Symbols in a Life of Psychic Tension

By Johanna Goldberg, Information Services Librarian

Forget the articles: Advertisements can be the most interesting part of medical journals from decades past. The ads below, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology between 1940 and 1970, show how the medical industry viewed women and women’s health issues. Predictably, that view now seems dated and, at times, offensive.

1940: A male salesman discusses the benefits of a vaginal jelly with a male doctor.

1940: A male salesman discusses the benefits of a vaginal jelly with a male doctor.

Tampax advertisement picturing a woman about to dive.

1950: There’s a long history of women swimming in tampon ads. And there’s an “inherent safety of these dainty intravaginal cotton guards.”

Meprosan advertisement with pictures of a woman throughout her day.

1960: “She stays calm while on Meprospan, even under the pressure of busy, crowded supermarket shopping.”

1960: Today, warnings for thorazine indicate that the drug may cause birth defects if taken in the final months of pregnancy.

1960: Today, warnings for thorazine indicate that the drug may cause birth defects if taken in the final months of pregnancy.

1970: Indication that a woman may feel frustrated if she centers her life around “home and children” rather than pursuing a career. Valium must be the answer.

1970: Indication that a woman may feel frustrated if she centers her life around “home and children” rather than pursuing a career. Valium must be the answer.

4 thoughts on “Symbols in a Life of Psychic Tension

  1. Thank you for publishing this fascinating retrospective. Adelaide Hechtlinger’s ‘The Great Patent Medicine Era: Or, Without Benefit of Doctor’ (1970) provides a rich overview of medical adverts in the early 20th century.

  2. Pingback: Acne Can Be a Social Handicap | Books, Health and History

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