A Timeline to Making Women’s Health Mainstream

Until the 1990s, the health of women was at serious risk.

Three women smiling

Women were intentionally excluded from participating in most medical research, setting a dangerous precedent that overlooked fundamental biological differences between women and men.

In 1990, the Society for Women’s Health Research (SWHR) was founded by Dr. Florence Haseltine to confront this injustice and change the culture of medical research. Thanks to SWHR and other advocacy groups, women are now routinely included in medical research and make up a larger portion of the scientific workforce, and scientists are studying how biological sex differences affect the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disease.

Since its founding, SWHR has fought to bring attention to research gaps and unmet needs in women’s health and to advance its mission to eliminate imbalances in care for women through science, policy, and education.

SWHR is making women’s health mainstream.

Women’s health research has been overlooked for decades. SWHR is changing that.

Events from 1977 to 1989

Sep 1977

FDA Guidance Excludes ‘Women of Childbearing Potential’ From Research

In the 1960s and 1970s, birth defects caused by the drugs Thalidomide and DES led to increased concern about the safety of drugs and drug trials during pregnancy. At-home pregnancy tests did not exist at this time so the public’s concern expanded to include all women capable of becoming pregnant. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1977 published guidelines advising the exclusion of “any premenopausal woman capable of becoming pregnant” from participating in Phase I and II clinical research.

Jan 1985

Federal Task Force Reports Excluding Women From Research Harms Their Health

report from the U.S. Public Health Service Task Force concluded that the exclusion of women from clinical research was detrimental to their health and recommended expanding research to include diseases or conditions that solely or disproportionately affect women of all ages.

Oct 1986

NIH Encourages Inclusion of Women in Clinical Research

In response to the U.S. Public Health Task Force’s report on women’s health, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Guide for Grants and Contracts (vol. 15, no. 22) included a notice that encouraged — but did not require — researchers to include women in their clinical studies.

Jan 1989

Dr. Florence Haseltine Organizes Meeting on Women’s Health at ACOG

Florence GalaFlorence Haseltine, PhD, MD, organized a meeting at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) to discuss the state of research on women’s health. This meeting set the stage for the Society for Women’s Health Research (originally called the Society for the Advancement of Women’s Health Research).

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