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The Museum of Menstruation and Women's Health

Four ads for substances probably intended as birth control
"Hollywood" magazine, Dec. 1933, U.S.A.

The federal Comstock laws, from 1873, prohibited explicit advertising for birth control, including abortion, when these ads appeared in 1933. However, "contraceptive devices could legally be promoted for the cure and prevention of disease" (Wikipedia). This led to the curious wording in the ads you see below.

People who read "Hollywood" magazine might have been more open to learning about birth control through the mail, or needed it more. And it might have been safer than having a back-alley abortionist fix her up, maybe permanently - if it worked. The donor wrote that she could not find similar offers in other magazines of the time she studied.

More about contraception:
Contraception and religion
Old Contraceptive
Contraceptive douches & sponges

I thank the donor of the scans, a woman who came across the ads while researching for a novel.
The donor of the scans sent these comments on two of the pictured ads:
From "Nostrums and quackery: articles on the nostrum evil, quackery and allied matters affecting the public health," Volume 1, American Medical Association, 1921, p. 179:
Dr Southington Remedy Company [see the bottom of the left-hand column]—This concern published, in such newspapers as would accept them, advertisements to this effect: “Ladies—$1,000 reward. I positively guarantee my great successful ‘monthly’ remedy. Safely relieves some of the longest, most obstinate abnormal cases in three to five days.”  Those who wrote for information regarding this advertised abortifacient were sent a stock letter and a booklet telling of the wonderful results of taking "Dr. Southington's Ergo Kolo Female Compound for Women Only.” The price of this “regulating compound” was $1.50 a package, “single strength,” but the “double strength,” which was recommended “for more obstinate cases,” costs $2. Comment is superfluous.—(From The Journal A.M.A., Oct 4, 1913.)

From Women, science, and technology: a reader in feminist science studies
ed. Mary Wyer: “Socially Camouflaged Technologies” by Rachel Maines (pg. 279-280) [more from Rachel Maines, toward the bottom of this linked page]:
In the case of the vibrator, the issue is one of acceptability, but there are many examples of similarly marketed technology of which the expected use was actually illegal. One of these, which shares with the vibrator a focus on women’s sexuality, was that of “emmenagogues” or abortifacient drugs sold through the mail and sometimes even off the shelf in the first few decades of this century. Emmenagogues, called in pre-FDA advertising copy “cycle restorers,” were intended to bring on the menses in women who were “late.” Induced abortion by any means was of course illegal, but late menses are not reliable indicators of pregnancy. Thus, women who purchased and took “cycle restorers” might or might not be in violation of antiabortion laws; they themselves might not be certain without a medical examination. The advertising of these commodities makes free use of this ambiguity in texts like the following from Good Stories of 1933 [see American Home Health Service, the top left ad, below]:

Late? End Delay—Worry. American Periodic Relief Compound double strength tablets combine Safety with Quick Action. Relieve most Stubborn cases. No Pain. New discovery. Easily taken. Solves women’s most perplexing problem. RELIEVES WHEN ALL OTHERS FAIL. Don’t be discouraged, end worry at once. Send $1.00 for Standard size package and full directons. Mailed same day, special delivery in plain wrapper. American Periodic Relief Compound Tablets, extra strength for stubborn cases, $2.00. Generous Size Package. New Book free.
The rhetoric here does not mention the possibility of pregnancy, but the product’s selling points would clearly suggest this to the informed consumer through the mentions of safety, absence of pain, and stubborn cases. The readers of the pulp tabloid Good Stories clearly did not require an explanation of “women’s most perplexing problem.”

Below: Read the comments about this ad in the text above right.

Below: Read more about this ad in the text at the top of the page, right-hand column.

about contraception:
Contraception and religion
Old Contraceptive
Contraceptive douches & sponges

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