Resisting the pathologisation of women in research of alcohol and pharmaceuticals

I was recently reading Dr Jessica Taylor’s latest book Sexy but Psycho: How the Patriarchy Uses Women’s Trauma Against Them. Taylor is a working class, radical, lesbian feminist who has a proven track-record working with traumatised women and girls. In this book she argues for a trauma-informed approach to working with women and girls and documents the long-standing tendency by the patriarchy (systems that uphold male power) to pathologise them as a result of their traumas, reframe them as mental illness, and unnecessarily medicate them for these ‘disorders’.

Pre-existing research shows that women are more likely to be diagnosed with depression, anxiety and somatic disorders, borderline personality disorder, panic disorder, phobias, suicide ideation and attempts, postpartum depression and psychosis, eating disorders and PTSD (Riecher-Rossler, 2016). Furthermore, women are more likely to be diagnosed with multiple psychiatric disorders at one time (Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 2019).

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Women’s Fight for Sexual & Reproductive Health Rights

Editor’s NoteIn light of the forthcoming US Supreme Court decision on Dobbs v Jackson, Maeleigh Tidd provides her third contribution to the Pharmaceutical Inequalities series which considers its implications for women’s access to reproductive healthcare. In doing so, she reaches back to the 19th century to explore American women’s historical access to, and use of, contraception and abortion. The Pharmaceutical Inequalities series is funded by the Holtz Center and the Evjue Foundation.


As we approach the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, a landmark decision of the United States Supreme Court ruling a women’s liberty to have an abortion, we were struck with a leaked draft of the Supreme Court’s opinion of overturning this Constitutional right for women. But, perhaps, this is only the beginning of the regression of women’s rights to sexual and reproductive health.  

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Elizabeth Bass, The G-Woman at the Federal Bureau of Narcotics – Part 2

Editor’s Note: In the second of two posts which re-open the Points ‘Hidden Figures of Drug History‘ feature, Bob Beach explores Elizabeth Bass’s career as a G-Man at the Federal Bureau of Narcotics.


Picking up where we left off, Elizabeth Bass was appointed as district nine supervisor of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) in Chicago in 1933. Even if we consider what we know about the role of women during the Prohibition phase in the war on drugs, and the context of the Roosevelt Administration’s efforts to break political taboos in appointing women to prominent roles during his term, the appointment of a woman to this position seems rather remarkable.[1]

Her age, 71 when she took her position, was perhaps more remarkable. It was over the limit for federal employees in the Civil Service, but was waived by one of Roosevelt’s many executive orders, allowing her and other aged political allies to join his administration.[2] Her glaring disqualification as a lifelong political operative was her complete lack of law enforcement experience. This concern was exacerbated by deeply embedded assumptions about gender (not to mention age) in the world of law enforcement.

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Introducing the Drinking Studies Network

The Drinking Studies Network is an interdisciplinary and international research group that connects scholars working on drink and drinking culture across different societies and time periods.

Founded in 2010 – initially as the Warwick Drinking Studies Network – the DSN has since grown to have over 350 members (Network Members) from around the world. The DSN acts as a point of contact for anyone with an interest in the role of alcohol in any society, past or present, and they provide members with news and updates about significant events in the field of drinking studies via their mailing list and twitter account. We also routinely organise our own events (Past Events and Future Events) and publications (Publications). In 2015, the DSN introduced a number of ‘Research Clusters’ within the network, designed to bring together members with similar interests to organise events together and to foster collaborative research projects (Research Clusters). And most recently, in 2021, the DSN established a partnership with the journal The Social History of Alcohol and Drugs , and by proxy Points.

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Sex, Vaccines, and Drug Prescriptions

Editor’s Note: This post by Ejura Salihu is the third in our Pharmaceutical Inequalities series. Ejura’s experience of a disrupted menstrual cycle post-COVID19 vaccination prompted her to write a much-needed commentary on why medical trials repeatedly overlook women’s needs and health. The Pharmaceutical Inequalities series is funded by the Holtz Center and the Evjue Foundation.

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Elizabeth Bass, The G-Woman at the Federal Bureau of Narcotics – Part 1

Editor’s Note: In the first of two posts which offer new additions to former ‘Points’ feature ‘Hidden Figures of Drug HistoryBob Beach explores the colorful career of Elizabeth Bass prior to her role as a G-Man within the Federal Bureau of Narcotics.

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The Real War on Families: U.S. Child Welfare Law in the Shadow of Drug Prohibition

This post is the first in a three-part series on laws related to drugs, women, and families, written in observation of Women’s History Month. The series is based on original research conducted by three talented women who graced my historical seminar in law at Ohio State University during autumn 2021. 

Today’s post summarizes the excellent work of Karen Augenstein. As she writes, the inherent value of family is deeply rooted in U.S. law; yet in legislating drug control over the past 50 years, “the importance of family was forgotten in favor of punishing those with substance abuse issues in the worst way possible: taking away their children.” The paper covers three major acts of Congress (in 1974, 1980, and 1997) that form the basis of child welfare law. These laws prescribed punishments for parental drug use that led to unprecedented rates of family separation and an “explosion of the foster care system,” while parental incarceration resulted in “harsh, impossible requirements for reunification.”  

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Review: The Rossi Murder and the Unwritten Law in 1916’s Wallace, Idaho

Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post is by Katherine Aiken, a professor emerita of history at the University of Idaho with an emphasis in social and cultural history, women, and labor. She is the author of Idaho’s Bunker Hill: The Rise and Fall of a Great Mining Company, 1885-1981

The combination of a salacious adultery story; a murder in front of eyewitnesses; and a circus-like trial is a recipe for an exciting tale. This is indeed true of the 1916 Rossi murder that is the subject of Ron Roizen’s book, The Rossi Murder: And the Unwritten Law in 1916’s Wallace, Idaho (2021). Herman J. Rossi was a Wallace, Idaho, community leader, serving at various times as the mayor of Wallace and as a member of the Idaho legislature.

In 1906, he married Mabel Rice, fifteen years his junior. Rossi soon discovered that, instead of the ingenue he expected, Mabel, in fact, struggled with an alcohol addiction. Although Rossi apparently doted on his young wife, prominent Wallace women declined to associate with Mabel due to her alleged drinking. Rossi believed that alcoholism was a disease, and he sought treatment for his wife on several occasions—but never found a permanent cure.

In late June 1916, Rossi returned from a political trip to the state capitol to find his wife had spent three days—much of it in bed—with a local musician and alleged bootlegger, Clarence Dahlquist. Rossi pulled his wife from her bed; slapped her; tore off her nightgown and threatened to throw her naked into the street. Next, he went to the kitchen and drank two cups of black coffee and then walked down the street to the Samuels Hotel lobby where he confronted Dahlquist and shot him. Dahlquist died the next morning.

Aiken Review Rossi Murder Title Card

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