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Title: Imagining a Psychology of the Pill: Women, Experts and Contraception in the 1960s
Authors: Eisert, Carolyn
Advisors: Rodgers, Daniel T.
Contributors: History Department
Keywords: birth control
compliance package
pharmaceutical advertising
Subjects: History of science
Gender studies
American history
Issue Date: 2012
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation explores the ways in which medical experts conceptualized the impact of the contraceptive pill on women's psyches over the course of the 1960s. Analyzing journal articles, popular books, institutional archives, pill packages and advertisements, the project traces representations of women through psychiatry, pharmaceutical marketing, obstetrics/gynecology, and health feminism. In each of these settings, specialists invoked the language of the psychology and emotion in making claims about the Pill and its associated risks. Psychoanalytic psychiatrists believed there would be a conflict between the foolproof certainty of the Pill and women's ambivalent emotions about pregnancy, resulting in unprecedented emotional and social reactions. Marketers and those concerned with the emerging study of medication "compliance" promoted a vision of women as forgetful, immature, and in need of physician oversight. Pill packaging aimed to counteract women's noncompliant behavior, while advertisements addressed physicians' anxieties about patients' unsupervised pill-taking. Obstetrician/gynecologists and other physicians worried over the moral impact of prescribing the Pill, and they considered how to manage doctor-patient relationships and medical education as they watched structures of authority shift. The women's health movement saw the failures of medical paternalism and put forth a new conception of women's psyches that called for women to control their own bodies, and critically analyze health information to guard against risk. The Pill served as a canvas onto which debates over challenges to women's nature were projected, and the political valences of the Pill shifted accordingly. As the Pill was normalized, heightened concerns over women's mental states and the moral and social responsibilities of pill producers and prescribers yielded to a broader and more encompassing pharmaceuticalization of modern life. The Pill became one of many pills being prescribed for daily use for a diversity of patients, and experts were no longer able to frame women's interior lives and social roles so narrowly in relation to reproduction. As the terrain of pharmaceutical solutions and medical risks expanded, characterizations of particular types of patients extended far beyond any singular imagined psychology of women on the Pill.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:History

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