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Katharine Dexter McCormick
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Advocate
    (August 27, 1875-December 28, 1967)
    Born in Dexter, Michigan
    Biologist, suffragette and philanthropist
    Married International Harvester heir Stanley McCormick (1904)
    Vice-president and treasurer of the National American Woman Suffrage Association
    First vice-president of the League of Women Voters
    Provided most of the $2 million to develop and test the birth control pill
    She gave up plans to attend medical school to get married.
    After her husband was diagnosed as schizophrenic and declared mentally incompetent (1909), she and her in-laws ended up in an often bitter battle over control of his assets.
    Largely because of this dispute, she avoided funding birth control research until after her husband's death, focussing her philanthropy on areas her in-laws approved, such as research into mental illness.
    When she returned from trips to Europe, she would smuggle diaphragms for use in Margaret Sanger's birth control clinic.
    She was the second woman to graduate from MIT and the first to graduate with a degree in science.
    At MIT, she successfully lobbied against a policy requiring female students to wear hats, arguing that they were a fire hazard in the labs.
    She provided the funds for Stanley McCormick Hall, the first women's dorm at MIT, resulting in women's enrollment jumping from 4% of the student body to 40%.
    Her husband's psychiatrist kept her from seeing him, claiming that women made him agitated.
    When she and Sanger met Dr. Gregory Pincus, he said that their goal of a birth control pill that could be taken like aspirin was technically feasible but would be costly to achieve. She handed him a check for $40,000, said there was plenty more where that came from and told him to start working on it (1953).
    She was determined to see an oral contraceptive in her lifetime, which happened when 'the pill' went on sale to the public in 1960.

Credit: C. Fishel


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