Happy birthday Margaret Pyke!

January 8, 2016


Today we’re celebrating the life of Margaret Pyke, one of the UK’s family planning pioneers, on what would have been her 122nd birthday.


Margaret Pyke

Margaret Pyke OBE, born on this day in 1893, was a British family planning activist and pioneer who, at the time of her death in 1966, had worked in the family planning movement for 36 years. She was one of the first secretaries of the National Birth Control Council (NBCC), a society which promoted and provided family planning services.

The NBCC was formed in 1930 when a group of family planning societies, established across the UK throughout the 1920s, organised themselves into a national body, which helped to strengthen their position and their voice in support of family planning in the UK.

The NBCC changed its name to the National Birth Control Association (NBCA) in 1931, and then to the Family Planning Association (FPA) in 1939.

Since 1998 it has been known as FPA. Originally only offering a service to married couples, during the 1950s FPA clinics began to offer pre-marital advice to women, although proof, such as a letter from a vicar or family doctor, was often required before contraceptive supplies were provided.

The FPA’s first chair, Lady Denman, died in 1954 and Margaret was her obvious successor. By this time the Association had developed a network of clinics and much work had been done to ensure that the subject of family planning had become more respectable in society.

During the 1960s, social and sexual attitudes changed dramatically. The combined pill was first prescribed in FPA clinics in 1961 and within ten years was being used by over one million women.

At the time of her death in 1966, Margaret’s son Dr David Pyke and her friend Lady Jean Medawar, decided to set up a charitable trust in her honour. The Margaret Pyke Memorial Trust opened the Margaret Pyke Centre in 1969, which offered family planning services and advice to around 200 patients daily. In 1974, when family planning became a part of the NHS, the Trust turned its focus to undertaking contraceptive research and providing essential training to healthcare professionals in contraception updates. The Margaret Pyke Trust became, and remains, the UK’s leading provider of sexual and reproductive health training for healthcare professionals and its international programme, the Population and Sustainability Network, is working internationally to promote voluntary family planning programmes. Together they are ensuring that Margaret’s legacy remains alive and well.