Caitlin McCarthy: Education and Activism Beyond Textbooks and Television
Screenwriter, DES activist, Inner City Public HS Teacher
Caitlin McCarthy is an award-winning screenwriter; a DES (diethylstilbestrol)activist; and an English Language Arts Instructor at Worcester Technical High School in Worcester, Massachusetts (the second largest city in New England). Caitlin’s most notable scripts include: WONDER DRUG; PASS/FAIL; FREE SKATE; and RESISTANCE.
Innovating in Field of Work:
• After Caitlin discovered in 2005 that she had been exposed to DES in utero, she decided to use her screenwriting to help educate the world about the drug’s dangers.
• DES, a toxic and carcinogenic synthetic estrogen, is considered one of the world’s biggest drug disasters. Often referred to as “the hidden Thalidomide,” DES was prescribed to millions of pregnant women for decades: from 1938 until 1971 (and in a small number of cases for several years thereafter) in the United States; and until the mid-1980s in parts of Latin America, Europe, Australia, and the Third World. The currently proven effects of exposure include a rare vaginal cancer in DES Daughters; greater risk for breast cancer in DES Mothers; possible risk for testicular cancer in DES Sons; abnormal reproductive organs; infertility; high-risk pregnancies; and an increased risk for breast cancer in DES Daughters after age 40. There are a number of other suspected effects, including auto-immune disorders and health issues for DES Grandchildren, but many of these effects are still awaiting further research.
• Caitlin wrote about the DES tragedy in WONDER DRUG, which had its origins as an Alfred P. Sloan script at the Hamptons Screenwriters’ Lab.
• Screenwriting: Caitlin’s feature and TV scripts have collectively won awards and nominations in over 60 international film festival screenplay competitions and labs, most notably: WONDER DRUG’s selection for a live staged reading of scenes at the 15th Annual Hamptons International Film Festival, sponsored by the Sloan Foundation starring Steve Guttenberg (THREE MEN AND A BABY) and Alysia Reiner (“Orange is the New Black”); PASS/FAIL advancing as a finalist in the New York Television Festival (NYTVF)’s “Voice and Vision: The NBC Drama Challenge”; and the backdoor pilot movie script for FREE SKATE being named a winner of the MTV/WIF TV & Media Outreach Program, which provided Caitlin with the opportunity to directly pitch senior members of MTV’s development team. A full list of awards can be found at www.caitlinmccarthy.com.
• Activism: Caitlin won a 2014 MTA (Massachusetts Teachers Association) Human and Civil Rights Award for her DES activism. She has been recognized for her work with the offices of then US Senator John Kerry and then US Senator Scott Brown on obtaining the FDA acknowledgement of DES as a “tragedy” in 2011, after 40 years of silence. Additionally, Caitlin was nominated twice – in 2011 and 2012 – for a Presidential Citizens Medal for her work on the DES issue.
• Education: During Caitlin’s tenure at Worcester Technical High School (WTHS), the percentage of students scoring at or above proficient on the state English Language Arts exam increased from 13% to 92%. President Barack Obama spoke at the school’s 2014 graduation. WTHS was also recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School in 2013 by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan; and the school’s then principal Dr. Sheila Harrity was named 2014 National Principal of the Year. Additionally, WTHS was highlighted on NBC’s The TODAY Show and Education Nation.
• Caitlin engages in her DES activism while serving as an inner-city public high school teacher. She supports her students and acts as a role model through personal example.
• All of Caitlin’s DES activism has been done voluntarily and without compensation. She is passionate about educating as many people as she can about DES.
Reinvention / Risk / Momentum:
• Instead of being defeated upon learning of her in utero DES exposure in 2005,Caitlin decided to educate the world about DES by speaking to the media (print, online, and TV); writing WONDER DRUG and articles about DES; and presenting at DES symposiums.
• Caitlin is featured in the book “The Top 50 Indie Writers In The World” by Del Weston, Theresa Weston, and Nabi Zee.
• IMAGINE Magazine named Caitlin a “Woman to Watch” in 2011.
• The Pulse Magazine named Caitlin one of the “People to Watch in 2011.”
“Caitlin’s motto is: Work conquers all. In her writing, teaching, and activism, Caitlin applies herself with gusto.”