Background

America was emerging from an idea about women that involved their primary purpose and importance as being married and furthering their race by having children. While the term “anxiety” had been developed since the 17thcentury, beliefs about anxiety in this period came from Freud’s ideologies.1 Freud traced anxiety in women back to fears within their sexuality and categorized them in several different ways regarding the nature of the fear.2 various factors related to women’s reproductive system were considered as ways to mark femininity along with youth, lifestyle expectations, over-reaction and emotional responses, relationships with family, acceptance of loss of sexuality due to aging, having a monthly cycle and the ability to reproduce and raise a family. 3 This ideal femininity may not reflect what many women actually desired and this is evident in women’s responses to “What do these women want” in reference to the use of estrogen for menopause. While some women rejected the idea, one woman’s response is that women’s problems are finally receiving attention that has been lacking as they have always been told losing sexuality is just part of being a woman.4

 Prior to the release of memprobamates, some treatments for anxiety would include barbituates in mental hospitals or a “rest cure” may be used for women with anxiety. 5 The use of out-patient prescription medication to treat anxiety was convenient and doctors believed it could be a way to speed up treatment and help their clients.

This took off so quickly for Americans as it fit the current cultural trend of convenience and progress.6 Prior to the release of Miltown, drug addiction was already an issue as this article written by a former addict highlights in the 1950s. While this article is before the introduction of Miltown, it highlights the period Miltown is introduced to and the lack of education people have about taking prescriptions. Even though in the article she admits to taking more than was prescribed to her, she appears to be relatively ignorant as to how dangerous this would be and she also mentions the pressure she feels as a housewife to please her husband, which is quite common and leads into reasons for women taking tranquilizers.7

  1. Tom Lutz. American Nervousness, 1903: an Anecdotal History, (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991), 10,  accessed November 2, 2023, https://archive.org/details/americannervousn00lutz/mode/
     
    Andrea Tone. The Age of Anxiety: A History of America’s Turbulent Affair with Tranquilizers 1st ed. (New York: Basic Books, 2008), 17-18, accessed November 2, 2023, https://umw.primo.exlibrisgroup.com/permalink/01UMW_INST/cr9fmi/alma991005160781003326
     
    David Herzberg. “Blockbusters and controlled substances: Miltown, Quaalude, and consumer demand for drugs in postwar America,” Studies in History and Philisophical Science Part C, 42 no. 4 (2011), accessed November 2, 2023, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.shpsc.2011.05.005.
     
    Fay Bounds. “Keywords in the History of Medicine: Anxiety,” The Lancet (British Edition) 363, no. 9418 (2004): 1407–, accessed November 2, 2023,https://umw.primo.exlibrisgroup.com/permalink/01UMW_INST/1mko5a7/cdi_proquest_journals_199033068
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  2. Sigmund Freud and Abraham Brill. Selected Papers on Hysteria and Other Psychoneuroses, (NY: The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease Publishing Company 1912), 141, accessed November 2, 2023, https://archive.org/details/39002010893197.med.yale.edu ↩︎
  3. Charles Henry Hardin Branch, Aspects of Anxiety, (Philadelphia, Lippincott 1968), accessed November 2, 2023, 88-91, 98-99 https://archive.org/details/aspectsofanxiety00bran/mode/2up. ↩︎
  4. Judith A. Houck. “‘What Do These Women Want?’: Feminist Responses to ‘Feminie Forever’, 1963-1980,” Bulletin of the History of Medicine 77, no 1 (2003): 103-32, accessed November 2, 2023, https://doi.org/10.1353/bhm.2003.0023.
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  5. Tom Lutz. American Nervousness, 1903: an Anecdotal History, (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991), 20, accessed November 2, 2023, https://archive.org/details/americannervousn00lutz/mode/
     
    Pilar Garcia-Garcia, Cecilio Alamo, Francisco Lopez-Munoz. “The Discovery of Chlordiazepoxide and the Clinical Introduction of Benzodiazepines: Half a Century of Anxiolytic Drugs,” Journal of Anxiety Disorders 25, no. 4 (2011): 554-62, accessed November 2, 2023, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.janxdis.2011
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  6. Jonathan Metzl. Prozac on the Couch: Prescribing Gender in the Era of Wonder Drugs, (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003), 14, 73, accessed November 2, 2023, https://archive.org/details/prozaconcouch0000uns.
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  7. “The Tragedy of an “Accidental Addict”: WOMEN IN DESPAIR She was a Housewife, Happily Married, but the Drug Habit Caught Up with Her… a Chicago Woman’s True Story.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), Oct 29, 1950. https://umw.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://www.proquest.com/historical-newspapers/tragedy-accidental-addict/docview/177971004/se-2. ↩︎