Ceramic paperweight of the contraceptive pill, c 1970.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
This paperweight was made to represent a contraceptive pill. Acces to advice about contraception was not available to women in most countries until well into the latter half of the 20th century. Before this, individual campaigners such as Marie Stopes (1880-1958) set up birth control clinics against much opposition. The contraceptive pill first became available in 1960. It uses female hormones to control fertility and became commercially viable when it was discovered that the Mexican yam was a cheap natural source of these hormones.