From the time of Hippocrates until the 1920s, massaging female patients to orgasm was a staple of medical practice among Western physicians in the treatment of "hysteria", an ailment once considered both common and chronic in women. Doctors loathed this time-consuming procedure and for centuries relied on midwives. Later, they substituted the efficiency of mechanical devices, including the electric vibrator, invented in the 1880s. In this text, Rachel Maines offers readers a surprising and often humorous account of hysteria and its treatment throughout the ages, focusing on the development, use and fall into disrepute of the vibrator as a legitimate medical device.
Rachel P. Maines is an independent scholar and a technical processing assistant at Cornell University's Hotel School Library. She is also the author of numerous articles in scholarly and popular publications.