The Story of Lydia Pinkham and her vegetable compound

Lydia E. Pinkham was a household name in the late 19th and early 20th centuries– her image and moniker were plastered on boxes, bottles, and advertisements for her patent medicines, the most famous of which was Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound. The image of her face was so often printed, in fact, that when Queen Victoria died in 1901, many newspapers reported on the death using Pinkham’s likeness!

Portrait of Lydia Pinkham

Lydia Pinkham was born in 1819 to well-to-do farmers William and Rachel Estes in Lynn, Massachusetts. Pinkham joined the Lynn Female Anti-Slavery Society when she was sixteen years old, and worked as a schoolteacher until she married Isaac Pinkham in 1843. Pinkham’s foray into the world of medicine began with her penchant for collecting recipes and brewing home remedies, then giving them to her neighbours. When her family fell on difficult financial times in the 1870s, the decision was made to turn her well-liked remedy into a business.

Museum of Health Care at Kingston 996001329
Museum of Health Care at Kingston 014002035

It was marketed to women, and many women would write directly to Lydia Pinkham for health-related advice. She answered all their letters– even after her death in 1883! It was later revealed that her daughter-in-law Jennie Pinkham was the one answering the later letters.

Today, many remember Lydia Pinkham as a champion of women’s health and provider of important information to thousands of women. The formula of her Vegetable Compound changed over the years, and survives today in different, modern forms.

Click here to see more Lydia Pinkham artifacts from our collection.

Museum of Health Care at Kingston 996001470

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