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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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Danelle Ice is an entrepreneur in Los Angeles and mom of 3. She is the creator of HomeEverAfter.com and SimDanelle.com. Danelle is also known as internet personality SimDanelle, the first virtual person. Danelle is a beauty guru on YouTube, vlogger, blogger, and new media darling. She is a current brand ambassador for for Keurig and previous AMD Tech Mom, Kraft Foods Delicious Byte brand ambassador, and Purex Insider.

9 Comments

  1. Jenna
    Sep 15, 2011 @ 04:24:51

    I agree with your comments fully. Happiness is a state of mind, I always say God gave you this day,
    it is up to you how you live it. I choose to be happy. Happiness is not about what you do, what you have, how much money you make or do not make. Happiness is about you and the things that make you happy. I would not take the med I love every part of being a mom, wife, homemaker, homeschooler (12 yrs) volunteer etc.

    Reply

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    [...] reality of the 1950′s housewife is subordination, drug use, and a focus on the man’s happiness as the crux of the household’s happiness. From [...]

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  3. Evan
    Jan 24, 2012 @ 07:22:35

    I stumbled across your post today and it is spot on. Now a mom of three I think about my childhood and my parents childhood alot now and I feel like all of the parenting issues we have is directly related to ALL of our grandmas being doped up on this crap! It directly affected our parents and in turn us. Hopefully we can grow and learn from this.

    Reply

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    Feb 06, 2012 @ 04:19:42

    [...] [...lies] on Mother’s bed”); but also to various fascinating websites, among them http://www.homeeverafter.com/miltown-a-piece-of-1950s-homemaker-history/, which shows how miltown was advertized as women’s “little helper,” dealing with [...]

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  6. TJ
    Apr 05, 2012 @ 08:41:04

    Hi I am writing a thesis on this topic and was just wondering where you got the adverts and info from? Would be really grateful if you could let me know – obviously I would cite you.

    Reply

    • Barbara Hess
      Mar 15, 2013 @ 19:59:12

      See my post above. during my marriage and 4 pregnancies in the 1960′s, I refused tranquilizers, recalling how they made me feel in 1957/58.
      during one of my pregnancies, a doctor put me on what I know was “speed” for my weight. I lost that baby at full-term. Doctors still had not learned. Miltowns; tranquilizers, pregnancy

      Reply

      • Danelle Ice
        Mar 15, 2013 @ 20:47:41

        Barbara, I’m so sorry to hear about your baby. What a terrible thing you had to go through.

        Danelle

        Reply

  7. Barbara Hess
    Mar 15, 2013 @ 19:54:20

    In my sophomore year 1957-58 at Oregon State College I was prescribed Miltowns by the college infirmary. I soon hated the feeling I got from them, and about six months after beginning I flushed them (bad idea) and had numerous with-drawal effects. My mother said no doctor would prescribe something harmful, and denied my side effects (shakiness, tears, hives, anxiety). My impression at the time was that many on the college campus were under the influence of these “doctor prescribed tranquillizers.” I will state today that this was probably rampant on the university level throughout the USA.

    Reply

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