The Story Behind the First Home Pregnancy Test

Margaret Crane, the woman behind the invention of the first home pregnancy test in 1967, is our new hero for women's rights. What would we do without her?

The Story Behind the First Home Pregnancy Test tudiostoks/Shutterstock

I still remember the first time I took a home pregnancy test. It would be the first of eight sticks I peed on that day, to confirm that I was really, truly, (could this seriously be happening?!) pregnant. In the midst of my acute state of shock, it never occurred to me that years ago, finding out if your life would change forever was a lot more complicated.

A new story in Smithsonian magazine reveals in the late 1960s, it took two long weeks to discover the status of your uterus. Women had to see their doctors if they suspected a tiny life force was taking over their bodies, and then, pregnancy tests were sent to pharmaceutical companies for processing before the results were returned.

An unknown freelance designer named Margaret Crane worked at one of those companies, the now defunct Organon. One day while looking at piles and piles of pregnancy tests from doctors she thought, "A woman could do that herself." It just came to her like that.

Crane goes on to say, "People in the company told me in effect that I was evil, this was really bad, this was terrible, and I had no right to be bringing this up—and women had no right to be doing this themselves; this was in doctors' hands."

Well thank goodness Crane ignored the haters who gave her idea a big fat negative review. The now 75-year-old persisted and in 1967, created the first prototype for what you and I now pee on to find out in three minutes or less if we should have that glass of wine or not. By 1976, the first home pregnancy test, called Predictor, had won F.D.A. approval.

The ingenious woman behind the home pregnancy test never saw any money from her invention though, as Organon licensed its production to other companies. That's too bad, because if every woman took eight pregnancy tests every time she thought she might be expecting as I did, Crane might be the richest woman in the history of the world!

Related: Could Your iPhone Tell You If You're Pregnant?