The issues for which Katharine Dexter McCormick (1874-1967) fought are as important today as they were seventy-five years ago: birth control, sex education, abortion, equal pay for equal work, and freedom from sexual harassment. She was a driving force in the battle for the women’s vote, the formation of the Women’s League of Voters, the creation of Planned Parenthood, and the development of the birth control pill. McCormick stepped forward when others were afraid to act, and her unflagging fidelity to the cause made possible the social, political, and scientific achievements that today mark the difference between misery and opportunity for millions of women.
Although she was born into a world of privilege with many intellectual talents, McCormick’s life was not without its significant challenges. Many of the issues to which she devoted her life remain controversial and are still under attack by their opponents. Due to her modesty, McCormick neither sought nor received public accolades during her lifetime. Nonetheless, her long-time crusades and achievements revolutionized the role of women, not only in America, but throughout the world. Scientist, humanitarian, and lifelong champion of women’s rights, her determination and commitment provide a pattern to inspire women today and tomorrow.