Women’s Health and Household Hints

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Dr. Kilmer's Female Remedy promised to bring health to "Our Mothers, Wives and Daughters" by providing relief for "dropsy, spineache and bloating,” ca. 1885. Courtesy of the Boston Public Library via Digital Commonwealth.

“Only a woman can understand a woman’s ills.”  

—Lydia Pinkham

Many patent medicine makers marketed products specifically to women. During this time, many American women were not comfortable talking and asking questions about their own bodies. Given that most doctors were men, many women were hampered by their own modesty and society’s sense of propriety. Furthered by the fact that some women living in rural or frontier America did not always have access to a doctor, patent medicines offered an opportunity to self-remedy. The privacy and convenience of patent medicines delivered by mail order addressed these issues.

The following list of women’s health issues were subjects that many women did not feel comfortable discussing.

• Puberty
• Menstruation
• Fertility
• Pregnancy
• Abortions
• Childbirth
• Postpartum Depression
• Menopause

When women did discuss these health concerns they often used euphemisms or veiled terms as opposed to more straightforward terms. For example, the term “maturation” was used for the onset of puberty and "the change" referred to the start of menopause.