Miltown – A Piece of 1950s Homemaker History

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During the 1950s, many housewives got frustrated with a life that seemed to consist solely of constant chores, housekeeping, and caring after family.  These frustrated homemakers started taking a prescription tranquilizer called Miltown which promised to make all their problems go away.

The real solutions to the problem of this ultra focused lifestyle, as we know from history by looking at the evolution of women in society during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, were positive lifestyle changes.

However, instead of looking for possible life changes as a solution (such as part-time careers, work-life balance, household help, etc.), family doctors everywhere in the United States began prescribing 1950s housewives a medication called Meprobamate, more commonly know by the brand name Miltown

Miltown Pregnant Homemaker


Miltown became available to the public  in 1955 and was soon America’s favorite new  tranquilizer.  Advertisements for Miltown were aimed largely at women and homemakers.  These housewives were bound to spread the word about Miltown’s effectiveness and of their miraculous improvements once on the medication through their social and neighborhood circles.

Miltown Homemakers 1950 Menopause

Housewives across the nation were being prescribed Miltown for “insomnia, anxiety, and emotional upsets”, according to Wallace Laboratories, the company that manufactured Miltown.  Homemakers were told that Miltown would make their pregnancy “a  happier experience”, as seen in the vintage Miltown ad pictured above, although we now know Miltown to be a class D drug during pregnancy.  Miltown causes an increased risk of birth defects and passes through into breast milk and can affect the nursing baby.

1950s homemakers believed Miltown would make them feel better, allow them to do their household chores easier, and have an everyday life that was more enjoyable.  

Miltown Homemakers Vintage Ad 1950

The Ugly Side of Miltown: Dependence and Side Effects

Of course, despite all the promises of perfection, Miltown is still a drug, and a powerful tranquilizer at that.  Miltown is a habit forming medication, and users can develop a tolerance to the drug, meaning they have to take higher and higher doses to keep the same effects.

This tranquilizer was not safe to take while driving, and caused drowsiness (not such a good thing when taking care of children).

Withdrawals from going off of Miltown were worse than any mundane life.  Some Miltown withdrawal symptoms and side effects included anxiety, confusion, convulsions, hallucinations, impaired coordination, insomnia, loss of appetite, muscle twitching, slurring speech, tremors, vertigo, and vomiting. 

A Better Solution Than Miltown

Many homemakers today are able to be stay at home moms (SAHMs) or even part-time homemakers without having to take a prescription tranquilizer like Miltown!  The secret to having a happy home life rests in having balance in life, not having a so-called miracle pill that will fix everything that is wrong. 

Some women choose to work full or part time in addition to caring for their families and homes.  Some women look to moms’ groups or small groups through church to get support from other families.  Most importantly, remembering to share household responsibilities and take mom-time to do activities without the children can work wonders for keeping a homemaker’s constant tasks from becoming overwhelming. 

What’s your opinion on the “magic pill” that fixes everything?  Would you want to take it if it had no side effects?  Let us know in the comments.

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