"lydia pinkham"
This possibly refers to a term in cosmetology, or it could be a character in a novel, or it may be a drink.
Well, there was a character (with a middle, or maiden?, name of Estes) who, circa 1870, marketed some herbal, snake-oil type menstrual cure, but I'm not connecting this with etymology yet. Has her name become another synonym (eponym) for bogus potions or something? I'd never heard of it.
There are two famous references (perhaps "memorable" is more apt...) to Lydia Pinkham. One is an e e cummings poem where he rhymes her with Abraham Lincoln.

The second was a radio essay by the late great John Ciardi where he rambled on about why canaries don't sing as well as they used to... He took great pains to say this was not just one of those Attitude things older people get into... it's literally true that canaries don't sing as much or as well as they once did. To explain, he told the story of his grandmother, who was a frequent user of Lydia E. Pinkham's Tonic, a 19th century cureall for "Ladies' Problems" which made her quite contented to rock in her chair on the front porch. The Tonic, as it turns out, was about 40% alcohol, and she would medicate herself to happiness. Beside her on the porch was her canary, lustily singing his little heart out. The connection? It turns out that in those days, canary feed was liberally laced with marijuana seeds, so John's grandmother and her canary were both innocently but thoroughly stoned.

Lewis Joplin II
Bob, you are just a storehouse of knowledge. I continue to be amazed.
Not sure about the phrase,but there was a real life Lydia Pinkham. She was famous in her day for her special potion that was a general cure all for what ailed you. She left quite a lot of money and has even had a biography written about her. A colleague of mine is her great niece and has much of her memorabilia. I can't remember now if she was in Massachusetts or Rhode Island area.. will have to check that out. Hope this helps!
yummy mummy
If you go into msn search you will find dozens of sites relating to Lydia Pinkham and her potion. If you are really interested in this you would literally be in Lydia Pinkham heaven.

Interesting to note that the potion, which was referrred to as a "vegetable compound" actually had a high alcohol content. A piece of trivia to all but movie buffs like me relates to the movie "Tom & Viv" - the story of TS Eliot and his wife Vivienne Haigh-Wood Eliot. One aspect of the story was that Viv suffered continually from "women's problems" including menstrual and mood disruptions.

In the film she was often seen swigging from a bottle of some sort of medicine, which, in a film bio I read, was highly alcohol based. Wonder if it was the Lydia Pinkham potion? If so it didn't work! The poor woman was sent to an asylum when all she was suffering was menopause. Attitudes about that haven't changed as much as it may seem.

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