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COLLECTION Identifier: H MS c224

Loretta McLaughlin research and publication records


The Loretta McLaughlin research and publication records contains transcribed interviews, interviews on audiocassette tapes, published articles, correspondence, manuscript drafts, handwritten notes, and newsclippings, resulting from her research activities for her book on John Rock, The Pill, John Rock, and the Church: The Biography of a Revolution, published in 1982. The collection includes McLaughlin's research files on Catholic Church mores and policy in the 1960s, Rock's fertility research activities, and biographical information on Rock from colleagues, friends, and family.


  • Creation: 1944-1984 (Inclusive), 1962-1967, 1979 (Bulk)


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Access requires advance notice. Consult Public Services for further information.

The collection is stored offsite. Researchers are advised to Consult Public Services for further information concerning retrieval of material.

Conditions Governing Use

The Harvard Medical Library does not hold copyright on all materials in the collection. Researchers are responsible for identifying and contacting any third-party copyright holders for permission to reproduce or publish. For more information on the Center's use, publication, and reproduction policies, view our Reproductions and Use Policy.


6 cubic feet (4 record cartons, 1 document box, 1 half legal document box, and 1 oversized flat document box.)

The Loretta McLaughlin research and publication records, 1944-1984, undated, are the product of McLaughlin's research activities and interviews conducted from 1978 to 1980, while writing her book The Pill, John Rock and the Church: The Biography of a Revolution. The collection also contains records chronicling the public and private reaction to the publication of the book in 1982.

The bulk of the collection dates from 1962 to 1980, and consists of news clippings, published articles, transcribed interviews, notes from interviews, personal correspondence and recorded interviews on audiocassette tapes, recording McLaughlin’s research into the fertility experiments and birth control developments of John Rock and his colleagues, and also the reaction of the Catholic Church to the release of the birth control pill. Several audiocassette interviews feature John Rock and his adult daughters, colleague Celso-Ramon Garcia (1922-2004), and longtime laboratory assistant Miriam Menkin (1901-1992). Topics such as global population control and overpopulation are addressed in news clippings in the collection, as well as published research into the medical complications of the Pill. Pope John Paul II's encyclical condemning Catholic use of the birth control pill is also included, as well as prominent Catholic personalities of the time's opposing viewpoints, including those of theologian Hans Kueng. The collection also contains a limited amount of Rock’s personal correspondence, including a discussion between Rock and Playboy magazine regarding the publication of an article pertinent to Rock's research in the magazine. A limited amount of photographs of Rock are also available in the collection.

The Loretta McLaughlin Research and Publication Records contain two series: Series I. Research Records, and Series II. Publication Records. Oversized items are housed in boxes 5, 6, and 7. Audiocassette tapes containing McLaughlin's recorded interviews are housed in box 8. Photographs and photographic negatives are housed in their appropriate places in the collection.

Biographical Note

Loretta McLaughlin (1928-2018), B.A., 1949, Boston University, Massachusetts, was a Boston Globe (Massachusetts) journalist, editorial page editor, and medical news specialist. She also worked for other news publications and was a fellow at the Radcliffe College of Public Policy, Cambridge, Massachusetts and the Harvard AIDS Institute, Boston, Massachusetts. She covered the 1962 Boston Strangler killings and the AIDS crisis, and she wrote a book about John Rock (1890-1984) and birth control.

Loretta McLaughlin was born Loretta McDermott in 1928 in Woburn, Massachusetts to Anna (King) McDermott, a homemaker, and John McDermott, who worked for a Quincy, Massachusetts shipyard, among other jobs. The 1940 U.S. Census identified McLaughlin as white. McLaughlin was raised in South Boston, Massachusetts, where she graduated from South Boston High School. She attended Boston University on a scholarship, earning a B.A. in journalism in 1949. After graduating, she worked for the Boston Record American (Massachusetts) during the 1950s, when editors and journalists were roles within journalism that were primarily dominated by men. While at the Record American, she and colleague Jean (Cole) Harris (1926-2015) investigated and publicized the 1962 Boston Strangler assaults and murders. McLaughlin went on to work as a science writer for Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts, and as Executive Director of Public Relations at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Boston. During her time at the Infirmary, she led a capital campaign to build its primary facility. In the 1970s, she returned to journalism and joined the Herald American, Boston, Massachusetts as a medical reporter. In 1976, McLaughlin was recruited by the Boston Globe as a medical specialist, devoting much of her work covering the AIDS crisis, as well as researching population growth in developing countries such as Bangladesh and Mexico. She was also a strong advocate for single-payer national health insurance and wrote endorsements of William (Bill) Weld (born 1945) for Governor of Massachusetts, Bill Clinton (born 1946) for President of the United States, and Thomas Menino (1942-2014) for Mayor of Boston. McLaughlin’s book, The Pill, John Rock, and the Church: The Biography of a Revolution, was published in 1982. In July 1992, she became the second woman in the Globe’s history to become Editor of the Editorial Page. She held this position until December 1993, when she reached the Globe’s mandatory retirement age. In her later years, she was a fellow at the Radcliffe College Institute for Public Policy, Cambridge, Massachusetts and was a Senior Fellow at the Harvard AIDS Institute, Boston, Massachusetts. In addition to this, she also organized conferences on behalf of Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Massachusetts and continued advocating in favor of national health insurance. McLaughlin twice received editorial commendations by the New England Journal of Medicine. She served on President Clinton's health care reform panel (1, 2).

Loretta had three children with her husband James McLaughlin: Mark McLaughlin, Ruth (McLaughlin) Doyle, and Neil McLaughlin. After divorcing, McLaughlin remarried, to John Becker. She died in 2018.


Dolan Funeral Services. “Loretta McLaughlin [Obituary],” n.d.

Marquard, Bryan. “Loretta McLaughlin, Groundbreaking Reporter and Former Globe Editorial Page Editor, Dies at 90.” The Boston Globe, November 25, 2018.

Series and Subseries in the Collection

  1. Series I. Research Records, 1944-1982, undated
  2. ___ Subseries A. Subject Files, 1944-1982, undated
  3. ___ Subseries B. Publication Related Interviews, 1976-1980, undated
  4. Series II. Publication Records, 1967, 1981-1984, undated
  5. ___ Subseries A. Drafts, Manuscripts, 1982, undated
  6. ___ Subseries B. Publication Reviews and Correspondence, 1967, 1981-1984, undated

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Loretta McLaughlin research and publication records were donated to the Harvard Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine in 2004 by Loretta McLaughlin.

  1. Accession number 2005-006 from Loretta McLaughlin, August 2, 2004.

Related Records at Other Institutions

The Gregory Pincus Papers, 1920-1969 (bulk 1950-1967), can be found at the Library of Congress Manuscript Division, Washington, D.C.

Processing Information

Processed by Margaret Whiteside in November 2006 under the direction of Jennifer Pelose.

Processing staff in the Center for the History of Medicine refoldered, reboxed, and created a finding aid for the Loretta McLaughlin Research and Publication Records. Processing staff discarded duplicate records and records that did not meet the collection policy of the Center for the History of Medicine. Charlotte Lellman rewrote the Biographical Note in September 2020 to bring it into compliance with the Center for the History of Medicine’s Guidelines for Inclusive and Conscientious Description (2020). Lellman expanded the original stub Biographical Note from a stub. The previous version of the finding aid is being maintained for transparency around the descriptive process.

McLaughlin, Loretta. Research and Publication Records, 1944-1984, undated: Finding Aid.
Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. Center for the History of Medicine.
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine) Repository

The Center for the History of Medicine in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine is one of the world's leading resources for the study of the history of health and medicine. Our mission is to enable the history of medicine and public health to inform healthcare, the health sciences, and the societies in which they are embedded.

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