Katharine Dexter was born on 27th August, 1875. One of the first women to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), she received a degree in biology in 1904.
Later that year Katharine married Stanley McCormick, the son of Cyrus McCormick, the inventor of the mechanical harvester. However, two years later Katharine's husband was diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia.
An active supporter of women's rights, McCormick worked with Margaret Sanger in her campaign to give birth control advice to women. A prominent member of the American Woman Suffrage Association, McCormick served as vice president and treasury of the organization.
McCormick was one of the main opponents of Alice Paul and the militant wing of the American Woman Suffrage Association that wanted to introduce the methods used by the Women's Social and Political Union in Britain. Eventually this group split to form the Congressional Union for Women Suffrage (CUWS).
In 1919 McCormick joined with Carrie Chapman Catt to establish the League of Women Voters. McCormick used the wealth she inherited from her husband to fund projects such as the research that led to the discovery and development of an oral hormone contraceptive.
Katharine McCormick died on 28th December, 1967. She left a large sum to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and wrote in her will: "Since my graduation in 1904 I have wished to express my gratitude to the Institute for its advanced policy of scientific training which has been of inestimable value to me throughout my life."
McCormick's will provided $5 million to the Stanford University School of Medicine to support female physicians, $5 million to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America , which funded the Katharine Dexter McCormick Library in Manhattan, New York City, $1 million to the Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology and $500,000 to the Chicago Art Institute.