One of the stranger rumors I encountered in the course of writing Elephants on Acid
was the suggestion that Hillary Clinton participated in a menstrual synchrony study while she was a student at Wellesley College during the 1960s. Stranger still, I haven't been able to disprove this.
Here are the facts. In 1968, Martha McClintock, while a senior at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, convinced all 135 of her dormmates to participate in a study of the phenomenon of synchronous menstruation. She recorded the date of onset of their menstrual cycles three times during the academic year. Her hypothesis was that their cycles would synchronize as the year progressed, and this is what her data showed. She published an article about her study in a 1971 issue of Nature
(1971, 229: 244-245). It remains a highly regarded study.
Hillary Clinton (then Hillary Rodham) was also a senior at Wellesley in 1968. This raises the possibility that she participated in McClintock's study. There were about 400 students in the senior class, which make the odds pretty good that Hillary participated in the study. (A third of the class participated.) The question is: Did the two women (Rodham and McClintock) live in the same dorm?
In her autobiography, Clinton writes, "During my junior and senior years, Johanna Branson and I lived in a large suite overlooking Lake Waban, on the third floor of Davis." McClintock, however, has never revealed what dorm she conducted her study in. I emailed her and asked, thinking that maybe she could say that she didn't conduct the study in Davis, even if she couldn't reveal where she did conduct it. She simply replied, "I cannot answer this question due to privacy regulations."
This leaves open the possibility that Hillary did participate in McClintock's study. I emailed the Clinton campaign, but they never responded to me. My hunch, however, is that she didn't participate in it. It seems like the kind of thing that would be more widely publicized if it were true.
Of course, it doesn't really matter whether she did participate in the study or not. Although if she did, it would be interesting as a piece of biographical trivia. Hillary Clinton herself would seem to be the only person who can confirm or deny the rumor.