In the 1950s Americans were experiencing heightened anxiety in part due to the Cold War and simultaneously experiencing the rise of convenience and comfort items when the first tranquilizer drugs emerged.1 Women’s use of tranquilizer drugs in the 1950s-1970 is marked by its connection to its use for anxious housewives and mothers as women were bombarded with information about using the drug to escape feelings of emptiness, boredom, lack of appreciation, lack of pay, dead-end jobs, etc. while lack of education and information about the drugs led to over-use and addiction. In many cases the real issue lay within cultural pressure to conform to the ideal housewife and mother, working hard within the home for no pay, never complaining, and in many cases no way to go beyond the home to find meaningful work. Drug companies pushed their product to doctors through advertisements in medical magazines with images and wording that promised more ease in therapy and the woman’s ability to get back to her traditional role. Women were exposed to the idea of taking tranquilizers everywhere from TV commercials, articles, shopping, friends, and doctors.2 An alarming amount of housewives and mothers began commonly using tranquilizers for everything from menstrual pains and emotions to more extreme anxiety or depression that today, are known to have harmful side effects and highly addictive properties.

  1. Andrea Tone, “Listening to the Past: History, Psychiatry, and Anxiety,” The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry—In Review 50, no. 7 (June 2005), 376, accessed November 2, 2023,  
    Andrea Tone. The Age of Anxiety: A History of America’s Turbulent Affair with Tranquilizers 1st ed. (New York: Basic Books, 2008), 98, accessed November 2, 2023,  ↩︎
  2. Jonathan M. Metzl, “‘Mother’s Little Helper’: The Crisis of Psychoanalysis and the Miltown Resolution,” Gender & History 15, no. 2 (2003), 229, accessed November 2, 2023,