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Lily the Pink


On this date in 1907, the Wahpeton Times included an ad for Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound, “the Great Woman’s Remedy for Woman’s Ills … sold by druggists everywhere.” The ad said that it had been curing all forms of female complaints for thirty years ... a polite way of addressing menstrual and menopausal discomfort.

Lydia Pinkham was born in Massachusetts in 1819. The herbal-alcoholic tonic she created was one of the most successful products intended specifically for women. Lydia’s name and picture were on the label of every bottle, and she became one of the best-known women in the country. Although Lydia was a supporter of prohibition, her potion contained 19% alcohol. She claimed the alcohol was necessary to suspend and preserve the herbal ingredients. In spite of the alcohol, the remedy was safer than many others on the market that contained mercury, morphine, or arsenic.

Lydia shared her potion with family and friends for many years. But when her family fell on hard times, Lydia decided to bottle and sell the medicinal compound. She marketed it to women, with a focus on “female complaints.” She advertised it as a “sure cure for all female weaknesses.”

The business was a family venture. The Pinkham sons distributed fliers and sold the potion door to door. Ads targeted women directly, and were often presented in the form of a news story. The ads urged women to avoid male doctors and put their trust in a medicine “for women by a woman.” Women often wrote to Lydia and she personally answered the letters. Lydia was even immortalized in a song, “Lily the Pink.” In it she was called “the savior of the human race.”

The Vegetable Compound proved just as popular in North Dakota as it was in the rest of the country. And by the time Lydia died in 1883, the company had sales of $300,000 per year. Her son Charles continued the business after her death. In 1968, the family sold the company and manufacturing moved to Puerto Rico. Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound can still be found if you look hard enough.

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher.


About Education. “Lydia Pinkham.” "http://womenshistory.about.com/od/lydiapinkham/a/Lydia-Pinkham.htm" http://womenshistory.about.com/od/lydiapinkham/a/Lydia-Pinkham.htm Accessed 16 December, 2016.

Wahpeton Times. “Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound.” 17 January, 1907.