Welcome back to another semester of Topics on Tap! Our first session will be this Friday, January 13th at 5pm at Thomson House, room 406. The presentation will be about 45 minutes in length, followed by a discussion period. As always, there will be free beer and excellent company! The speaker this week is Tess Lanzarotta, MA candidate in the History of Medicine, whose talk is titled: “Before Betty Ford: Explaining the Panic Over Female Alcoholism, 1965-1980.” Everyone is welcome and we hope to see you there!
Before 1965, American researchers and clinicians who studied alcohol abuse largely ignored female alcoholics. The few researchers who did study alcoholic women prior to the mid-1960s tended to cast their female subjects as highly deviant, generally coming to the attention of medical professionals or law enforcement only at a highly advanced stage of physical and psychological distress. Between 1965 and 1980, however, research on female alcoholism suddenly escalated, while image of the female alcoholic permeated mainstream culture. Newspapers, television, and popular magazines informed Americans that women were entering the drinking population, becoming alcoholics, and seeking treatment in record numbers. By the late 1960s, health activists openly accused doctors and politicians of ignoring the plight of female alcoholics and implored the federal government to increase the availability of treatment for women. This paper explains how and why alcoholic women transitioned from a shameful anomaly to a diseased cohort deserving of due study and care.