The pill

How revolutionary medicine changed the course of history

a closeup picture of a white round medical pill on a black background. On the pill the words 'the pill' are embossed.

Birth control is the first important step woman must take toward the goal of her freedom.
It is the first step she must take to be man's equal.
It is the first step they must both take toward human emancipation.

Margaret Sanger

Deemed the most important invention of the 20th century by many, the oral contraceptive commonly known as ‘the pill’ was developed in the late 1950s yet rooted in feminist activism stretching back decades earlier. The tiny tablet would go on to revolutionise gender relations in the last quarter of the century, encountering opposition from different corners of society. Despite criticism, the pill became one of the most widely used contraceptives thanks to its availability, ease of use and efficiency. At the turn of the millennium, however, the debate started to circle back and question the very emancipatory discourse in which its origins lay.

In this exhibition, we take a u-turn into history to find out why, centuries ago, contraceptives were thought to be a matter of witchcraft, who the pioneering women that brought the idea of family planning to life were, and how long it will take before a male contraceptive pill will arrive on the mass market.

Revisiting 40 years of pill history , 2000 RTBF / Belgian Radio-television of the French Community. In copyright