The Estrogen Elixir: A History of Hormone Replacement Therapy in America

The Estrogen Elixir: A History of Hormone Replacement Therapy in America

by Elizabeth Siegel Watkins
     
 

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In the first complete history of hormone replacement therapy (HRT), Elizabeth Siegel Watkins illuminates the complex and changing relationship between the medical treatment of menopause and cultural conceptions of aging.

Describing the development, spread, and shifting role of HRT in America from the early twentieth century to the present, Watkins explores how

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Overview

In the first complete history of hormone replacement therapy (HRT), Elizabeth Siegel Watkins illuminates the complex and changing relationship between the medical treatment of menopause and cultural conceptions of aging.

Describing the development, spread, and shifting role of HRT in America from the early twentieth century to the present, Watkins explores how the interplay between science and society shaped the dissemination and reception of HRT and how the medicalization—and subsequent efforts toward the demedicalization—of menopause and aging affected the role of estrogen as a medical therapy. Telling the story from multiple perspectives—physicians, pharmaceutical manufacturers, government regulators, feminist health activists, and the media, as well as women as patients and consumers—she reveals the striking parallels between estrogen’s history as a medical therapy and broad shifts in the role of medicine in an aging society.

Today, information about HRT is almost always accompanied by a laundry list of health risks. While physicians and pharmaceutical companies have striven to develop the safest possible treatment for the symptoms of menopause and aging, many specialists question whether HRT should be prescribed at all. Drawing from a wide range of scholarly research, archival records, and interviews, The Estrogen Elixir provides valuable historical context for one of the most pressing debates in contemporary medicine.

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Editorial Reviews

New England Journal of Medicine
Much has been written about post-menopausal estrogen therapy... This wonderful book tells the story.

— Elizabeth Barrett-Connor, M.D.

Journal of Clinical Investigation
A good read.

— Wulf H. Utian

Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences
Estrogen Elixir has many strengths... a commendable and welcome addition to emerging literature in modern women's health history.

— Suzanne Junod, Ph.D.

Isis
A significant work on the social history of American medicine and a major contribution to the growing literature on hormonal therapeutics and research.

— Chandak Sengoopta

JAMA
This book takes an in-depth, socially analytical look at the evolution of menopausal hormone therapy in the United States, with a focus on estrogen since its discovery... Watkins tells the story accurately and objectively. No accusations and no praise, just the facts.

— K. Eddie Gabry, MD, MS

Journal of American History

In every carefully organized, lucidly written chapter Watkins provides surprising corrections to conventional thinking about the new birth control method.

History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
Watkins provides a fascinating, multi-faceted study of HRT, leaving no voices out of the debate.

— Wendy Kline

Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences
A fascinating aspect of Watkins's story is how drugs can be rebranded in the face of falling sales.

— Bruno J. Strasser

Chemical Heritage Magazine
More than a medical history of HRT. It is also a history of the medicalization of women's health and changing cultural attitudes toward aging, femininity, female identity, women's health activism, and the science of drug evaluations.

— Dominique Tobbel

Times Literary Supplement

An exemplary study of how the nation which first had access to oral contraceptives first came to terms with their advantages, and their drawbacks.

Nature

Intelligent and well-structured... An admirable exercise in social history.

American Historical Review

A particularly fascinating issue, trim and focused, sophisticated and helpful, fresh and very interesting.

Journal of American Studies

Anyone concerned with the debate over scientific advance and medical authority will find this a highly stimulating study.

New England Journal of Medicine - Elizabeth Barrett-Connor

Much has been written about post-menopausal estrogen therapy... This wonderful book tells the story.

Journal of Clinical Investigation - Wulf H. Utian

A good read.

Journal of American History - Jimmy Elaine Wilkinson Meyer

The Estrogen Elixir sets a high standard for future histories of pharmaceuticals and of aging.

JAMA - K. Eddie Gabry

This book takes an in-depth, socially analytical look at the evolution of menopausal hormone therapy in the United States, with a focus on estrogen since its discovery... Watkins tells the story accurately and objectively. No accusations and no praise, just the facts.

History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences - Wendy Kline

Watkins provides a fascinating, multi-faceted study of HRT, leaving no voices out of the debate.

Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine - Carlos Sonnenschein

Watkins presents a detailed account of the historical record of the subject.

Chemical Heritage Magazine - Dominique Tobbel

More than a medical history of HRT. It is also a history of the medicalization of women's health and changing cultural attitudes toward aging, femininity, female identity, women's health activism, and the science of drug evaluations.

Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences - Bruno J. Strasser

A fascinating aspect of Watkins's story is how drugs can be rebranded in the face of falling sales.

Isis - Chandak Sengoopta

A significant work on the social history of American medicine and a major contribution to the growing literature on hormonal therapeutics and research.

Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences - Suzanne Junod

Estrogen Elixir has many strengths... a commendable and welcome addition to emerging literature in modern women's health history.

Doody's Review Service
Reviewer: Patricia E. Gallagher, MLS, MA, AHIP (New York Academy of Medicine)
Description: This comprehensive examination of the history of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) discusses HRT in the context of the women's rights movement and the consumer health movement.
Purpose: The stated purpose of the book is to demonstrate the "contested nature of science" through "the shifting fortunes" of HRT. The book shows the rise of women's interest in participating in their own healthcare, both through the feminist movement of the 1970s as well as through the rise in interest (among both men and women) in consumer health information. The author presents a convincing picture of HRT's importance in contributing to the rise in public interest in healthcare information.
Audience: Anyone interested in the history of medicine and in the women's health movement constitutes the audience. The author, an associate professor in the history of the health sciences has previously published on the history of oral contraceptives.
Features: The book covers the history of HRT from its beginnings in the 1950s through the KEEPS study in 2005. The development of the medication, its marketing, the many studies, and its uses both as a short-term and lifetime therapeutic are discussed in detail. The book goes into quite a bit of detail on how HRT drugs were marketed, including detailed descriptions of the advertisements used by the drug companies to market their products to physicians and to patients. If there is any major gap in this book, it is the lack of any illustrations. The content of these advertisements make an important point in the work; it would be useful to be able to see them, especially for researchers interested in the history of advertising in medicine.
Assessment: This is an excellent book, and one I would heartily recommend to anyone with an interest in the history of the health sciences or the history of the women's movement. It belongs in any history of the health sciences collection. Of particular interest, I think, is the discussion of the beginnings of consumer health interest by women investigating the pros and cons of HRT.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780801894862
Publisher:
Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication date:
01/11/2010
Pages:
368
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Siegel Watkins is a professor in the History of Health Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco, and author of On the Pill: A Social History of Oral Contraceptives, 1950–1970, also published by Johns Hopkins.

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