Pamphlet, 'The questions women ask about the pill', paper, published by the Oral Contraception Information Centre, printed by North Sydney Printing Pty Ltd, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1967-1972
Copies of this pamphlet would have been available for free in doctors' surgeries and waiting rooms. It lists 22 questions and answers commonly asked of doctors about taking an oral contraceptive.
This booklet gives examples of the types of questions, issues, and concerns women had about taking oral contraceptives in the late 1960s. It adds to the Museum's collection of Health and Medicine material and, specifically, to the significant and growing collection of objects and booklets related to the history of contraception.
Written by Erika Dicker, Assistant Curator, 2007.
The oral contraceptive brought about profound changes in women's lives and in relationships between women and men. It offered new freedom for women to control their fertility, but it brought a new set of uncertainties. This pamphlet, sponsored by three drug companies that manufactured oral contraceptives, sets out to address and downplay these uncertainties and convince women to try their products.
Using a question and answer format and mostly written in the third person, the pamphlet provides answers that seem dispassionate but that lean towards promoting the sponsors' product. It provides statistics that show 'the pill' is more reliable than other forms of contraception. It states that it has unwanted side effects in only some women and does not cause disease; and it implies that it might prevent some cancers. It does not address the question of its long-term effect on an individual's fertility.
The context of the advice is married life. If a woman took the pamphlet's advice, she would discuss contraception with a doctor (probably a man, as depicted on the cover) and start taking 'the pill' three months before her wedding day. Assuming she wasn't one of the unlucky few to experience persistent and uncomfortable side-effects, she would continue taking the pill until she turned 50, except for an unmentioned period before conception, during pregnancy, and two weeks after giving birth. She would not even consider having intercourse before marriage, and would certainly not try to obtain the pill on the black market.
Debbie Rudder, Curator, 2009
The booklet was produced by The Oral Contraceptive Information Centre in Crows Nest, Sydney, and was printed by North Sydney Printing Pty Ltd.
Three drug companies, British Pharmaceuticals Pty Ltd, Schering Pty Ltd, and G. D. Searle Pty Ltd, contributed to the production of this booklet. Searle had been the first company to sell a contraceptive pill, in 1960 in the USA.