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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Lydia E. Pinkham and The Menopausal Woman

"Yours for Health" Lydia E. Pinkham

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, women wrote to strangers for gynecological advice and they received hand-written responses in return.  Oh my goodness, where to begin?  Firstly, let me state that page two is missing so, after many complicated directions, once Nora is told to "lie on (her) face" we are sadly left to our imaginations as to remainder of the instructions.  We are still trolling our archives in the off-chance it exists because I really want to know what to comes next.

Secondly,  can you believe the opening line?  Isn't it just fantastic?  "Dear Friend:  Unless the womb is adhered I do not think an operation will be necessary."  No "how are you" or "thank you for writing".  It really is let's get to the point and sort this out for you.  In a way, that is good but it is an odd bedside manner.  I suppose the news is good though--no operation, but how the hell would they know from Lynn, MA to Carroll, NY?

Of course, I researched Mrs. Lydia Pinkham and though it seems like she is personally writing to my great-great grandmother, indeed she is not.  She died in 1883 and this letter was written in 1901.  I wonder if Nora knew that?  This personal touch is amazingly good marketing.  Lydia's family did take over the business and from what I have read, Lydia was never a proponent of operating so the letter writer in this case is properly toeing the company line.  Lydia was very much into natural remedies in her methodology and her Vegetable Compound is renowned.  In fact, it is still available today from a company in St. Petersburg, FL*.  But mostly, in modern times, she is the stuff of satirical folk songs**.


Lydia E. Pinkham Medicine Co.
Proprietors of
Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound

April 18, 1901

Mrs. S. F. Cass.

    Dear Friend: 

    Unless the womb is adhered I do not think an operation will be necessary.  My Vegetable Compound is excellent for all womb troubles, it strengthens the muscles and ligaments of the womb and helps to hold it in its place.  It also strengthens the whole system. 
    Take my Compound in liquid form with alternate doses of my Blood Purifier making two does of each a day.
    Bowels must move daily, if sluggish, take my Liver Pills.  If hard to move it may require in connection with the Liver Pills, injections of warm soapy water or Glycerine Suppositories.
      Bathe back with equal parts alcohol and warm water.  Keep skin active by frequent baths.
    Do not overwork.
    Use sitz baths two or three times a week.
    Take an Anderson Vaginal Capsule, size number 2 and prepare as per enclosed slip.
    These capsules inserted into the vagina, medicated with Glycerine and Dr. Anderson’s Prescription (which is a powder) will support the womb.  Let it remain twenty four hours.
    Then remove and cleanse the womb with an injection of one quart of hot water and Laxative (?) as per directions on box.
    Upon the removal of the tampon, after cleansing the womb, immediately insert another capsule as before. 
    Lie on the face while in-

??????????????????? :-(

Editor's Note:

  In no way is this an endorsement, just an FYI.

** Love, love, love Pete Seeger so I included the version above but the English
     group The Scaffold actually had a hit with their version.

I'd say poor Nora but she certainly survived whatever was troubling her and, as for privacy, she chose to keep the letter and it has survived 110 years.

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