Midwives and ‘Mad Men’: advertisements in Nursing Notes, February 1963

This month’s post comes from the February issue of the 1963 volume of ‘Midwives Chronicle & Nursing Notes’.

For the first time in this series of blog posts, I have chosen a volume of the journal from the 1960s, and there is a marked change of tone and content compared with earlier issues. Choosing random volumes every month has meant I have had a chance to weave in and out of various points in the history of the Royal College of Midwives, but I must admit that I wasn’t prepared for the onslaught of advertising that the early 1960s brought! Not quite the magazine advertising to which we are accustomed today – no colour photographs or subtle tag lines – but bold black and white drawings and brave statements about the products which are only at times tenuously linked with midwifery and nursing.

Advertisements include:

Droxalin, acid absorbent tablets, are promoted as providing prompt relief for morning sickness and heartburn – ‘The pain and discomfort of these attacks are NOT part and parcel of Pregnancy’ we are told!

Nursing Notes: Droxalin advertisement

Midwives are recommended to take Anadin and go to bed for 24 hours as soon as they have ‘noticed the ominous tickle and early sore throat’ as ‘there is no virtue in spreading a severe cold around your patients’.Nursing Notes: Anadin advertisement

A recipe for Tournedos Rossini (fillet steaks served on fried bread with paté) is accompanied by a recommendation for BiSoDoL Powder for the rapid relief of indigestion – not exactly the most enticing rider to a recipe!

Regal half-cream milk ‘with added Vitamins C & D’, aside from being specially formulated ‘to meet the specific demands of premature, marasmic or other babies unable to tolerate a full-cream feed’ is celebrated as now being packaged in a golden-lacquered lined can which ‘does not rust or discolour Nursing Notes: Disposable nappies advertisementafter opening’.

The appearance of disposable nappies – advertised to ‘reduce post-natal fatigue’, freeing mothers ‘from nappy washing drudgery’ – is countered by an advert for Napisan, a ‘bland, effective sanitant used for soaking soiled nappies rather than boiling’.

Although 11 out of this month’s 31 pages are filled with advertisements, there is plenty of room left for the usual business of the journal – that is, the communication of knowledge and news to midwives and nurses around the UK. Readers are appealed to for suggestions on how the domiciliary midwifery service can be improved – car radio systems for midwives cars? Mobile oxygen apparatus? More domiciliary midwives? Reproduction of a lecture given at a refresher course for midwives in August 1962 on advances in bacteriology and their affect on mothers and newborn infants, including measures to prevent infection in maternity units, such as the replacement of large communal nurseries by a rooming-in system, where the infant is looked after the mother. Today’s new mother would be horrified at her baby being wheeled off to sleep anywhere else but by her bedside!

Reports of meetings of the Domiciliary Midwives Council, branch news, educational events offered by the RCM, and a list of midwives who recently passed the Central Midwives Board Midwife Teachers Diploma Examination are all included, together with classified notices for situations vacant, including ‘an unusual opportunity to practise’ in the Virgin Islands, offering excellent living conditions despite the high cost of living there! I was very pleased to see a note on how to obtain a copy of the ‘Exercises during Pregnancy and Puerperium’ article, published in an earlier issue of the journal, since this will help me accurately date similar leaflets held in the RCM Archive.

The professional articles are mingled with new features, such as a note from the ‘film correspondent’ on the most recent feature films starring Orson Welles and John Mills, and discussions on needlework and gardening, and a guest post by a member of the Royal Commonwealth Society for the Blind highlights the issue of blindness affecting some of the world’s poorest nations.

I will end with an amusing look at examinations by the anonymous ‘Onlooker’, which discusses the value of examinations in nursing and also the credentials of examiners:

‘There are quite a number with some instinct of kindness, who put candidates at ease, face them when asking questions, and repeat these if they appear not to understand. Others mumble, turn questions front to back and heckle candidates who are slow in responding. Some are such bullies that girls leave their table in tears. Others sit sideways across the chair, puff smoke over everyone or discuss their personal affairs (or the previous candidate).’

Penny Hutchins

RCOG/RCM Archivist

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