1963 – Enter: Valium

In the early 1960s, Valium entered the prescription drug market.  A mild tranquilizer and anti-anxiety pill, Valium quickly became viewed as the housewife’s medicine.  Psychiatrists (who were usually men) would prescribe Valium to women who were dissatisfied with their home life. Valium is addictive and often psychiatrists would over-prescribe the female patients’ doses leading to many women developing a dependency on the drug.  Some symptoms of Valium abuse includes: hallucinations, hyperactivity, depression, seizures, and a loss of inhibitions.

Many women’s lives in the 1960s and 1970s were still organised around Victorian stereotypes of the loving mother and dutiful housewife. Influential feminist writers of the time criticised psychiatry. They argued it was one of the main ways society controlled women. Women who did not behave ‘properly’ risked ending up in psychiatric care. Many feminist writers also criticised psychoanalysis, the then-dominant approach in psychiatry. They argued Freud’s focus on sexual fantasies, and the fact that most of his patients were women, rehashed old ideas. It was similar to hysteria being labelled a ‘women’s problem’ that should be cured by finding a man.

-“Women & Psychiatry” – Science Museum, UK

Mother’s Little Helper (1966)

by The Rolling Stones

What a drag it is getting old
Kids are different today,
I hear evry mother say
Mother needs something today to calm her down
And though shes not really ill
Theres a little yellow pill
She goes running for the shelter of a mothers little helper
And it helps her on her way, gets her through her busy day

Things are different today,
I hear evry mother say
Cooking fresh food for a husbands just a drag
So she buys an instant cake and she burns her frozen steak
And goes running for the shelter of a mothers little helper
And two help her on her way, get her through her busy day

Doctor please, some more of these
Outside the door, she took four more
What a drag it is getting old

Men just arent the same today
I hear evry mother say
They just dont appreciate that you get tired
Theyre so hard to satisfy, you can tranquilize your mind
So go running for the shelter of a mothers little helper
And four help you through the night, help to minimize your plight

Doctor please, some more of these
Outside the door, she took four more
What a drag it is getting old

Lifes just much too hard today,

I hear evry mother say
The pusuit of happiness just seems a bore
And if you take more of those, you will get an overdose
No more running for the shelter of a mothers little helper
They just helped you on your way, through your busy dying day