] (Heßlig, 2011)

[2] (Clarke, 1998)

[3] (Clarke, 1998)

[4] (Grossmann, 1998)

[5] (Museum für Verhütung und Schwangerschaftsabbruch, 2013)

[6] (M. Hentschel & Muller, 1964)

[7] (n.a., 1968) Artikel in “Der Spiegel” - Autor unbekannt

[8] (Museum für Verhütung und Schwangerschaftsabbruch, 2013): http: / / en.muvs .org/contraception/с-media/ enovid-badge-id2333/

[9] (n.a., 1966) Artikel in “Der Spiegel” - Autor unbekannt


ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
484 KB
Institution / Hochschule
Technische Universität München – TUM School of Management
Birth control pill die pille women feminism freedom of choice role of women society change



Titel: The birth control pill and its consequences for German women and society